The massive irreconcilable conflict

 “There is a massive, irreconcilable conflict between science and religion.”

When I came across the above quotation, my immediate reaction was: this does not make sense.

What is science about? It  is the ongoing attempt to understand the workings of the physical universe through the process of observation, experimentation, measurement, theorizing, mathematical modeling, prediction and testing.

Religion could only be in conflict with science if it was an alternative method of investigating the physical universe which reached different conclusions.  But that is not what religion is at all.

Religion is about awe and wonder, good and evil, faith, hope, joy, love, peace, sacrifice, worship, life and death. To say that religion is irreconcilable with science is like saying that apples are irreconcilable with oranges. They are not, they are just different things.

If science and religion were irreconcilable, no scientist could ever be religious. But that is obviously not so. Many great scientists have been religious. Take for example Kepler, who pursued his attempts to discover the laws governing planetary motion precisely because of his belief that God had created an ordered universe, and that such laws must be there to be found. Science itself can be seen as a religious activity.

The quotation at the head of the post is from J. Anderson Thomson.  His Wikipedia biography says he is a psychiatrist who has also carried out research into evolutionary psychology. He is an atheist and is associated with the Richard Dawkins Foundation. He has co-authored a book Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith

An explanation in terms of evolutionary psychology of how the human race has developed religious concepts could be very interesting, and I look forward to reading the book. But it seems that the authors have fallen into a common fallacy: that if you can explain something, you have explained it away; that it becomes invalid or meaningless. This is not so.

You can explain the formation of a rainbow in terms of the laws of reflection, refraction and dispersion of light, but that does mean that the rainbow is not real, or lessen the sense of wonder and beauty we feel by looking at it. If you can explain how it is that we come to believe in God, it does not show that there is no God, or that all our religious feelings and experiences have no value in our lives. In fact, as I always argue, if the evolution of the universe according to the laws of physics leads to the existence of human beings who believe in God, it makes it more likely that God exists, not less.

On second thoughts, I do not think I will bother to read the book. There is an excellent review on Amazon by someone writing from a similar point of view to my own, but expressed much better and in detail. He also says the science in the book is suspect. In fact, quite a demolition job.

About David Gerald Fincham

Retired academic scientist.
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