The Templeton Foundation has sponsored a panoply of activities resulting in articles, books, and conferences whose goal is to "discover spiritual information. Ergo, its powerful methods should be useful to religion in order to augment our knowledge of God and matters spiritual. And Templeton is putting his money where his mouth is by funding several scientific projects at the rate of hundreds of thousands of dollars each as well as by awarding the Templeton Prize, which is financially heftier than the Nobel.
Examples of the science-to-religion connection that Templeton envisions are illuminating. Templeton's efforts but not necessarily those of all the researchers who are receiving his money fall into what can be termed scientific theism, that is, the idea that one can scientifically investigate the mind of God. This particular position within the science and religion universe is actually a very old and revered one, having its roots in classical Christian Apologetics a la St. Thomas Aquinas and continuing today through the efforts of individuals like Plantinga and William Craig.
If, however, one believes in a more remote kind of God but wishes to retain the concept of science and religion uncovering the same truth, the choice is not limited to scientific theism. Two other positions are possible, depending on whether one subscribes to a naturalistic or to a deistic God, the Strong Anthropic Principle and Weak Anthropic Principle, the latter also known as the "God of the Big Bang.
The Weak Anthropic Principle says that there is very little variation in the known constants and laws of physics that could be tolerated if the universe were to be a place friendly to life as we know it.
From here, there is another small logical gap to the Strong Anthropic Principle, which infers an intelligent designer with a purpose behind the whole shebang. Furthermore, it is not useful as a scientific hypothesis, since all it says is that we are here because we are here. The Principle has, however, been effectively attacked on positive scientific grounds by showing that many more possible universes could support some sort of life, an attack that has weakened the "improbable" argument on which the Principle is based.
This observation in and of itself, I think, points toward a fundamental degree of discomfort between science and religion.
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Gould, the Pope, and Huston Smith When we examine the portion of the graph in Figure 1 that falls in the area identified by Shermer as the domain of the "separate worlds" model, we deal with a range of characters that go from agnostic evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould Harvard and nontheist Eugenie Scott National Center for Science Education to the Pope himself, passing through the ambiguous position of the charismatic Huston Smith, the acclaimed author of The World's Religions.
Several scientists, philosophers, and skeptics, including Shermer, 15 Scott, 16 Mayr, 17 Pazameta, 18 and Michael Ruse see his essay this issue loosely fall into the position outlined by Gould as NOMA, or Non-Overlapping Magisteria 19 although Ruse is mildly critical of some aspects of this position. NOMA says that science deals with facts, religion with morality; the first focuses on what is, the latter on what ought to be. Citing what in philosophy is known as the "naturalistic fallacy" 20 , one cannot derive what ought to be from what is, Gould concludes that science and religion are forever separate.
Another way to look at NOMA has been articulated by Eugenie Scott when she pointed to the distinction between methodological and philosophical naturalism. In order to deny the existence of God, however, one has to be a naturalist in the philosophical sense of the term, that is, one has to conclude that the physical world is all there is. Ergo, science cannot inform us as to the existence of God, because naturalism is not a scientific conclusion, but an assumption of the scientific method. If science does not have anything to say about God and obviously, says Scott, religion is incapable of informing science about the natural world , then NOMA logically follows.
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Scott's reasoning is more sophisticated than Gould's, though they share several points. The main commonality is the fact that NOMA defenders are really using the concept of a rather distant God detached from the everyday functioning of nature, since even Gould and certainly Scott, who makes a living out of valiantly battling creationism admits that a personal God is in direct contradiction with the scientific evidence.
NOMA applies to the very special concept of God that a deist would feel comfortable with, not to what most people think of as "God. The naturalistic fallacy can be challenged. For one thing, why shouldn't we use "what is" as at least a rough guide to "what ought to be"? At the very least we should treat this as an open question.
