I can’t believe it: twice in one day! Over at the Guardian, you can read “Religion has nothing to do with science—and vice versa.”
I contend that both – scientists denying religion and believers rejecting science – are wrong. Science and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction. If they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters.
Here’s the definition of “properly understood religion” : religion that doesn’t contradict science. This is all nice and neat, because it makes the assertion a tautology.
What I want to know is this: who is in charge of demarcating “properly understood” faith? And what are we to do with those millions of misguided folks who obstinately refuse to make their faith proper?
Wait! There’s more:
Some scientists deny that there can be valid knowledge about values or about the meaning and purpose of the world and of human life. The biologist Richard Dawkins explicitly denies design, purpose and values.
In River out of Eden, he writes:
“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
William Provine, a historian of science, asserts that there are no absolute principles of any sort. He believes modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws, no absolute guiding principles for human society.
There is a monumental contradiction in these assertions. If its commitment to naturalism does not allow science to derive values, meaning or purposes from scientific knowledge, it surely does not allow it, either, to deny their existence.
Dawkins denies purpose and values? I don’t think so. I know both Dawkins and Provine, and while they believe that there are no moral or ethical laws set out by God, they certainly believe in morals and ethics. And I’m equally sure they believe in “absolute guiding principles for human society.” They just doesn’t think that those principles come from God.
The rest is straight NOMA (had Steve Gould lived, would he have won a Templeton Prize?):
There are people of faith who see the theory of evolution and scientific cosmology as contrary to the creation narrative in Genesis. But Genesis is a book of religious revelations and of religious teachings, not a treatise on astronomy or biology.
According to Augustine, the great theologian of the early Christian church, it is a blunder to mistake the Bible for an elementary textbook of astronomy, geology, or other natural sciences. As he writes in his commentary on Genesis:
“If it happens that the authority of sacred Scripture is set in opposition to clear and certain reasoning, this must mean that the person who interprets Scripture does not understand it correctly.”
But who can say what the book of Genesis was supposed to mean? I’ll give you ten to one that, when it was written, it was a treatise on astronomy and biology, at least as far as those things were understood by denizens of the Middle East two millennia ago.
And, frankly, I’m tired of Augustine being trotted out in these kinds of discussions, as if his interpretation of the Bible was obviously the correct one. I could trot out other theologians who would say the opposite. And, if we’re going to hold up Augustine as the arbiter of Biblical interpretation, there’s that little matter of predestination. . . .
Successful as it is, however, a scientific view of the world is hopelessly incomplete. Matters of value and meaning are outside the scope of science.
Perhaps (although Sam Harris would disagree). But what is outside the scope of science is not automatically inside the scope of faith.
Accommodationists and Templetonians seem to believe if they endlessly repeat the discredited argument of non-overlapping magisteria, people will accept it. Their guiding philosophy is Snarkian: “What I tell you three times is true.”