Consider an advanced species unlocks all of the curiosities of science in our universe. They spend millions of years learning every fact, every mechanism of physics, and develop a perfect "Theory of Everything" - except they're able to test it so conclusively that they know it to be fact. Regardless of whether it could be done, let's consider a universe similar to our own, where this happens.

Then this civilization chooses to share this knowledge with planets early in the development of intelligent life.

  • They interact with the intelligent species carefully, so as to equip it with their spoken language.

  • This knowledge of physics is stored on a device that this species can easily use.

  • Included are guides which explain more complex words and language usage so that the species can learn to understand more and more as it becomes capable.

  • The species passes down what they were taught about how to read the information from the device.

Most importantly:

  • The device explains how they received it and how their universe came to be (a proven version of the big bang theory) so as to remove any question of how they received this information or how they came to exist.

Would this primitive species likely evolve devoid of religion, having no mysteries to explain, or would there be some motivation for the development of religion anyway?

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    $\begingroup$ There's plenty of religions that formed in modern times (though there's a thin line between "religion" and "ideology"), and a gigantic amounts of superstition - for example, the Japanese blood type myths (think astrological signs, but with blood types). That's something you wouldn't have without science in the first place, and yet the superstition is built on actively ignoring science. People love simple answers to complicated questions, no matter how wrong they are :) $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ So, you're telling me that this advanced species shares the proof of god with a lesser advanced species? (After all, who is to presume naturalism is the correct explanation?) If so, I see no reason why the lesser race should react to this information in any particular way - as that's a question of their personality. $\endgroup$
    – NPSF3000
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ I'm unclear... are you saying that in your universe there is a God? Or there is not a God? Or are you saying that the advanced race - that provided the "scriptural device" to the lesser races - is recognized at gods? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ Ian Bank's The Hydrogen Sonata has just such a society (the Gzilt). Technology was handed to a primitive society as a religious text that turned out to be more true and increasingly detailed they more they understood it. It's a good read, so no more spoilers. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ Your question seems to have an assumption that everything can be proven directly by science and that religions are not true. This may or may not be true for our world. Furthermore, if you're making your own story, you get to decide for yourself whether it's true in your universe. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 21:37

16 Answers 16


Yes, religions would form, given a species similar to us.

"Science" is not the same as a volume of knowledge. Science is a process to expand our volume of knowledge. It roughly sorts every statement into one of three piles:

  • Statements we can depend on to be true.
  • Statements we can depend on to be false.
  • Statements that cannot be unambigously defined as true or false.

Even with perfect theoretical knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology et cetera, some questions can only be answered by personal taste. (Or we would not have art for example) Any such question can be the basis of religous speculation, if individuals find it important enough.

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    $\begingroup$ This was the most fundamentally correct most simple answer possible I think. $\endgroup$
    – J.Todd
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 6:50
  • $\begingroup$ Science is a process to expand our volume of knowledge. by the way this is true but it doesnt really seem to fit with the answer as being a necessary sentence. $\endgroup$
    – J.Todd
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 7:13
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    $\begingroup$ Science is a process for making better predictions. Any information we gain through experiment guides us in our conclusions, but any conclusion (knowledge) at any time could be revoked by a subsequent experiment. $\endgroup$
    – user121330
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Oak Source please. Your assertion conflicts with everything I've ever been taught. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Oak according to the Oxford dictionary, that usage of science is archaic. It can still apply to the body of knowledge gained from experimentation, etc, but more commonly it refers to the process of study and collection of knowledge. $\endgroup$
    – Jake
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 19:34

Yes, because:

1. Science tends to be weak at answering the why questions

Science tends to be great at answering the what questions. It's not so great at answering the why.

We might ask: "why am I here on this earth".

The (correct?) scientific answer is: "there is no reason. You are the outcome of a vast chain of random dice throws, and your existence has no meaning or purpose. The fact that you have a sense of purpose is nothing more than an artifact of your evolutionary heritage."

True or not, this is arguably not particularly satisfying. It also logically means that anything goes, provided you can get away with it, and can cope with the guilt.

2. Science tends to be weak at answering first cause questions

Assuming we know everything, right back to the big bang. We understand how everything works, how everything came into existence. We understand the maths behind it all.

