There are many books looking at belief vis-a-vis science and trying, desperately at times, to marry the two together. Only because so many people cannot bare to be without their belief. But there are a few very important ways in which the two are similar.
We do not know if other animals have as intricate thought processes as we do, but we do know that we have the greatest ability to shape and change our environments. That sets us apart. The ‘being apart’ from all other life as the basis for self-examination is shared by religions and science.
The idea that we are the only animal that is self-aware offends anyone who works or lives with animals and is rather ridiculous – a fox eating off its foot in a trap to get away must obviously be self-aware otherwise it wouldn’t know it was trapped. But this self awareness gives us an idea we are set, or placed, in the universe. Although they differ on that place radically this is also an idea shared by religion and science.
Being apart and having self-awareness suggests to the religious that we have a destiny and to scientists that we are ‘a way for the universe to know itself’. Both see value in our being able to do something significant.
I am of course highly agnostic, and if pushed would say I am atheist, but even I believe in knowledge and my ability to interact with the descriptions of nature that we have created. That interaction is what life, science and belief are all about.