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October 31, 2006

Religion and Science -- 6

Should proponents of evolution allow some space for religion in their schema or reject it entirely? Richard Dawkins, writing on Edge, labels the two sides in this dispute the "Chamberlains" and the "Churchillians," which gives away which side he's on:


The Chamberlain tactic of snuggling up to 'sensible' religion, in order to present a united front against ('intelligent design') creationists, is fine if your central concern is the battle for evolution. That is a valid central concern, and I salute those who press it.... But if you are concerned with the stupendous scientific question of whether the universe was created by a supernatural intelligence or not, the lines are drawn completely differently. On this larger issue, fundamentalists are united with 'moderate' religion on one side, and I find myself on the other.

The intellectual case for accomodation with religious moderates has been made by Stephen Jay Gould -- arguing that religion and science occupy two different "magisteria" -- teaching domains (Shermer's "separate-worlds model"). Dawkins, taking the hard line (Shermer's "conflicting-worlds model"), will have none of this notion that religion might deserve a "magisteria" of its own:

Either Jesus had a father or he didn't. The question is a scientific one, and scientific evidence, if any were available, would be used to settle it. The same is true of any miracle -- and the deliberate and intentional creation of the universe would have to have been the mother and father of all miracles. Either it happened or it didn't. It is a fact, one way or the other.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at October 31, 2006 1:57 AM


The problem with "NOM" is that the only religious people who will agree with it have basically removed all the miracles from their faith, and hence aren't any real problem for science. The others refuse to accept their 'space'.

Posted by: The Ridger at October 31, 2006 7:17 PM

We might sensibly call fact and fiction separate worlds, but if I were to observe the analogy to Gould's diplomatic maneuver, some zealot might want to burn me for blasphemy. Depending how secure I am from the zealots, I'm liable to be right beside Chamberlain. Atheists can be pragmatists.

Posted by: MT at November 14, 2006 1:59 AM

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