Saturday, 7 February 2009


Can science and religion be reconciled? That's the question that Jerry Coyne posed at The Edge recently. I do have thoughts on this question, but I wanted first to focus on one of the answers given.

Karl Giberson is one of the authors that was initially reviewed that brought up this question. In his response to the question, he brings up a couple questions that I thought I might address. The first of which follows:

Coyne, who affirms Dawkins's approach, speaks of "theologians with a deistic bent" who inappropriately presume to "speak for all the faithful." The implication is that the "faithful" are the more authentically religious and the theologians are an aberration. This seems unfair to me. The great unwashed masses of these "faithful" should be juxtaposed with the great masses of people who "believe" in science but are not professionals...What do you suppose "science" would look like, were it defined by these "believers"? The physics would be Aristotelian; astrology and aliens would accepted as real; General Relativity would be unknown; quantum mechanics would be perceived as a way to influence the world with your mind. And yet all of these people would have had far more education in science than the typical religious believer has in theology. Science as "lived and practiced by real people" is quite different than the science promoted by the intellectuals in this conversation.

So, why do we attribute real science to what science actually says and seemingly not do the same for religion when theologians disagree with the rank and file theist? The answer is actually quite simple, and it has to do with the fact that comparing science to theology is like comparing apples and oranges.

Science is the study of the natural world and relies on empirical facts. If two people get into an argument about what science says or what the empirical facts are, they can research the question, they can run experiments, they can empirically verify who is right and who is wrong (speaking simply). We don't equate what science is/says to the rank and file person who doesn't know science, because we can often find the empirical or "correct" answer.

Let's contrast this with theology, shall we? If two people get into an argument about some aspect of god's nature, how will we ever resolve it? What method will we use to figure out who is right and who is not? What measure can we use to elevate one person's opinion over the opinion of the other? The ramification of this is that there is no necessity to accept the proclamations of the theologian over the average person. Both of them are making proclamations based on their own interpretations and their own subjective opinions. So, the complaint holds no weight unless one makes the mistake of assuming that theologians hold some sort of advanced knowledge of god, which they don't. Theology is the study of making stuff up, and what average Joe makes up in his mind is just as good as what scholar Joe makes up.


Martin said...

tha bible r liek de w0rd of god adn science iz juss theories, sew witch wun shud u believe? ewe can ignore everything god said, bcuz obviously richard dawkins knwos bettor, because tghe bible is all tru because ti was written by god anbd yuo onley believe ins science because satan adn the devil made you. even if science is true, you will still go to hellz because god said we whir made n seven days, and he's god, zo you're all wrong, and teh sux peopel, and immoral, because you hav noah guide, no shephard.

GCT said...

Hi Poe.