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Author Topic: Religions Truce with Science Cannot Hold
Stephen
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Post Religions Truce with Science Cannot Hold
on: October 17, 2011, 13:22
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Julian Baggini, writing in England's The Guardian, asks why the public debate about whether religion is compatible with science won't go away. (Somebody should ask him why he is talking about it if he wants it to go away, but never mind.) Here is the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/oct/14/religion-truce-science-universe?newsfeed=true.

So what's the problem, according to Mr. Baggini? Well, hmmmm, its not because of some clearly defined issues, its just that, well, it just doesn't somehow seem right. So there! Take it like a man!

To be fair to Mr. Baggini, he doesn't repeat, at least straight-out, the usual inanities, like religion is a pre-scientific view of the universe therefore it is unscientific, or, religion is an antiquated inheritance from our evolutionary origins on the savannahs of Africa a million years ago so therefore it has to be wrong (if so, then science, which had the same origins, is also wrong!).

Mainly, he doesn't like people thinking that science and religion are different things. To me, this says more about science writers and their attempts to fill the shoes of religion than about anything else, but, maybe I'm being critical.

Here is how he paints things:

I'm convinced that one reason is that the standard affirmative answer is sophisticated enough to persuade those willing to be persuaded, but fishy enough for those less sure to keep sniffing away at it. That defence is that religion and science are compatible because they are not talking about the same things. Religion does not make empirical claims about how the universe works, and to treat it as though it did is to make a category mistake of the worst kind. So we should just leave science and religion to get on with their different jobs free from mutual molestation.

Good enough. But where he really gets mildly irritated is when people start asking the "why?" question. Apparently, in his worldview, that is verboten. Or maybe it has to be left to the properly qualified experts, among which, no doubt modestly, he would count himself.

This means that if someone asks why things are as they are, what their meaning and purpose is, and puts God in the answer, they are almost inevitably going to make an at least implicit claim about the how: God has set things up in some way, or intervened in some way, to make sure that purpose is achieved or meaning realised. The neat division between scientific "how" and religious "why" questions therefore turns out to be unsustainable.

So, there you have it folks. Religion's truce with science can't hold because those pesky religious folks keep on asking "why?".

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