Also, science can certainly inform us about the consequences of "what is" so that we can better determine what ought to be to further our own happiness, and science does a much better job at it than religion, whose conclusions are derived from ancient authorities with little knowledge of nature and of human psychology and sociology; 23 3 It is certainly not true that morality or, more properly, ethics is the sole domain of religion, since ethical philosophy has also been providing us with a rational way of discussing our behaviors and their social impact.
Scott's distinction between methodological and philosophical naturalism is certainly more valid than Gould's Solomonic separation between science and religion. A full critique of her position is available online, 24 but the gist of the counterargument has been clearly articulated by Will Provine. Methodological naturalism is not independent, but derived from philosophical naturalism.
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Therefore, naturalism is an essential component of science not just as a practical device, but because it is part of the very fabric of the scientific method. For example, when scientists apply either Occam's razor a preference for explanations that make use of a minimum number of necessary theoretical constructs or Hume's dictum a preference for less "miraculous" explanations , they are practicing a particular philosophy.
Science cannot be divested of such philosophy without losing its nature. This point is seized upon by creationists such as Phillip Johnson, 26 who accuse science of being a religion. Provine's very reasonable rejoinder is that science does indeed make a leap of faith, but that such leap is infinitesimal compared to the leap made by religionists. Furthermore, science's leap, unlike religion's, has produced tangible miracles, such as the laptop computer and a doubled lifespan in the last century.
Moving down the God axis in Figure 1 we come to what I have termed "theistic science" as opposed to scientific theism. It is not exactly clear how well Smith fits into this category, but his position is the closest I could find to represent the land between NOMA and the Pope notice the diagonal arrow bridging theistic science and scientific theism, which could represent two sides of the same coin.
Smith argues against scientism, an idea that can be defined in different ways. I would argue that scientism is the concept that science can and will resolve every question or problem in any realm if given enough time and resources. I don't think that even the most grant-hungry professional researchers readily subscribe to it, but I know of individuals who seem to. The important point is that these alternatives are not available within science, thereby excluding certain aspects of "reality" from scientific investigation.
Smith is joined by Alvin Plantinga in the scientific theism corner, particularly evident in his request that the National Association of Biology Teachers modify their definition of evolution by dropping such philosophically and politically loaded words as "impersonal" and "unguided" when referring to the process of natural selection.
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The distinctive point of theistic science is that the God behind the universe works in very subtle ways and entirely through natural laws, so that it is impossible or at least very difficult to infer his presence unlike the case of the Anthropic Principle, where an intelligent designer is the only possible conclusion.
As the reader can see, then, the center of the diagram in Figure 1 is a rather gray area from which one can easily move to almost any other position by introducing one or more qualifiers. If applied to evolution in particular, theistic science translates into theistic evolution, where evolutionary theory is by and large correct therefore science is on solid ground , but it includes the added twist that evolution is the rather inefficient and clumsy way God works. Pope John Paul II has expressed himself twice in the last few years on the relationship between science and religion.
In a letter written to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 30 he first declared that Christians should not reject the findings of modern science, including evolutionary theory. This is because, in his words, "Truth cannot contradict Truth" which is why this position could be construed as leaning toward the left side of the diagram. However, the Pope drew a line at the origin of the human soul, which of course had to be injected directly by God. This creates a rather abrupt discontinuity because it introduces an arbitrary dualism within the process of human evolution, a stratagem with which science does not sit very well, as Richard Dawkins pointed out.
It is because of this position and the implied dualism that I situated the Pope toward the center of the diagram. Within the separate or almost separate worlds, therefore, one can go from essentially no conflict between science and religion if no god or a deistic God is considered, to a position that is logically possible but increasingly inconsistent with both Occam's razor and Hume's dictum. Depending on how much importance one accords to the philosophical foundations of science, this area of the Science-Religion space can be more or less comfortably inhabited by moderate scientists or moderate religionists.
I am referring to "classical" creationism as embodied, for example, by Duane Gish and his colleagues at the Institute for Creation Research, 33 and to the "neo-creationism" movement well represented by Michael Behe 34 , William Dembski 35 , Phillip Johnson 36 and other associates of the "Discovery Institute.
