Honey and vinegar. Miley Cyrus and teddy bears. Polka dots and stripes. Science and religion.
Sometimes, it appears certain things just shouldn't mix — especially in the modern academic world, in the ongoing debate concerning science and religion.
Science and religion have long fostered a relationship that has proven to be more dramatic and complicated than an afternoon soap opera.
Many American schools and scholastic institutions around the world have had difficulty establishing a firm line between hard scientific facts and the decidedly more elusive matters of religion and metaphysical beliefs.
Experts in academic realms deliberate both areas and often arrive at different conclusions. The head of the National Institute of Health, Francis Collins, contends the two realms are simply incompatible.
"If God is outside of nature," Collins said, "then science can neither prove nor disprove his existence."
Other scientists defend the overarching authority of scientific inquiry, including Cambridge's renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.
"There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason," Hawking told ABC News in June 2010. "Science will win because it works."
Yet this summer, while studying at Cambridge University in the UK, I found my basic assumptions concerning the two volatile academic topics were not always correct.
As I strolled amongst century-old buildings and institutions, I noticed a common theme that kept recurring. Cambridge's colleges had very prominent names: Emmanuel, Trinity, Christ's, St. John's, Corpus Christi, Jesus, Magdalene, Trinity Hall.
Every college within the university contains a historic chapel, along with a dining hall, dormitories and a library. I could not help but wonder—is there not something wrong with this picture? How do such academic—and scientific—powerhouses operate under overtly spiritual names?
From a strictly historical standpoint, the issues between science and religion did not always seem to pose such a problem. In fact, religious thinkers in parts of Europe and around the world pioneered some very significant academic breakthroughs.
For example, the discovery of genetic structures by Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel, helped shape modern understanding of gene structure and inheritance in the 1800s.
Roger Bacon, a medieval member of the Franciscan order, developed the idea of empiricism and the use of the scientific method.
A Catholic priest named Jean Burdian in the 14th century developed the idea of inertia.
The list goes on: from heliocentricity to mathematics, science's development had a firm support from many religious devotees.
For many faithful thinkers, pursuing facts and understanding had a divine purpose. Hugh of Saint Victor, a master of the monastic school of Saint Victor, saw knowledge as redemption for mankind: "Learn everything; later, you will see that nothing is superfluous."
As I began to dig into the history of Europe and get a much better understanding about the origins of scientific thought, I sensed a profound shift in my perception about the discussion concerning religion and science.
Undoubtedly, difficult questions about human origins, purpose and mortality persist; but, if nothing else, I believe that science and religion can stand to have a mutual respect for the history that benefited both and largely shaped them into the entities of thought they are today.
Science developed in the hands of many religious men; our basic assumptions about life came about from the cooperation of science and religion. Indeed, not every topic concerning life can be easily answered by either science or religion.
Maybe the harmony that once existed between the two in the past shouldn't be so easily overlooked.
While I'm unsure what the future holds for our perception of faith and science, I don't believe that the two can ever be wholly separated.
Science will always undercut faith; faith will always supersede science. Both schools of thought require one another in unexpected, but important, ways. They create balance.
Albert Einstein, perhaps one of the greatest thinkers of all time, sums up the tumultuous relationship best.
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
Sarah Hagaman is a sophomore in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.