Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Are Science and Religion Best Friends, Sworn Enemies, Unknown Strangers?

Do science and religion conflict?

If so, how much--partially, or completely?

Are many scientists who are also theists, (about 51% according to Pew), being dishonest as atheist thinkers claim?

Why do such scientists say they think religion as well as science is true?

Or do science and religion coexist as friends, not always getting along, but complementing each other, even existing in "harmony"?

Or are science and religion completely separate ways of understanding within human thinking?

Let's start with antagonism:

(of Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and other contemporary atheists):

TIME MAGAZINE: "Professor Dawkins, if one truly understands science, is God then a delusion, as your book title suggests?"

RICHARD DAWKINS: "The question of whether there exists a supernatural creator, a God, is one of the most important that we have to answer. I think that it is a scientific question. My answer is no."

"I think that's the mother and father of all cop-outs. It's an honest scientific quest to discover where this apparent improbability comes from. Now Dr. Collins says, 'Well, God did it. And God needs no explanation because God is outside all this."

"Well, what an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don't do that. Scientists say, 'We're working on it. We're struggling to understand.'
You're shooting yourself in the foot by postulating something just as improbable, magicking into existence the word God."

"People who believe in God conclude there must have been a divine knob twiddler who twiddled the knobs of these half-dozen constants to get them exactly right. The problem is that this says, because something is vastly improbable, we need a God to explain it. But that God himself would be even more improbable."

TIME: "Dr. Collins, do you believe that science is compatible with Christian faith?"

FRANCIS COLLINS: "Yes. God's existence is either true or not. But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in."
Time International, 2006

"...had there been no Christianity, if after the fall of Rome atheism had pervaded the Western world, science would have developed earlier and be far more advanced than it is now."

"The different methods that science and religion use to ascertain their “truths” couldn’t be clearer. Science comprises an exquisitely refined set of tools designed to find out what is real and to prevent confirmation bias."

"Science prizes doubt and iconoclasm, rejects absolute authority, and relies on testing one’s ideas with experiments and observations of nature. Its sine qua non is evidence — evidence that can be inspected and adjudicated by any trained and rational observer. And it depends largely on falsification."

"Religion begins with beliefs based not on observation, but on revelation, authority (often that of scripture), and dogma. Most people acquire their faith when young via indoctrination by parents, teachers, or peers, so that religious 'truths' depend heavily on who spawned you and where you grew up."

"Beliefs instilled in this way are then undergirded with defenses that make them resistant to falsification. While some religious people do struggle with their beliefs, doubt is not an inherent part of belief, not is it especially prized. No honors accrue to the Southern Baptist who points out that while there is plenty of evidence for evolution, there is none for the creation story of Genesis."

"Some religious claims are untestable because they involve knowing about the irrevocable past. There is almost no way to show, for instance, that Jesus was the son of God, that Allah dictated the Quran to Muhammad, or that the souls of Buddhists are reincarnated in other humans or animals."

"(There could, however be at least some evidence for such claims, such as concordant eyewitness accounts of the miracles that supposedly accompanied Jesus’s Crucifixion, including the darkness at noon, the rending of the Temple’s curtain, the earthquakes, and the rising of saints from their graves. Unfortunately, the many historians of the time have failed to report these phenomena.)"

"What science can do is point out the absence of evidence for such claims, taking them off the table until some hint of evidence what it is until we have hard evidence. That is precisely the opposite of how the faithful approach their own claims of truth."

"In the end, religious investigations of “truth,” unlike those of science, are deeply dependent on confirmation bias."

Faith Vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible
by Jerry Coyne,
Viking, 2015

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, SIMON WORRALL: "You are now an evolutionary genticist. How does your day job inform your views on religion?"

"If you teach evolution, you’re teaching the one form of science that hits Abrahamic religions in the solar plexus. There’s no evidence that there’s any qualitatively different feature about humans from other species...We’re not special products of God’s creation."

"Religion doesn’t have a methodology to weed out what’s false. In fact, it’s a way of fooling yourself."

