Monday, January 30, 2012

Science and Religion are Compatible, book says

Where the Conflict Really Lies : Science, Religion, and Naturalism

I heard about this book on NPR. I invite you to listen here.

From what I understand, the book seems to have a very simple point, but one that really needed to be said and it so very basic and yet overlooked. The incompatability of religion and science just simply doesn't exist. They might not agree, but they aren't opposed to each other the way most people seem to think.

The mutual disagreement arises between religion and naturalism (often seen as atheism). Now, many scientific thinkers are indeed beleivers in naturalism, but athiem cannot be "proved" any more than theism can. Specifically, both cannot be observed, and are merely an assumption. Admittedly, certain elements of religion are implausible notions, at best, and are the ones most often thought of, such as fundamentalist creationism. But even there, room for thinking allows plausability.

Your thoughts?

As a book, I have no basis for real recommendation, one way or the other. At first blush, it sounds like the book could have made its case as an article rather than a book, or as an entry in a compilation, perhaps.


  1. atheism can't be proven, because it's impossible to prove a negative. and i don't think there's room for thinking fundamentalist creationism is plausible if you're doing real thinking ;).

    The incompatibility lies in the inability of some to accept scientific fact because it contradicts their religious beliefs. this is not a new problem, and it's not the fault of the facts. the earth is not flat, the sun does not revolve around it, and life did evolve over eons no matter what religious beliefs we hold.

    from the interview, i had trouble swallowing this: "PLANTINGA: Well, of course, science started off in the bosom of Christian belief in the West."

    and i read a review that said he cites Michael Behe? really?

  2. Well, perhaps a more simple question, then:

    Is naturalism the same thing as atheism? Or, rather, is one a prerequisite for the other? I would be inclined not to think so, although clearly there is a vast amount of over-lapping.

    It may be caprice, but I am reminded of 'Half Life' by Hal Clement. Anyone read it?

    I am also reminded of a story told to me by a Vietman veteran, one I find easy to beleive. He was a helicopter pilot and among his fellow recruits the biggest intellectual hurdle to cross was learning to think beyond two-dimensions, to include up and down, during battle simulations.

    The whole "I can't conceive of metaphysical realities; therefore they don't exist" arguement has always puzzled me. I realize observation does not incline a naturalistic thinker towards metaphysics, but it should far from rule it out completely except within experiments.

    To clarify: I do not subscribe to the beleifs of fundamentalist creationism, personally, but I would defend the right to think that way, and moreover would defend the intelligence of such thinkers. Well, potential intelligence, I should say, in any discourse.

    On the converse side: If a person's worldview condems all metaphysical thinking into the realm of imbecility, I would also defend THAT person's intelligence.

  3. More caprice via YouTube: 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the Hands of the Prophets' please refer to time index 8:00

  4. as i understand it, naturalism (in science, anyway) doesn't consider anything supernatural and considers natural explanations to be enough. i don't think it precludes personal belief in a god, but it precludes supernatural explanations for natural events. whether or not a god caused something is outside the scope of science as i understand it. god may exist, but metaphysical explanations aren't acceptable in science experiments. i think science holds to reason and observation and rejects supernatural revelation.

    i loved half-life, but i don't remember the plot right now. i've got several of clement's books and enjoyed them all. my youngest son liked them, too.

    i reject fundamentalist creationism and think those who hold to it are, um ... misinformed ;). atheists who reject all belief in the supernatural are relying on their own reason and powers of observation, and, absent some special revelation or conversion experience, they'll maintain that belief. either way, they're entitled, and i can enjoy the fireworks when they interact online. i will say the fundie creationists are the only ones who've said i'm going to hell, so my sympathies in the arguments aren't with them.

    thanks for the ds9 clip. "perhaps we should discuss this after class" lol ya think? or maybe in a comparative religion class. or class on bajoran culture/history. sisco does have a point: it's important to be able to see the others' pov. but vedek winn was one of the characters i loved to hate, and she is a great example of folks who insist that their belief is objective truth. sisco is right that the aliens could be viewed as prophets. winn is wrong that they _must_ be viewed as prophets and that her religious beliefs must be included in the science curriculum.

  5. @ Divers: I'm not sure what to call you. Do you have a name? ;-)

    I loved your simply put line "metaphysical explanations aren't acceptable in science"

    In my above post, I had meant to include a question of whether science and naturalism are the same thing, or one is a prerequisite for the other. You seem to have answered it splendidly, even without prompting.

    And yes, I noticed that "naturalism" is a sadly vague term. In fact, pretty much any discussion has that difficulty.

    Glad you liked the DS9 clip! I am starting to realize all the shortcomings of Star Trek in its various incarnations, but there are moments of excellence that forgive the rest.

  6. i do actually have a name ;). i just don't use it when i'm blogging or commenting on blogs. i answer to almost anything, though.

    i liked ds9 fine except for the problem of it being a trek that didn't _go_ anywhere. they do all have drawbacks. i liked enterprise least of all. i only watched one season of it. even the cliff-hanger ending didn't bring me back. i liked tos best, but i think that says more about my age than anything else. i watched it in its first run. i'm definately on the kirk side of the kirk/picard argument.


    I heard about this book on National Public Radio about a year ago now and kept the link.

    I invite you to follow this link to an NPR podcast:

    Where the Conflict Really Lies : Science, Religion, and Naturalism

    a 2003 comment from Eric Lander on spirituality and science:

  8. bm359 says: (via Church of Brad)
    "Larmer borrowed heavily from C.S. Lewis, who wrote in his book on miracles that science does make any statements one way or the other on miracles and he gave an illustration. Suppose I collect five coins a day and put them in a box. After five days, I open the box and find only 15 coins. I don't [assume] the laws of arithmetic have been violated, I [rather] suppose the laws of England have been violated, he wrote. The proposition, 'If I collect five coins a day, then after five days I will have 25 coins' comes with a qualifier, 'provided there is no interference'. With miracles it's the same story, bread can't be created out of air, provided there's no interference to the system.

    Science doesn't make a statement one way or the other on whether or not there will be interference; at least, science doesn't make any statements about miracles without additional philosophical baggage, and the additional baggage is considerable. The debate on whether or not miracles have occurred is a historical, philosophical, and theological debate, not a scientific debate."