We are probably still left with the question why any of it? Why is there something rather than nothing. Why do we have this structure that inevitably leads to a universe?

Because science deals with causation, the question of first cause - why is there something rather than nothing - is difficult.

3. We don't do religion because we don't know things. We do religion because we know a little, and are amazed

When we look at the universe, or the complexity of a cell, even understanding how they work, we still feel awe. Awe translates naturally into religion, which is why quite a high proportion of scientists do have a faith of one type or another. citation.

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    $\begingroup$ Good points. A key missing one, though, is that most religions are not just about knowing stuff. They are also about a rule for life. Science doesn't answer questions about what is right or wrong or how you should live. $\endgroup$
    – user16107
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ A religion does answer the "why"? Religion, for all you know, was a development of traditions and stories and culture over thousands of years driven by people making up the "why" as they went, attributing the "why" to be answered by some deity so that they could feel less afraid of what they didn't know or couldn't bear (death for example). For all you know. So you can choose to see your "why" in religion, but religion doesn't actually show you "why" anything is the way it is. $\endgroup$
    – J.Todd
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ It's not impossible to be amazed at the universe and not make up a deity to explain it. We can just accept that we don't know, and are comfortable with that. I'm just saying your argument isn't universally valid outside of your religion, but religious people phrase their reasons as if everyone should accept them as fact. $\endgroup$
    – J.Todd
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 11:41
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    $\begingroup$ Very good points all. I have always been baffled by this strange fascination with questions of purpose and origin. @Viziionary: yes, it is not impossible. Yet, people do tend to make up deities and spirits to explain the unknown. Not all people, of course, but plenty of them. As for the obvious militant attitude of many religions, I have observed that some people feel threatened by exclusion from other peoples’ lives. Perhaps it is this obsession with the attentions of other people and the fear of lack of attention that drives them into forceful behaviour. $\endgroup$
    – Nomenator
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Viziionary - religion has a bash at imbuing the world with meaning - with agency - which translates to a "why". The exact meaning is a function of the specific religion. Religion does have a hard time proving the "why" though. Whether or not you subscribe to any particular meaning is up to you. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 13:52

This question seems to be premised on the concept that religion is a way of coming up with mythological answers to questions that we don't have the science to figure out yet. This unfortunate notion has been around for a long time, but there's actually very little truth to it. It's been debunked over and over by actual scholars and historians, including on this very site, but unfortunately it's a notion that just won't die. And even more unfortunately, it obscures the true value of religion throughout history, whether one is a believer or not: religion comprises the mechanism for long-term storage and preservation of the sum total of the lab notes of the science of human behavior throughout history!

People have understood the basic idea of cause and effect for as long as there were any people capable of understanding anything. When cause and effect are so close together in time that the relationship is obvious, it's no big deal to understand it. But the longer the time gap between the cause and the manifestation of a visible effect, the harder it is to figure out. In some cases, years or decades may even go by. For example, on an intuitive level it sounds kind of silly to think that you could do something potentially harmful, and then stop and not do it again for more than thirty years and then it kills you. Unfortunately, that's precisely what happened to Leonard Nimoy: he died of smoking even though he gave it up decades ago.

When cause-and-effect occurs over such a long scale, comprising a significant fraction of a human lifetime, it's not possible for individual people to derive optimum guidelines for how to act from first principles. There are really only two ways to go about it: try to blunder through, alone or with the help of others blundering through along with you, and hope you make the right guesses... or learning from the experience of the aggregate wisdom of those who have gone before, who have been able to deduce some of the long-term cause-and-effect principles at work by seeing enough examples to work out the correlations.

In the absence of evidence, because the proof takes so long to appear, such a system of learned best practices for human behavior (aka "morality") provides a solid foundation for faith, to motivate people towards a course of action that is beneficial in the long term. It's surprisingly effective, too.