NAT. GEO. SIMON W.: "You call religion "the most widespread and harmful form of superstition.” Make your case.

COYNE: "Since I see all religious belief as unfounded and irrational, I consider religion to be superstition. It’s certainly the most widespread form of superstition because the vast majority of people on Earth are believers."

NAT.GEO.: "How have new developments in science like neurobiology or cosmology affected our understanding of the universe and our place in it?"

COYNE: "They support what Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate in physics said, 'The more we learn about the universe, the more we realize how pointless it is.' We're learning a lot about the unierse and what we are seeing is that it's all a naturalistic process."

NAT.GEO.: "Are all religious as bad as each other?"

COYNE: "Oh, no. I think anybody that says that is on some tendentious gambit to discredit religion. Clearly, religions differ in how harmful they are and that’s proportional to how much they proselytize and how perfidious their beliefs are.

"There are religions that I would consider either harmless or maybe even beneficial. Quakers barely believe in God at all and are dedicated to social justice."

MY RESPONSE: LOL. While it is true, some modern Quakers are non-theists, it is incorrect to state that "Quakers barely believe in God at all."
Actually, most Quakers now, and in the past, are devout theists.

And "they are dedicated to social justice," (Coyne's statement) because of their deep faith in God, not contrary to it.
Examples include John Woolman, William Penn, Elizabeth Fry, Levi Coffin, etc.

from Wikipedia:
"The first anti-slavery statement was written by Dutch and German Quakers, who met at Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1688. English Quakers began to express their official disapproval of the slave trade in 1727 and promote reforms."

"From the 1750s, a number of Quakers in Britain's American colonies also began to oppose slavery, and called on English Quakers to take action with parliament. They encouraged their fellow citizens, including Quaker slave owners, to improve conditions for slaves, educate their slaves in Christianity, reading and writing, and gradually emancipate (free) them."

"An informal group of six Quakers pioneered the British abolitionist movement in 1783 when the London Society of Friends' yearly meeting presented its petition against the slave trade to Parliament, signed by over 300 Quakers. They were also influenced by publicity that year about the Zong massacre, as the ship owners were litigating a claim for insurance against losses due to more than 132 slaves having been killed on their ship."

"The Quakers decided to form a small, committed, non-denominational group so as to gain greater Anglican and Parliamentary support. The new, non-denominational committee formed in 1787 had nine Quaker members and three Anglicans. As Quakers were non-conformists and were debarred from standing for Parliament), having Anglican members strengthened the committee's likelihood of influencing Parliament."

"Nine of the twelve founding members of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade were Quakers:
John Barton (1755–1789);
William Dillwyn (1743–1824);
George Harrison (1747–1827);
Samuel Hoare Jr (1751–1825);
Joseph Hooper (1732–1789);
John Lloyd;
Joseph Woods Sr (1738–1812);
James Phillips (1745–1799);
and Richard Phillips."

"Five of the Quakers had been amongst the informal group of six Quakers who had pioneered the movement in 1783, when the first petition against the slave trade was presented to parliament."

"Three Anglicans were founding members:
Thomas Clarkson, campaigner and author of an influential essay against the slave trade;
Granville Sharp who, as a lawyer, had long been involved in the support and prosecution
of cases on behalf of enslaved Africans;
and Philip Sansom."

Despite such clear historical evidence, strangely, Coyne asserts, "The less a religion has to do with a tangible God, the less it hands out moral dictates and the better it is. Once you believe in an absolute authority that tells you what to do, you’re heading down the road to perdition, I think."

But that is the exact opposite of the Quakers' dedication to "social justice"!

In fact, Quaker abolitionists did give out very strong, absolute moral dictates against slavery, and for women's rights, human rights, etc.

And it didn't lead "down the road to perdition" as Coyne claims.

On the contrary, Quakers' belief in a God of social justice was part of the Enlightenment. According to some historians, Thomas Paine was influenced to so actively oppose slavery because of his Quaker parent.

NAT. GEO. SIMON WORRALL: "The evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould developed a theory known as NOMA...religion deals with the realm of meaning and moral values. Isn’t that a compromise you accept?"

