Did someone make science and religion compatible?

Apparently so. This article, sent to me by reader Snowy Owl, appeared on Quartz (click on screenshot to read it):

And the first sentence notes that “bridging the gap” means making science and religion compatible:

Katharine Hayhoe is here to challenge the idea that science and faith are incompatible.

Okay, well, I’ll bite. How does she harmonize them?

The answer is that she doesn’t. All she does, according to the piece, is try to convince Christians (she’s one) that anthropogenic global warming is real:

An atmospheric science professor and the director of the Climate Science Center of Texas Tech University [JAC: she’s actually co-director], Hayhoe studies the impact of climate change at a local level, helping governments and organizations use climate data to adapt to the future. The Canadian scientist also happens to be an evangelical Christian—the US religious group that is least likely to believe climate change is the result of human activity.

“It’s a little like coming out of the closet admitting that you are a Christian and a scientist,” Hayhoe said in an interview with PBS. [JAC: there’s nothing at PBS that shows that religion and science are compatible.]

Hayhoe’s ability to bridge faith and science has made her one of the country’s most effective communicators when it comes to climate change. She gives scripture-based lectures to church groups and religious organizations that focus on the positive benefits of collective action—water for farmers, food for the poor, moral values for churchgoers—instead of bleak facts and dystopian pictures of the end of times. And she never talks down to her audience. “If you begin a conversation with, ‘You’re an idiot,’ that’s the end of the conversation, too,” she told the New York Times last year. [JAC: you won’t find anything about how she harmonizes science and faith in that article, either.]

I’m glad Hayhoe is able to reach fellow Christians, and I hope she has convinced some doubters among them that climate change is real—and dangerous. I’m still dubious that being a religionist is a big advantage in convincing people of facts they don’t like: after all, BioLogos has been a miserable failure at convincing evangelical Christians that evolution is a fact. But more power to her.

But there’s no way that she her activities show that science and faith are compatible. As I note in Faith Versus Fact—and I won’t dilate on this—despite the fact that both science and religion make claims about the nature of the universe, they’re incompatible in the way they investigate these claims: in methodology (reason and empirical study versus revelation and dogma), in outcome (what you find out), and in philosophy (science doesn’t take into account the supernatural; religion must). Nothing Hayhoe does addresses that incompatibility.

What we have here, then, is the least effective way of showing that science and religion are compatible: the claim that “there are religious scientists.” That’s like saying that science and belief in Santa Claus are compatible, or that science and belief in astrology are compatible. All it shows is that a person can simultaneously hold in their heads two disparate ways of investigating “truth”.


  1. David Evans
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Evolution is difficult for many Christians as it disproves the Adam and Eve story and seems to invalidate the whole “original sin” scenario. Climate change is different – there are stupid religious arguments against it but none that come from core Christian beliefs. Her religion may well give her an advantage in arguing this..

    • Christopher
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Well, the one issue against christians accepting climate change is the claim that gawd told Noah (genesis 9.11) that after destroying life in the flood (you know, the one that made the Grand Canyon) he would never destroy the earth again, so christians claim that environment disasters can’t hurt cause gawd said that so take that Science! Perhaps the best retort, using christianity against them is to note that gawd said HE wouldn’t destroy the earth but never said he would stop humans from doing so. Not that the a priori close-minded religious hange their minds much…

      • Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        I like “gawd” and plan to use it. However, shouldn’t we capitalize it out of respect? LOL

  2. Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    That Quartz headline looks like clickbait (and nice title for this piece!).

    Hayhoe talks a lot of sense in that interview; here’s hoping she’s successful with her mission to convince Christians that AGW is real. Maybe if she tells us how she convinced her husband we would all know the secret.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 10, 2018 at 3:40 am | Permalink

      Yeah, she’s not making “science and religion compatible,” but if she’s successfully getting evangelicals to accept AGW that might be more important at the moment. Priority 1–save planet…

  3. GBJames
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:24 am | Permalink


  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I don’t see any compatibility unless it is their misunderstanding of compatibility in the first place. A religious person who is also a scientist does not equal compatibility. Same old false understanding. The flock she is attempting to persuade do not buy it and that is the opposite. The republican Klan will always deny climate change because the fix is totally against their dogma.

