A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

No More NOMA

There's a problem with Stephen Jay Gould's ill-considered "non-overlapping magisteria." The problem is that it was never true. Religion has been making claims about reality since its inception. It's been giving ground on those claims for centuries because its claims are unsupportable. As Jerry Coyne is reported to have said, "when something in science is disproven it get tossed on the junkpile of bad ideas. When something in religion gets disproven it becomes a metaphor."

Religious beliefs make claims that compete with science all the time. The most glaring ones involve evolution denial and creationism and are easily disputed by evidence. The more subtle ones merely claim a deist god or a magical energy field that powers our consciousness. All of them make claims about reality and when we turn our skepticism toward them we're inundated with protests that it's not something we can be skeptical about. It's not subject to scrutiny or evidence.

You know what raises a red flag to me? When someone tells me that what they said shouldn't be scrutinized.

If religion doesn't want to compete with science then it shouldn't make claims about reality. Talk about how it's a good thing to be nice to each other. Talk about the importance of meditation and creativity and appreciation of love and beauty. These are nice, safe topics that don't provoke skepticism. Everyone appreciates a good song and a hand extended in generosity. But if you're going to talk about souls and gods and divine plans then be prepared to butt heads with science because your beliefs can only survive in the gaps of our knowledge, and those gaps are closing slowly but surely. Be prepared for the day when there's no space left.

1 comment:

Lucas B. said...

I REALLY LOVE THIS. Seriously, it's written so well. I can't add anything to it or take anything from it. You are a great writer and philosopher, SpaceGhoti (if that is how it is spelled).