For example, you may have heard of Ignaz Semmelweis, who came up with the theory that surgeons who dissected cadavers should wash their hands with strong soap before attending to childbirth, to avoid transmitting deadly infections. His principle, when applied, consistently saved lives among new mothers, but unfortunately for Semmelweis and many women of his day, he lived in scientific times and he was called a quack, persecuted, and never taken seriously by his contemporaries, because he could not produce a valid explanation for why his theory should be true. (It worked in practice, but not in theory, so very few people cared enough to actually practice it! They couldn't see past their disdain for the notion that their own uncleanliness might be to blame.) It was not until the work of Louis Pasteur, right at the end of Semmelweis's life, provided a solid scientific foundation (germ theory) that established a theoretical reason for the validity of Semmelweis's work that the medical community started taking surgical hand-washing seriously.

Here's where it gets really interesting, though: this is stuff that had been known (but not proven!) for thousands of years. If you go to the Bible and look through the Law of Moses, (or other, older codes, for that matter, but this is one that's well-known and easily accessible to modern audiences,) you'll find directions all over the place for ritual washing after coming in contact with sick people, dead bodies, or other major disease vectors.

Religion is the lab notes of human history, to provide a foundation for faith that leads towards long-term positive consequences. This is a concept that's understood well enough that it's been seriously considered as a solution to the modern problem of nuclear waste storage: invent a religion that encodes principles of staying away from waste burial sites in its morality, because written and spoken languages change, civilizations rise and fall, and data storage media both ancient and modern decays with age, but religion endures through it all. It's the only way we know of to keep important information like that around and relatively intact over the time scales involved!

So to answer the question, would a civilization that started out with plenty of scientific knowledge come up with their own religion, the only possible answer is "yes, of course they would! And they'd probably be better off because the silly idea about religion and scientific knowledge being in conflict would never take root in their society."

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    $\begingroup$ I was going to just add a comment to the question itself stating that the question is flawed, but this puts it so much better. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but this argumentation seems all over the place for me. Yes, there were parts of "religion" (i.e., some of the rules) like not eating certain animals (hygiene), certain rules of behaviour that simply avoid certain problems (killing, stealing). But the vast "overhead" of religion is not mentioned in your answer, and cannot simply be ignored. Thus religion is not just "lab notes", but there is a whole lot of other stuff in there, which leads to all the trouble between religious and non-religious folks since the beginning of time. $\endgroup$
    – AnoE
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Ekkehard Oh? What 'vast overhead' would that be? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ The first couple of sentences are very good: religion is not intended as a mythological substitute for science. However, I find the rest of it weak. In particular, the example about hand washing falls flat. Experimental evidence that something "works in practice" (even if the mechanism is unknown) should be accepted according to scientific principles. Simmelweis was ignored because of old fashioned prejudice and pride, not science. $\endgroup$
    – user16107
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ "Vast overhead": - the idea that we are born sinners - the idea that Jesus died to save us - the idea that a priest has a way of communicating with god which other people don't - religious wars, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Cosmin
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 12:32

Yes, absolutely.

Science is very close to a religion for most common people. And religion is the way our early society spread scientific knowledge. The highest forms of education were typically the priest-hoods of the world. "Priests" could count, read, and write, while others generally could not. This stayed true for quite a long time, and until very recent (comparatively) history, education was considered a religious endeavor.

A better example: We take it as "science" that things expand when they are heated, we call it science because we can prove it with experimentation. However, at large, most people will (re)act on this without experimentation, and just call it "common knowledge." This is essentially faith. I have no first hand proof, no experimentation for myself, I just "know" that when I heat up this copper it will expand. Religion is not that different. An educated, smart person tells me that the expansion is caused by the god of heat getting fat and happy at the offering of thermal energy, is no less plausible to the general population as "magic" atomic structure that can not be observed (again in a general sense). Mix in a bit of "make the god of heat happy by applying a lighter to the copper strip" and "the god of heat likes copper more than steal, see how much more fat and happy he gets" and you've got that start of a pretty good religion.

Remember, that religion is the way that man understands god(s) and the universe they created. Science is the way that man understands the universe. These are VERY close to one another.

