There is widespread belief in the minds of many that there is a conflict between science and religion. But there is no fundamental issue between the two. While the conflict has been waged long and furiously, it has been on issues utterly unrelated either to religion or to science. The conflict has been largely one of trespassing, and as soon as religion and science discover their legitimate spheres the conflict ceases.
Religion, of course, has been very slow and loath to surrender its claim to sovereignty in all departments of human life, and science overjoyed with recent victories, has been quick to lay claim to a similar sovereignty. Hence the conflict.
But there was never a conflict between religion and science as such. There can not be. Their respective worlds are different. Their methods are dissimilar and their immediate objectives are not the same. The method of science is observation, that of religious contemplation. Science investigates. Religion interprets. One seeks causes, the other ends. Science thinks in terms of history, religion in terms of teleology. One is a survey, the other an outlook.
The conflict was always between superstition disguised as religion and materialism disguised as science, between pseudoescience and pseudoereligon. Religion and science are two hemispheres of human thought. They are different though converging truths. Both science and religion spring from the same seeds of vital human needs.
Science is the response to the human need of knowledge and power. Religion is the response to the human need for hope and certitude. One is an outreaching for mastery, the other for perfection. Both are man-made, and like man himself, are hedged about with limitations. Neither science nor religion, by itself, is sufficient for man. Science is not civilization. Science is organized knowledge, but civilization which is the art of noble and progressive communal living requires much more than knowledge. It needs beauty which is art, and faith and moral aspiration which are religion. It needs artistic and spiritual values along with the intellectual.
Man cannot live by facts alone. What we know is little enough. What we are likely to know will always be little in comparison with what there is to know. But man has a wish-life which must build inverted pyramids upon the apexes of known facts. This is not logical. It is, however, psychological.
Martin Luther King Jr. - Chester, P.A. - "Science and Religion"
Sermon file, folder 50, Sermons Not Preached