I think this was a quote from the Angles and Demons movie. The idea behind it is that science and religion are not these two opposing forces that offer different explanations for the same phenomenon, instead they’re addressing two different questions.
Well this would be great if it were true. It sure sounds like a nice quote, but that of course has no bearing on its validity. The key problem with this quote is that it confuses religion with philosophy. While religion contains some elements of philosophy, that is only a fraction of the picture. Religion is much more active where philosophy is passive, especially when it comes to telling people who to live their lives.
Religion and philosophy both divide people into groups, yet philosophy works more in the realm of the abstract and doesn’t have the same political implications that religion does. For instance, you would never see a group of empiricists burning down the house of a constructionalist like you would see members of religious group A destroying the house of a member of religious group B. The difference might best be summed up by “Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned”
(EDIT after point made by reader: Political philosophy completely slipped my mind and would negate the above paragraph. While these kind of philosophies would result in actual friction between two groups, here I am mainly focusing on academic philosophies like Logic, Epistemology, and Metaphysics)
Yes science focuses on how we got here instead of why, but religion originally started out as a way to explain the same phenomenon that science now does. Ancient tribes had spiritual leaders to explain what caused thunder, or where the sun went at night, all natural events that science now explains.
Still to this day religion retains these ancient roots. The “intelligent design” battle in the United States is a perfect example. Here religion is fighting against science (in a debate the rest of the world realized religion lost 100 years ago) over “how”.
I think it’s interesting that in the same movie Ewan McGregor’s character protest “If science is allowed to claim the power of creation, what’s left for god?!?!” Here he is acknowledging that religion still does try to dabble in “how” instead of “why”. For the “science asks how religion asks why” quote to be true, religion would have to stop trying to explain the same things science does, but then it wouldn’t be religion, it’d be philosophy.