Thursday, January 03, 2008

Changing Your Mind: Are Science and Religion Compatible?

 
Clay Shirky used to think that science and religion were compatible. That doesn't mean all religious beliefs, of course, because some of them like Young Earth Creationism are not compatible with science. He has changed his mind ... [Religion and Science].
Since we couldn't rely on the literal truth of the Bible, we needed a fallback position to guide our views on religion and science. That position was what I'll call the Doctrine of Joint Belief: "Noted Scientist X has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Therefore, religion and science are compatible." (Substitute deity to taste.) You can still see this argument today, where the beliefs of Francis Collins or Freeman Dyson, both accomplished scientists, are held up as evidence of such compatibility.

Belief in compatibility is different from belief in God. Even after I stopped believing, I thought religious dogma, though incorrect, was not directly incompatible with science (a view sketched out by Stephen Gould as "non-overlapping magisteria".) I've now changed my mind, for the obvious reason: I was wrong. The idea that religious scientists prove that religion and science are compatible is ridiculous, and I'm embarrassed that I ever believed it. Having believed for so long, however, I understand its attraction, and its fatal weaknesses.
Read the rest of the article to find out why the "Doctrine of Joint Belief" is not based on logic.

In the war between "arrogant" atheists and accommodationist atheists (formerly called "appeasers"), Clay Shirky has shifted sides.
Saying that the mental lives of a Francis Collins or a Freeman Dyson prove that religion and science are compatible is like saying that the sex lives of Bill Clinton or Ted Haggard prove that marriage and adultery are compatible. The people we need to watch out for in this part of the debate aren't the fundamentalists, they're the moderates, the ones who think that if religious belief is made metaphorical enough, incompatibility with science can be waved away. It can't be, and we need to say so, especially to the people like me, before I changed my mind.


10 comments :

  1. Clay Shirky makes a great point. Going to read his piece right now. To put a mathematical spin on it, his doctrine is like saying that a collection of axioms must be compatible when you have produced just one model where all the axioms hold.

    People like Collins are really just examples of successful compartmentalization, nothing more.

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  2. I think that is incorrect. Religion is a human invention that is definitely not simply all about contradicting science, even if all religions generally contradict it here and there (the "miracles")
    Yes, it is incorrect to say that because scientists can have religion, science and religion must be compatible. All we can say is that the science they make is definitely not motivated by antirreligiosity (for instance, christian evolutionary biologists like Fisher)
    But to conclude for this argument that science is intrinsically incompatible with religion strikes me like saying that pears are incompatible with mammoths.
    At mots this person's argument has merely removed some kind of reserve or celf-censorship he was inflicting upon his desires of complete atheistic self-indulgence.

    But, he just chaged his mind, so I guess that is similar to declaring it will be frozen in that position for at last a while....

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  3. That position was what I'll call the Doctrine of Joint Belief: "Noted Scientist X has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Therefore, religion and science are compatible."

    If that were the case, if I could demonstrate that a Jew was an officer in the SS (and I can), I would have proved that Judaism and Nazism were compatible.

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  4. That doesn't mean all religious beliefs, of course, because some of them like Young Earth Creationism are not compatible with science.
    Depends on how you define "science". If you define it as testing hypothesis with the evidence, then YEC can be in agreement with Science. In fact, as I said many times before in darwinian circles, the fouding fathers of many branches of modern science were.....YECers, not atheists.

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  5. YEC and science are incompatible. I'm only an undergraduate student but who in his/her right mind can possibly consider the notion of this planet being a few thousand years old?


    Whether the founding fathers were YECs, atheists, Hindus, Christians, or Satan worshippers is completely irrelevant.

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  6. YEC and science are incompatible. I'm only an undergraduate student but who in his/her right mind can possibly consider the notion of this planet being a few thousand years old?

    Plenty of Ph.D. scientists.

    Whether the founding fathers were YECs, atheists, Hindus, Christians, or Satan worshippers is completely irrelevant.


    No, it isn't. It is one evidence that shows that YEC and science are not enemies, as the atheists want us to believe.

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  7. Last comment was made by me.

    Good week.

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  8. Plenty of Ph.D. scientists.

    Name, say, 20, giving the fields in which they earned their Ph.D.s and the institutions at which they earned them.

    Also, Google "Project Steve" to understand just how ignorant you look by making such silly claims.

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  9. belief that science and 'religion' are incompatible is also a "joint belief", there is no logic there either.

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  10. Religion emphasizes faith, which is essentially believing without evidence. Science demands experiments that can be repeated in a laboratory and claims that can be falsified. Science does not demand people believe something without evidence. Religion cannot be falsified, because none of its claims can be repeated in a laboratory. They are not compatible.

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