It's easy to assume that religious stuff is wrong and backwards because we prove that "god of heat" theory inaccurate, but the fake religion was still based on cause, effect, and observation. Humans believed in gods of harvest, and the "magical" properties of the moon, sun, and stars. Even though we now think of that as "silly", people went through higher forms of education to learn these things, and lead their societies to plant and harvest crops at the right time of the year. It doesn't matter if the "explanation" was scientific or religious, all that matters (from a societies standpoint) is that I plant my crops at the right time.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 21:38


Just because whole "society" has that knowledge doesn't mean individuals have that knowledge. You can look at our current situation. We have deep understanding of quantum physics, biology, cosmology, etc.. yet many people still find "god of the gaps" in those areas, which will be base of most religions.

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    $\begingroup$ The questioner has stitched you up: you've answered "no" to the final question, "Would this primitive species likely evolve devoid of religion", and two other people have answered "yes" to the opposite title question "Would a society ... likely still form religions?". $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 12:25

It depends on the nature of the species.

Memetic systems survive the ages because they provide a benefit to the societies that hold on to them. Explaining the unexplained is more of a side-effect of religion; its main benefit (and the reason it has spread so well) is that it provides an incentive for cooperation in a naturally competitive species, and probably played a huge role in the development of major civilizations on our planet. Beginning with advanced science will not change this.

A species that had no use for the unifying properties of religion might not develop one though - for instance, intelligent eusocial insects that are naturally cooperative.

Also, being visited by sufficiently advanced aliens early on in their history is a likely trigger for a culture to start a religion surrounding said aliens.

  • $\begingroup$ Your last sentence is the reason I included my last bullet. $\endgroup$
    – J.Todd
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, but the lack of a creator God doesn't necessarily mean that other gods cannot be worshipped. In this instance the definition could change from an omnipotent to God to the worship of (obviously) powerful beings. The new gods are seen as ascended beings worthy of worship and an ideal society should strive to. $\endgroup$
    – user19252
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Thomo In particular, why wouldn't an all-powerful god arise from a non-creationist universe? He could be able to create the universe (since he's all-powerful), but didn't (because he didn't exist yet). He could go back in time and create the universe the first time (since he's all powerful), but what's the point? Not that gods being omnipotent or omniscient is anything universal - it's one of the oddities of the abrahamic (or, more broadly - monotheistic) religions. Zeus, Thor, Perun, Shiva... none of those were omniscient or omnipotent. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan - and none of those were creator gods. That was my point, there's nothing stopping these aliens being worshipped as gods by the natives. That, and ignoring evidence that doesn't suit is kind of a hallmark of religion, it will find a way $\endgroup$
    – user19252
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 21:07

No, I think they would still be religious.

I have heard a fairly solid theory which goes like this:

  • Game theory suggests that co-operation worked very well for early human hunter gatherers. If you are alone, you might starve to death if your hunts are unsuccessful for a period of time, or you get ill. If you are in a group, you share your wealth (food etc), and you are more likely to survive the natural variations in individual success.
  • Game theory also suggests this approach does not scale up too well. It relies on everyone in the group being honest. If someone eats the food from the group, but never shares their own food, the group dynamic starts to fall apart.
  • For an individual in a small human hunter gathered group it is overwhelmingly in your favour to be honest and share your food. The chances of being caught cheating are high as their is a high degree of connectivity in the group (everyone knows you and will notice you are not sharing).
  • The problem is, as the group grows in size, it starts to become beneficial for an individual to cheat. At around the 100 person mark, you are better off keeping all your food and cheating the group, as the chances of being caught start to fall away at this number of people.

So the question is, how did we end up with large complex groups of humans when game theory says hunter gatherers should not be able to co-operate in groups larger than around 100?

Some people have suggested the answer is religion. The idea of an all seeing God who will punish you in the after life for cheating might have been the way we solved the problem. 'Religion' might not be the best phrase here as we generally consider that as something quite modern (i.e. the idea of a God), but I am using it to include proto-religions, many of which probably centred around animism, but none the less would have provided plenty of additional social glue.

Since large complex societies are necessary for science (you can't be a scientist if you have to work your farm or gather food all day everyday), there is an argument that any society who has developed science will also have been religious in their past.

Your society would have the same problem as ours; they cannot develop large co-operating groups without something like religion. So even if they have this amazing science handed to them, they cannot develop large societies required to make use of the knowledge (e.g. through manufacturing) without religion. Even with this vast knowledge, they would remain hunter gatherers without religion.