The main difference between Gish's group and Johnson's ensemble is that the latter is more sophisticated philosophically and makes a more slick use of scientific terminology and pseudoscientific concepts. They are also much more politically savvy, though they do not enjoy the grassroots support of classical creationists because they ironically tend to be seen by most people as "too intellectual. While debunking classical creationism is nowadays not too trying an intellectual exercise, 38 neocreationists are quite something else.
Behe's book on "irreducible complexity" makes the point that the molecular machinery of living organisms is so complex and necessitates all of its parts working in synchrony that it must have been designed. A good rebuttal has to span from David Hume's devastating critique of the generalized version of the argument from design 39 to modern findings on the evolution of specific biochemical pathways.
The Twin Souls of Skepticism Last, but not least, let's consider the two main versions of modern skepticism, which have produced a lively debate within the skeptic community and which represent the forefront of rational thinking about science and religion. Scientific skepticism is the position that skepticism is possible only in regard to questions and claims that can be investigated empirically i.
For example, Novella and Bloomberg state that "Claims that are not testable are simply outside the realm of science. They admit that "Testable religious claims, such as those of creationists, faith healers, and miracle men are amenable to scientific skepticism," so that religion is not entirely out of the scope of skeptical inquiry. Furthermore, they acknowledge that there is no distinction in principle between religion and any other kind of nonsense believed by all sorts of people: "There is no distinction between believing in leprechauns, alien abductions, ESP, reincarnation, or the existence of God, each equally lacks objective evidence.
From this perspective, separating out the latter two beliefs and labeling them as religion, thereby exempting them from critical analysis, is intellectually dishonest. One of the most convincing arguments adduced by scientific skeptics to keep religion out of skeptical inquiry is that a believer can always come up with unfalsifiable ad hoc explanations of any inconsistency in a religious belief.
While this is certainly true, is this not an equally valid critique of, say, skeptical inquiry into paranormal phenomena? After all, how many times have we heard the "true believers" saying that the reason a medium failed a controlled test is because of the negative vibrations produced by the skeptic? Nicholas Humphrey, in his excellent Leaps of Faith, 45 even reports that paranormalists have come up with a negative theory of ESP that "predicts" that the frequency of genuine paranormal phenomena is inversely proportional to attempts at empirically investigating them!
Observing our Changing Earth
This sounds like religious believers' attempts to save their cherished mythology. As much as one might question scientific skepticism on the basis of more or less subtle philosophical points, there is of course another, more practical side to this position, which also makes for a convergence toward NOMA. As Novella and Bloomberg honestly admit, it is a matter of resources: "This single issue, which is not central to our purpose, could potentially drain our resources, monopolize our public image, and alienate many potential skeptics.
It is also true that the skeptic community cannot and should not require any article of faith such as unbelief in God from any of its members. However, we do require that there are no sacred cows. Anything and everything must be the subject of free inquiry and skeptical investigation.
https://fr.iwamyqes.tk To allow otherwise, for practical or any other kind of reasons, is an intellectual travesty. On the other hand, what can and should be admitted is that God and religion truly do represent only one facet of the universe of interest to skeptics, and that skeptical analyses of the God question may or may not be fruitful. Therefore, let us proceed with caution, but proceed nevertheless.
Within the framework of scientific rationalism one arrives at the belief in the nonexistence of God, not because of certain knowledge, but because of a sliding scale of methods.
At one extreme, we can confidently rebut the personal Gods of creationists on firm empirical grounds: science is sufficient to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that there never was a worldwide flood and that the evolutionary sequence of the Cosmos does not follow either of the two versions of Genesis. Ultimately, the most convincing arguments against a deistic God are Hume's dictum and Occam's razor. These are philosophical arguments, but they also constitute the bedrock of all of science, and cannot therefore be dismissed as non-scientific.
The reason we put our trust in these two principles is because their application in the empirical sciences has led to such spectacular successes throughout the last three centuries. Admittedly, the scientific rationalist is on less firm ground the more she moves vertically up in Figure 1.