As I said, the man can’t help himself. Over at his Discover blog Collide-a-Scape, Kloor interviews Daniel Sarewitz, a man we’ve met before and one who emphasized, in the pages of Nature, the failure of science to address subjective sensations and spirituality.
I promised not to go after Kloor, so I’ll just quote a bit of his interview:
KK: The thesis to that column taps into a larger, on-going debate over the question of whether science and religion are compatible. Based on your piece, I would presume that you think the two are compatible. However, some of the prominent New Atheists, such as PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne, insist that science and religion are incompatible. Why has this discussion become so binary? Why the either/or mindset exhibited by some atheists?
DS: There are lots of scientists who are also religious, so as an empirical matter science and religion are apparently not incompatible. I got many emails from scientists who really liked my column on the experience of visiting Ankor Wat. (Interestingly, those who liked the column seemed to prefer to email me directly; those who hated it preferred a public venue for airing their irritation.) We have binary arguments because they are easy and mindless and comforting–no one has to acknowledge ambiguity or complexity; everyone gets to be right. Binary arguments are a refuge for orthodoxies, and atheism can be as much an orthodoxy as religion. I say this as an atheist. I am not an agnostic. I don’t believe in god(s) and I think those that do are incorrect. But I think humans have lots of different ways of making sense of their experience of the world, and my way happens to be atheism.
I’m also trained as a scientist, by the way, and I think science offers extraordinarily powerful ways of understanding our world–but there’s a lot that it can’t tell us, and a lot that it gets wrong, and a lot of claims made on its behalf that are terribly overstated. I’m more interested in whether a person is thoughtful, kind, and open-minded than whether they’re an atheist or religious. If people want to try to come to terms with the finiteness of life in the face of the infinitude of time through religion rather cosmology, I don’t see why that should bother me.
My one comment: it’s crucial in these arguments to define “compatibility”, and it makes a big difference whether you conceive of science/faith compatibility as “the ability to do both or accept both at the same time” (the common argument), or—as I do—”the comparative ability of science and religion, using their respective philosophies and methodologies, to discern (as they claim to be able) the truth about the universe.”