The most essential conflict between science and religion is not in their conclusions ? such as evolution, the heliocentric solar system, or the origin of disease ? but in their ways of arriving at their conclusions. The fundamental disagreement is in how
, rather than in what
Religion relies on authority ? from a person, book, or tradition ? and its Truth is supposed to be universal and eternal. But in science, the authority is in the evidence and reasoning, which are always open to challenge; so science's truth is relative and tentative.
A scientific investigation starts with a question, and tries to reach a conclusion by finding evidence and applying reason. A theological investigation, though, starts with a conclusion, and tries to wiggle around any impediments of evidence and logic in order to justify that conclusion.
To superstitious people, things not understood might be assigned to the realm of supernatural whims, which to a scientist represents a very pessimistic outlook. But as things that were once not understood become understood, this realm gets smaller and smaller. For example, most of us no longer attribute bad weather and disease to curses, mental disease to possession by devils, or earthquakes, storms, and eclipses to angry gods.
An interesting item along this line is that Isaac Newton had a small deficiency between his calculations of the motions of planets and the actual observations, so he invoked the hand of God. But a century later the great mathematician Laplace made better calculations with Newton's own equations and showed that there was no such deficiency.
Strangely, although religious people nowadays don't usually blame the god for illnesses and other catastrophes, they tend to credit the god for any relief from these!
It's true that many intelligent people embrace both science and religion. They seem to compartmentalize their thinking; it's as if they use different parts of the mind for science and religion, with hardly any interconnection between those parts. They adopt the comfortable myth that there isn't, or shouldn't be, a conflict between science and religion.