COYNE: "Well, no! [Laughs] It’s not only a compromise I can’t accept...Philosophers have also rejected Gould’s idea that meaning, morals and values are the purview of religion. There’s a long tradition of secular humanism in philosophy beginning with the ancient Greeks and passing through Kant, John Stewart Mill and Hume to contemporary thinkers like Peter Singer."

MY VIEW: Hmm...Immanuel Kant was a theist, not an atheist.

Quite a bit of secular humanism, while rejecting the dogmas of religion, actually comes out of the philosophical views of theism.

Besides how can we humans get ethics from what "is" in nature, in natural selection?

How do we get from "is" to what "ought" to be?

Here, Coyne seems to be disagreeing with David Hume, which, of course, is his perfect right to do.

But his disagreement is unlikely to find any support in science.
How could science possibly tell us whether or not it is right or wrong to drop atomic bombs on enemy civilians?

Lastly, Coyne says human consciousness is "a neuronal illusion."

If human consciousness is "a nueronal illusion," then how is it possible for our consciousness to use reason, the scientific method, etc. to find out the complexities of the real universe?

Jerry Coyne was interviewed by Simon Worrall, National Geographic


These scientists don't reject "reason and science," aren't "being dishonest."

They use reason and science to figure out matter and energy issues, but
use philosophy and non-scientific thinking to figure out issues of "ought," and "meaning."

It would seem that the famous evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky holds to this view. Dobzhansky wrote that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

How does he reconcile being an Orthodox Christian with evolution?

He doesn't. No more than he tries to love his wife by cutting a tiny piece of her skin out to put under a microscope to figure out if she's his soul friend, and if he loves her and she loves him;-)

In compartmentalization, science and religion are opposed, not in harmony.

For how can Dobzhansky reconcile natural selection with benevolence to all of creation?

I don't think he can. Or how can he reconcile the regularities of the cosmos with the miraculous?

It seems that he can't.

But, my guess, also, is that he doesn't try.

Never the twain shall meet. Opposed from the get-go. But held instead as separate parts of his mind for different purposes.

However, notice that hard naturalists have this problem, too, assuming, of course, they agree with Hume's claim that humans can't get "ought" from what "is."

Various atheists try to explain altruism, and some do interestingly such as Richard Dawkins' idea that altruism is a "misfiring" of evolution. Intriguing.

that doesn't explain why humans "ought" to be altruistic.

Since by scientists' definition, evolution has no purpose and no meaning, then obviously, too, "altruism" isn't true, it's just another possibility along with other successful developments of evolution including ruthlessness, deception, slaughter, etc.

There are the 'negatives' of natural selection as well. Natural selection isn't concerned with what "ought" to be, but only with survival.

Think what a long active life--for hundreds of thousands of years--various evil actions have had including millions of cases of
deception, slaughter, rape, polygamy, theft, torture, persecution, inequality, etc.

Such immoral actions have dominated human history. They are very natural, but NOT right, not good, not true.

Even in the last 200 years, in most wars, both sides of humans regularly engage in most of those behaviors, and almost never in altruism.

Lastly, some atheists say, well, the reason for humans to be altruistic is (they argue)
it will somehow increase the chance that human social groups will survive.

But why "ought" homo sapiens to survive?

That is a philosophical question, not a scientific one.

In the end, as even some secular philosophers have emphasized, NOT everything can be solved by science.

Should I forgive a person who has harmed my family or my kin or my country?

A. Ought nations to create, store, even use atomic weapons, as did the United States to slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians?

B. Should infants developing in the womb be executed as worthless tissue or be considered worthy of protection as tiny human beings?

c. Ought all humans to have rights and to be treated equally?

D. Should everyone be honest in their studies and reports?


None of those deep, in-your-face-daily questions which fill the media can be answered by science.

#3 For others, it's a case of differences in EDUCATIONAL LEARNING.

It isn't that science and religion disagree or are sworn enemies, rather, the difficulty is that one area of humans' lives hasn't caught up with the other area.