So I guess the argument really hinges around suggesting that there is something of a bias in the question; that religion was created as something to fill the void of science, to explain the world around us. But perhaps it was a tool used to develop social cohesion, and in that respect it need not compete with science. If you need proof that a society can hold apparently incompatible views on religion and science, look no further than our own modern society! Religion has proven amazingly adaptable in the face of scientific development.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem is that game theory favors "homo oeconomicus". And if you look at this creature closely, you will find that his description is identical to that of a sociopath. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ I feel like there's a bit of cart before the horse in this answer. Human beings are able to have empathy with others and would want a "fair" system. Given how difficult it is to enforce laws, some of those in charge may have decided to spread the idea of supernatural justice, but fundamentally humans had the capability for altruism before religion existed. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ So the non-religious people would have an evolutionary advantage, being able to cheat? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ But religion has never stopped people from being beastly. Quite the opposite, in fact. $\endgroup$
    – RedSonja
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 9:02

There are a number of ways to look at this depending on your point of view.

Many religions claim that they are in some way inspired by the god or gods in question ie the deity concerned has some way of making their wishes known either through prophets, holy books or direct inspiration of individuals. It is pretty much impossible to prove that this is not the case even when is goes against the current of rational understanding as the argument that an omnipotent deity just arranged things this way is always open and, by definition the existence of a deity can be claimed to be unprovable by science.

For example if you claim that the earth is really only 1000 years old and that all evidence to the contrary was created supernaturally according to rules which are not now observable there isn't really any evidence you can produce to refute it.

The above applies whether or not any gods or similar entities actually exist or not.

There is also the fact that there are plenty of people who are prepared to believe things regardless of logic or scientific evidence which aren't necessarily supernatural in the conventional sense ranging from straightforward scams to pseudo-scientific medicine as well as the more modern 'religions' which often aren't directly tied to an actual deity but look to hyper intelligent aliens or some more diffuse spiritual force of energy field.

As well as the more religion-like ends of this spectrum there are plenty of more mundane trends in health, diet and technology which have little basis in evidence but still pick up plenty of adherents.

There is also the undeniable fact that socially, religions clearly provide something that many people want. On the most basic level this can just be a social group of like minded people or a more deep rooted desire for a sense of identity, purpose and moral certainty. This is complicate by the fact that most religions are tangled up with aspects of cultural, ethnic and national identity which often end up overshadowing the actual theology (eg Northern Ireland).

One one hand this can be benign in that it encourages socialisation and altruism but the more sinister side of the coin is that it can provide a logically unassailable excuse on which to hang all sorts of prejudices.

Also many religions, especially their more moderate branches have managed to drop much of their 'supernatural' baggage and reshape themselves as something more rooted in moral philosophy. As such it is not impossible to imagine some religions surviving even irrefutable proof of the non-existence of God.

So overall it seems reasonable to argue that whatever the level of scientific understanding in a culture you would still get something which looks a lot like religion, how much so really depends on your definition of religion.

Apart from anything else hard science isn't really intended to provide definitive answers to questions about moral philosophy and arts, what it does do though is provide reliable information and context for making those sorts of decisions and can set a reasonably firm line for when legitimately ambiguous questions stry into the realms of absurdity, at least for those people who are prepared to listen.


Well, let's ask an avowed religion hating atheist. Let's examine the works of Arthur C. Clark.

Clark is interesting in that he obviously hates traditional religion, even going so far as to insert anti-religious rants into the text of his works. And indeed, Clark speculates on almost exactly what you here are speculating on, but postulating hyper-advanced societies that have no need of religion and are able to prove answers to all manner of religious questions. In 'Fountains of Paradise' he even has a god-like AI come by and debunk Thomas Aquinas while patiently explaining that most sentient species never develop the concept of God at all.

