What is the difference between science and religion? Are they compatible with one another? Personally, people, both scientists and religious people get confused when I say to them: yes I am a Muslim but I am also a student of science and evolution. Some people get hostile when I mention that I study Darwin's theory of evolution. I remember receiving death threats because of this link to evolution. Mind you, the threats that I got were not from strictly religious fundamentalists (I have no connection to these people), but from scientifically educated people of my own religion and nationality.
Dr. Richard Dawkins, in his book "The God Delusion", also a senior student in my laboratory along with my mentor, say that it is not possible for me to be both. Dawkins goes further by implying that you can only be an atheist if you are a scientist.
So whom should I appease? Dawkins, my professor, my mom, the guy who sat next to me in the bus, who? Dawkins say that I have to make up my mind or then I am just a hypocrite. But of course he suggests that it is up to me to decide and that I should not base my life philosophy on trying to appease everybody. Incidentally, his book implies that he prefers my admission as an atheist or else I do not deserve to be a scientist or an intelligent human being. Oh my. What would Da Vinci say?
I am sure that in reality, most people are as ambivalent as me about their life philosophy and it changes all the time. But I think, most people just don't think too much of it because it is just too hard. So they just go about appeasing people just to get away from trouble. A catholic man might in his heart question the thought of being an atheist, but he probably still goes to this priest for counsel if there is some problem he cannot handle. He does this just because he was brought up that way. Is he a bad person? Is he delusional?
I say this is reality. Reality is that many people don't go around about their lives with the philosophy "I am an atheist" and "I am an devout Muslim" all the time, though most of us try to think we should pick only one of this overarching identity because it just seem better idealistically. Do you think that you are a devout Muslim when you have pain in your tummy telling you that you have to run and do your daily routine in the bathroom toilet? I don't think so. You don't really think of anything, your tummy just was hurting, you must do something about it, you act as a biological animal.
I agree with Dawkins that if you are a scientist you have to be an atheist. But I go further by saying, only if you are doing science. Other than that, the question is open to debate. So since people get confused when I say that I am both a Muslim and a Science student studying evolution, I will change my statement to: I am both a Muslim and sometimes an atheist according to the situation I am in.
If I am waiting for a biological experiment to give me results, I don't think that some supernatural power, unexplained, is the cause of what I get from my experiment. I have to be an atheist when I am doing this or I will just not be able to talk about my results. If I am a Muslim when I do this, every time I get a result, I can only bow down to pray and say, "God is Great". This is not practical if you want to make some scientific statement about a problem.
But when I have some problem and am alone in the dark, with no data to guide me so that I can make some rational statement about my problem, I turn to Allah, since this is what my mother taught me to do. So I am a Muslim, not an atheist during these times.
Sometimes, a problem requires me to use all the many aspects of my identities. Not just as a scientist/atheist, a devout Muslim, I am also a mother, a biological entity, a student, a teacher, a sister, an aunt, and this list goes on. I don't believe in an overarching identity based on some abstract philosophy that guides you through life. You have to take on your multiple identities that probably became part of you as you wander through life, and just see how they intermingle with one another inside of you to make you. You are different from the guy who sat next to you on the bus, from your mom and sisters not only because of your genes, but also because of your experiences that result from the intermingling and the generation of new identities. You are even different from yourself one second from the next.
For me life is process, things change. You can be an atheist scientist one second in your life, a Muslim the next second and a mother in another. This is what life is all about. The immovable atheist or Muslim or mother might criticize me for being ambivalent, or in harsher terms, hypocritical. But my only answer to them is: this is reality. Many people think the ambivalent state of life is a problem that must be "solved". I used to think that way also, but now I just say that it is part of the reality of living your life. Some Muslims such as myself may term this as the true "Jihad" in becoming a true human being.