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      The fix is totally against (R clan’s) dogma which is their businesses M.O.

  5. Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Eating donuts and double bacon cheeseburgers is compatible with maintaining a healthy diet. After all, I’ve done both. QED.

    • Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Also, smoking is compatible with health, after all, some physician and other health care professionals smoke.

      • colnago80
        Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        A lot fewer then there were 60 years ago.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 10, 2018 at 3:42 am | Permalink

      Ditto! In fact, I’ve done the experiment numerous times, showing that it’s indisputably repeatable.

  6. Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Bridging the gap for religionists is no different than working all week in the lab and on Sunday believing that Luke has just saved a galaxy far far away.

  7. Pierluigi Ballabeni
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Damn English language! At first I thought she teaches Christian climate.

  8. Stan
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I thought it was a fine article.
    I very strongly recommend also reading the three bonus questions, including the one about toilet paper.

  9. GregZ
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    From the article: “On climate change, most people aren’t fundamentally opposed to the underlying science.”

    Wow, is she that naive?

    • Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Well, I would actually agree with that, in the sense that their opposition stems from superficial tribalism, rather than an assessment (however mistaken) of the science. I doubt most of them know any of the science involved.

      • colnago80
        Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        Just ask the deniers what the Wein-Boltzmann equation is and how it relates to climate change. You will get a blank stare for your effort.

        • grasshopper
          Posted April 9, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          Lol. Wein-Boltzmann causes me to look like a stunned mullet as well. I’m not sure it applies to climate change on a flat earth.

        • Diane G.
          Posted April 10, 2018 at 3:46 am | Permalink

          *blank stare*

  10. nicky
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Indeed she does nothing to make science and religion compatible, but she should be commended for trying to make some science palatable to Christians.
    In Europe many people that consider themselves ‘Christian’, are accepting science, saying that most, if not all, of the Bible should be seen metaphorically. They have no problems with evolution or global warming. Was not the great Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of your mentors if I’m not mistaken, a Christian?
    I think the only way that science and religion would be compatible is to see most of religion metaphorically. (Personally, of course, I don’t, just ditched religion)

  11. glen1davidson
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    It might have been interesting if they’d actually tried to argue compatibility of science and religion.

    Basically, another interview, a little bit said about her being Christian. If she can convince some Christians that AGW is real, though, good for her.

    Glen Davidson

  12. Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    “I wish I’d known that we should be doing the exact opposite: striving to unite our heads and our hearts so we can bring our whole selves to the work that we do.”

    That sounds fine when your “heart” (emotions and values) comport with the findings of science. What about when they don’t?

  13. busterggi
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    If she really believes her Dog is benevolent towards humanity maybe she should pray for him to correct the problem.

    Oh, she of little faith.

    • Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Yes, she seems to be a “bad” Christian.

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The correct claim is that she bridges the community of scientists and the religious community.

    I primarily worry about the static fixed character of much of American Christianity- moreso than the clash in methodology.

    Any compatibilist must realize that science uses far more verifiable and reliable methods of investigation and that religion is at best a guess and a gamble.

  15. Roger
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    “She gives scripture-based lectures to church groups and religious organizations”

    Ah so that’s how she does it. My Bible verses can beat up your Bible verses.

  16. Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I am reminded somewhat of the book I have which is a conservative Christian argument in favour of vegetarianism. (By a speechwriter that worked for GW Bush no less!)

    • grasshopper
      Posted April 9, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Vegetarianism – “No animal was harmed during the creation of this tofu icecream.” Except the plague locusts etc, ironically kept under control by plant-based insecticides such as rotenone and pyrethrum.

  17. Greg Geisler
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Hayhoe is the darling of the Regressive Left and she gets trotted out frequently to argue for science and faith compatability and no one ever seems to call her out on it simply because she is affable. It’s annoying and disingenuous. I wish someone would challenge her to a debate. (hint) ;^)

  18. Mark Joseph
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    It would be interesting to find out if Ms. Hayhoe agrees with the scientifically-accepted age of the earth, and accepts biological evolution (or, better yet, understands why it is true). Also, whether or not she accepts the existence of demons and witches.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 10, 2018 at 3:51 am | Permalink

      Also whether or not she considers Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, yada yada, as equally compatible with Christianity and science…

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