And the problem with all of that is it doesn't even hold up within even his own canon of work. Why? Because rather than inventing a godless universe, what this self-avowed atheist invariably invents in his fiction is alternative gods. He doesn't necessarily call them gods, but they have the attributes of gods in that they have such sufficiently advanced technology that they can serve as gods, and further that the technology they have ends up being not scientific knowledge but the very sort of esoteric and gnostic knowledge he is otherwise pointedly lambasting. Clarke ends up inventing his own gods, to come sweeping in and drive out the old gods, but declaring not merely truth but Truth.

For example, the 2001 series ends of featuring godlike aliens that uplift mankind to sentience, generally act like spiritual rather than material beings, impose on mankind taboos, and are capable of altering reality on a whim. His masterpiece 'Childhood's End' features a race of purely materialistic beings, who are gimped by their inability to understand and partake in what amounts to purely spiritual technology, and a quasi-divine godlike being that raptures humanity.

The point is, no matter how much scientific knowledge you acquire, there is always a frontier beyond which you can imagine that your scientific knowledge does not reach. And likewise, there are always areas of knowledge that your scientific knowledge cannot give definitive solutions to. Biology can tell us that things evolve out of genetic competition to survive and pass on their genes, but not whether that is or ought to be the meaning of life. Physics can tell us how the world came about, but not whether we should care whether we are in it or what we ought to do about that fact. Science can explore every knowable material fact about the environment we observe, but not whether all is knowable, material, or observable.

In short, a full understanding of the material universe would only give more fertile ground for the development of religion, and not less fertile. And new atheism itself is progressively developing all the traits we associate of religion, just as other non-theistic world views (like communism) have done before it. It's a dependable thing that if humans didn't have religion, they'd invent it. It's hard to project what other species would do, but it may turn out to be an attribute of sentience to always be asking, "Is this all that there is? Might there not be something more?"


First of all, science and religion is not mutually exclusive. We already see it in our own culture. One thing is the argument of beauty.

Another thing to consider is Goedels Incompleteness Theorem. Our current understand of logic and maths dictates that there can be a Theory of Everything (ToE), but we will never be able to prove its completeness. Hence the question wether we do in fact know everything is always open. This alone leaves room for religion.

Moreover, no one person can know everything. While the species in general might have discovered "everything", it is unlikely that any member of the species can be intimately familiar with such a theory in all its details. Thus, every one only has limited knowledge of the universe, which again leaves room for religion.

Lastly, humans are not rational. Unless your species doesn't have emotions, there will always be "sciences" like arts and sociology which can not explain why people like certain artists or why they behave in a certain way. This again leaves room for "divine intervention" and "divine beauty" and thus, religion.

So all in all I'd say yes, they could probably have religions.

  • $\begingroup$ Can't believe this is this is the only answer that deals with the epistemological limits of scientific knowledge. Wish I could upvote more than once. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 12:30

Since this is a worldbuilding question, it's pretty appropriate that it depends on your world.

Science is exploration. It is observation and extrapolation. It is the process of inquiring and learning about our world. So with perfect scientific understanding, that would mean that no existing thing is unknown or mysterious. Many of the big philosophy questions become scientific or mathematical questions.

Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Here, let me look it up.

What is the purpose of life? (Choose the best answer.)

How do you know the light turns off when you close the refrigerator door? Let me look at this table of every time a refrigerator door has ever been or will ever be closed and see.

Most of the questions explored by religions will be the same way. Is there a God? Why, yes! Here is the mathematical proof.

What is the key to enlightenment? Potatoes. For a long time people thought it was desirelessness or something, lol.

You are the one who decides the answers to these questions, and whatever you choose becomes fact. Since it is fact, your society, with its perfect understanding of all things science, will know the answers that you've mandated.


There is no "yes or not" answer.

To transfer their knowledge they would need to transfer their culture too. Written knowledge is not "just knowledge", it is always written in some language which is based on some culture. So in fact they would need to destroy their original culture and introduce (some derived from of) their own one just to teach a language suitable of explaining their science.

Then the answer depends on if the advanced civilisation does have a religion or not.

But it is not the end of problems. Existence or absence of religion depends on kognitywistyce aspects and way a mind of specimen works. Humans have developed complex religions because they do learn behaviours of unknown purpose (as opposed to chimpanzees who abandon bogus behaviours). It was evolutionary behaviour as some of our activities are too complex to be just understood, being still easy enough to be done (e.g. it is not obvious why you need to wash hands before meals until you learn contemporary biology but even non-biologists do so). This cognitive pattern makes appearance of rituals possible. But it is not obvious if it is really necessary for advanced civilisation to form (and you do not state if the minds of your primitive one work this way).