A person can be very well-informed about physics, but not really know much about philosophy, literature, aesthetics, personal relationships or culture.

Or in my case, one can grow up knowing a lot about literature and religion and plenty of "oughts." And learn a lot about philosophy--the great thinkers of history--in high school, (Lincoln Southeast in Nebraska being one of the few high schools which taught a subject not usually dealt with until university).

But he may not know much yet about scientific subjects such as evolutionary biology. I loved science, but knew only physics in high school.

Finally, I started to catch up in the technical field when I took complex science classes at university--geology and anthropology. And after graduation with a B.A. in Creative Writing, I read many popular biology books. Then my scientific understanding caught up with my literary and philosophical self.

#4 THE NOMA VIEW of Stephen Jay Gould:

TIME: "Stephen Jay Gould, a Harvard paleontologist, famously argued that religion and science can coexist, because they occupy separate, airtight boxes. You both seem to disagree."

FRANCIS COLLINS: "Gould sets up an artificial wall between the two worldviews that doesn't exist in my life. Because I do believe in God's creative power in having brought it all into being in the first place, I find that studying the natural world is an opportunity to observe the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God's creation."

Time International, 2006

STEPHEN JAY GOULD: "...creationism based on biblical literalism makes little sense in either Catholicism or Judaism for neither religion maintains any extensive tradition for reading the Bible as literal truth rather than illuminating literature, based partly on metaphor and allegory (essential components of all good writing) and demanding interpretation for proper understanding. Most Protestant groups, of course, take the same position—the fundamentalist fringe notwithstanding."

“The position that I have just outlined by personal stories and general statements represents the standard attitude of all major Western religions (and of Western science) today. (I cannot, through ignorance, speak of Eastern religions, although I suspect that the same position would prevail in most cases.)”

“The lack of conflict between science and religion arises from a lack of overlap between their respective domains of professional expertise—science in the empirical constitution of the universe, and religion in the search for proper ethical values and the spiritual meaning of our lives."

"The attainment of wisdom in a full life requires extensive attention to both domains—for a great book tells us that the truth can make us free and that we will live in optimal harmony with our fellows when we learn to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly."

"I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria—the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectua] grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways."

"If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions."

"Here, I believe, lies the greatest strength and necessity of NOMA, the nonoverlapping magisteria of science and religion. NOMA permits—indeed enjoins—the prospect of respectful discourse, of constant input from both magisteria toward the common goal of wisdom. If human beings are anything special, we are the creatures that must ponder and talk."

From Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Natural History 106 (March 1997): 16-22; and Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, New York: Harmony Books, 1998, pp. 269-283.

(instead of the narrow religious dogmatism to which Jerry Coyne refers):

Albert Einstein: "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."

From Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, Princeton University Press:
"I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written."

"The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations."

from The Quotable Einstein:
"I don't try to imagine a God; it suffices to stand in awe of the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it."

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own - a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty."

"It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in Nature."

"The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that , compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."

"Where dull-witted clansmen of our tribe were praying aloud, their faces turned to the wall, their bodies swaying to and fro. A pathetic sight of men with a past but without a future." (Regarding his visit to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, February 3, 1923)

"Should we be unable to find a way to honest cooperation and honest pacts with the Arabs, then we have learned absolutely nothing during our 2,000 years of suffering and deserve all that will come to us."

"I appeal to all men and women, whether they be eminent or humble, to declare that they will refuse to give any further assistance to war or the preparation of war."

"It is my belief that the problem of bringing peace to the world on a supranational basis will be solved only by employing Gandhi's method on a larger scale."


"I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written."

"The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations."

The above quote from Einstein gives credence to biographer Walter Isaacson who stated that Einstein "held to a deistic concept of God."
page 385, Einstein: His Life and Universe

Translated Transcript: Princeton, 3. 1. 1954

"Dear Mr Gutkind,

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition."

"And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them."

"I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly,” he wrote in another letter in 1954. "If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

"I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind."

What are other views of the relationship between science and religion?

Please add to the discussion.




To be continued--

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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