Science and Religion Are Not Compatible

Nearly two decades ago, the late biologist Stephen Jay Gould said that science and religion were two separate things. He called them "non-overlapping magisteria", or NOMA.

He said that science could answer what happened, and how it happened. But the why it happened, and the morals and implications of it, those were the purview of religion. A lot of people believe that he was right.

I mean, obviously, there are a lot of great scientists out there who also happen to be religious. They found a way to reconcile the two worlds pretty well, at least in their own minds. Or they just learned to compartmentalize it really well.

But I don't think those two worlds are actually compatible. I think if you're a devoutly religious person, and someone who accepts the scientific method, something's gotta give.

Whenever science succeeds, religion loses, because a gap of knowledge that was once unknown, has now been filled by something that's not God. Part of the problem with NOMA is that science actually does have something to say about morality.

I'll talk about that in a second. And we know religion has plenty to say about what happened and how things happened. The magisteria overlap all the time. And they can't both be true.

Religions make claims about the natural world all the time. Not just about the afterlife, but about how our current world actually works.

Creationists do this, saying the world is 6,000 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, and there was a great flood. People who believe God performs miracles do this, they say that God healed somebody in a way science can't possibly explain.  

These are testable claims -- and they have been tested. And religion had lost every single time. We know the universe isn't 6,000 years old.

The evidence for that is overwhelming. We know intercessory prayer -- when you pray for someone who doesn't know you're praying for them -- has no statistically significant effect.

We know literal actual miracles don't happen. You know, if someone's cured of some disease, there's either a scientific explanation for it... or, if we don't have one at the moment, I would bet good money that we would have a good scientific explanation, if only we had a little more knowledge than we do right now.

And, like I said, science does have something to say about morality. Sam Harris wrote an entire book about this very concept. It's called The Moral Landscape.

One of the ideas he talks about in the book is about how science can actually tell you what increases and decreases people's pleasure, and we can work in our lives to make sure the good stuff happens more often. And I'm just skimming the surface here.

The point is that science and religion don't occupy different worlds. The point is that science and religion don't occupy different worlds.

They're in this together. And I believe we have to choose one or the other. Do you put your faith in evidence... or faith?

The choice seems pretty obvious to me. Don't get me wrong: There are brilliant scientists out there who stick to science in the lab, but who still hold the belief in God.

They accept the evidence for evolution but believe God put the whole process in motion. They accept the Big Bang but believe God started it all. They run controlled experiments in the lab but believe in God because of a feeling they have.

I think all of that is just intellectually dishonest. And it only gets worst the more devout you are with a specific religion. I don't think you can actually believe Jesus was born from a virgin mother if you actually understand and accept how biology works.

You can't believe that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse because pretty much all of that is physically impossible. You can't believe Jesus rose from the dead if you understand how death works.

It doesn't work that way. You get the idea. This notion that science and religion are truly compatible, it sounds nice but is an idea that it's just well past its expiration date.

You can say you believe in both, but don't expect people to take you seriously if you do.

Originally published by Hemant Mehta on the Atheist Voice. Published on Fadewblogs by Dave Martin.

Disclaimer: This article is published on Fadewblogs with the permission of the author.

More from this author:

Support Hemant Mehta:

Post a Comment

Comments will go through moderation before appearing, and are subject to our community guidelines, which can be viewed here

Previous Article Next Article Protection Status