Then it depends on how brains of both civilisations work.


Yes, the religion would still be there. For two reasons :

  • cause it is actually a way of life.
    • Look at how monks are living (christian and budism). Also normal religious people - they have to follow certain rules.
  • some people find comfort in religion.
    • For example, would you like to hear that someone close (daughter, son, parent, good friend, etc) died and went to heaven, and some day you will meet them? Or would you like to hear that they are going to rot and turn into bunch of bones? Science gives no comfort and consolation in such cases.

That society would almost certainly have a global religion... you have created an apparently perfect Oracle but with only indirect reference to the originators of that artefact since they aren't going to hand around in sufficient number to provide first hand proof. That the device can accurately inform on science to give answers based on reasoning the society can't understand just serves to increase the problem.

Rephrase the situation thus:

  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens create gizmo
  • Primitive Culture receives gizmo but is incapable of understanding more than the most basic information it gives.
  • Gizmo can accurately tell people what will happen, but can't explain exactly why in a way they can understand until they become more advanced.
  • Gizmo can describe its creators, perhaps even explain their motives, but can't actually provide evidence that those creators definitely exist or that they speak the truth.

The issue is that the origin of religion is not in the explanation of the mysterious, but in a large group accepting an explanation on faith when it lacks the ability to know or prove that explanation to be true or false. Religion is the large scale perpetuation and codification of myth, not the creation of it.

That your scripture is a machine that speaks science, and that your gods are a well documented alien species does not void the problem that the Chain of Truth must have an initial link that everything else assumes be true... and at that point you now move in to the territory where you have such things as Gödel's incompleteness theorems and the Halting Problem to prove all science has an element of faith in the unprovable.


Let’s throw another 5 cents in the bucket:

Yes, religion would form

Consider that science and religion do not occupy the same space, do not compete with each other and therefore can coexist quite harmoniously.*

You can very crudely boil down science to the practice of making conclusions based on evidence. You can also very crudely boil down religion to the practice of making conclusions in the absence of evidence.

Suppose the universe is boundless. Then no matter how vast your knowledge, there is always something unknown. Imagine knowledge as a sphere, where the known is contained within the sphere and the unknown — outside the sphere. Then the surface of the sphere is the boundary between the known and the unknown. That boundary signifies your evident ignorance (you know that you do not know these things, as opposed to things you do not know, and have no idea that you do not know them). The surface of a sphere grows in a quadratic proportion to the radius, so the more your scientific knowledge, the more your evident ignorance. This provides ample ground for forming religious beliefs of all shapes and sizes.

*: At some point scientific knowledge might expand into a domain formerly occupied by religion. Such that:

At point 1 in time, the shape of the world is not known and therefore is believed in.

At point 2 in time, the shape of the world is deduced from evidence and therefore is known.

At point 3 in time, people are reluctant to shed belief in favour of knowledge and thereby put science and religion in competition with each other.

This situation does not mean that science and religion are in actual competition with each other, only that people are inert (as all matter is).


I'll extend another answer already given.

The question's assumptions were proven false in the 1930's!

Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems mathematically proved that any significant subset of mathematics itself, is at best true but unprovable. In other words, it too is based on assumptions -- aka faith.

I saw a great, simplified way of describing this:

 "This sentence cannot be proven."


While it's not exactly true, pundits at the time noted that one result of Gödel's work is that "mathematics may be the only religion that can prove it is a religion."

Beyond that, there are real differences between religions. One in particular is both an important impetus for the development of the scientific method -- so that we can know God better -- and is fully compatible with everything we are learning about the universe, such as that it most likely is N dimensional where N is somewhere between 11 and 14, last I checked. "God" simply needs to be an N+1 dimensional being.

You also might enjoy the following presentation, by an astrophysicist (and atheist not too long ago) explaining the difference between time as observed by us, vs an observer external to the universe: https://sixdayscience.com/six-days-2/


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