Joshua Rosenau thinks that science and religion are different ways of knowing. This means that, at some level, they can't conflict. I'm a skeptic and a scientist. I want some evidence before accepting that religion offers a valid way of knowing the truth. Please give me an example of some kind of "knowing" that religion offers. Be prepared to explain why millions of atheists can get along just fine without this way of knowing. It certainly seems as though the religious way of "knowing" is completely dispensable.
While you're at it, please explain why different religions arrive at different conclusions. If religion is a valid way of knowing, then why don't all religions arrive at the same conclusions about, say, the divinity of Jesus, or the morality of abortion, or how the universe originated? If only some religions have a lock on valid ways of knowing about truth, then which ones are correct?
Josh's latest foray into this minefield is over the composition of the Science & Faith panel at the World Science Festival [A fair point]. He says, ...
In the field of science/religion studies, there's a consensus statement that's been widely circulated and agreed to, and it states: "in most instances, biology and religion operate at different and non-competing levels… natural theology may be a legitimate enterprise in its own right, but we resist the insistence of intelligent-design advocates that their enterprise be taken as genuine science - just as we oppose efforts of others to elevate science into a comprehensive world view (so-called scientism)." The New Atheists reject this consensus, as they are entitled to do. But they reject it without going through the academic literature of the relevant field, preferring pop-culture books to academic engagement.There's so much wrong with that statement that it's hard to know where to begin. Let me just mention two problems before moving on to a third one.
- Atheists don't believe in supernatural beings. They have not been convinced by any of the arguments offered up by religious scholars or passionate friends and relatives. This does not mean they "elevate science into a comprehensive world view (so-called scientism)." Speaking as one of those atheists, if anyone wants to argue for another valid way of knowing (other than science) then I'm more than happy to pay attention. Just don't ask me to make the assumption that supernatural beings exist. You have to convince me of that first.
- There are perfectly valid, rational, objections to accommodationism. Josh insults all of us by saying that we don't read the academic literature. That's just not true and I expect an apology.
Who is this group and why should their statement be considered the consensus view in studying the possible conflicts between science and religion? Looking at their website, I find this statement about their purpose.
Our central aim is the facilitation of dialogue between the two academic disciplines of science and religion, one of the most important current areas of debate in terms of understanding the nature of humanity. This includes both the enhancement of the profile of the science-religion interface in the public eye, as well as the safeguarding of the quality and rigour of the debate in the more formal, academic arena.Interesting. I wonder how many members are atheists and how many think that science and religion are in conflict? After all, one of the hallmarks of a true academic discipline is that it welcomes all points of view.
What do they have to say about membership?
While maintaining rigorous qualifications for membership (membership is through nomination by existing members only) the Society has now grown to over 140 members, including many of the leading scholars in the science and religion field. Indeed the last two presidents, George Ellis, a theoretical cosmologist and Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town, and John Polkinghorne, are both recipients of the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities - the world's best-known religion prize, awarded each year to a living person to encourage and honour those who advance spiritual matters.Now I get it. It's a group of accommodationists. No wonder Josh thinks this is the consensus view in the field. No wonder he accuses atheists of being ignorant because they disagree with the "consensus" view of the International Society for Science & Religion.
Membership of the society is truly universal: the society incorporates, and welcomes, representatives from a variety of faith traditions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam in addition to Christianity. Membership is also widely distributed geographically, with representatives from countries as diverse as South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as well as from Europe and America.
Is this what passes for an true academic discipline in the eyes of accommodationists? No wonder we have trouble communicating.