Science and religion aren’t friends

Great article in USA Today by Jerry Coyne … picture in your mind an image of distraught believers splattering their breakfast out as they read this …

Atheist books such as The God Delusion and The End of Faith have, by exposing the dangers of faith and the lack of evidence for the God of Abraham, become best-sellers. Science nibbles at religion from the other end, relentlessly consuming divine explanations and replacing them with material ones. Evolution took a huge bite a while back, and recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality or behavior distinct from the lump of jelly in our head. We now know that the universe did not require a creator. Science is even studying the origin of morality. So religious claims retreat into the ever-shrinking gaps not yet filled by science. And, although to be an atheist in America is still to be an outcast, America’s fastest-growing brand of belief is non-belief.

But faith will not go gentle. For each book by a “New Atheist,” there are many others attacking the “movement” and demonizing atheists as arrogant, theologically ignorant, and strident. The biggest area of religious push-back involves science. Rather than being enemies, or even competitors, the argument goes, science and religion are completely compatible friends, each devoted to finding its own species of truth while yearning for a mutually improving dialogue.

As a scientist and a former believer, I see this as bunk. Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible, and for precisely the same reason that irrationality and rationality are incompatible. They are different forms of inquiry, with only one, science, equipped to find real truth. And while they may have a dialogue, it’s not a constructive one. Science helps religion only by disproving its claims, while religion has nothing to add to science.

“But surely,” you might argue, “science and religion must be compatible. After all, some scientists are religious.” One is Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health and an evangelical Christian. But the existence of religious scientists, or religious people who accept science, doesn’t prove that the two areas are compatible. It shows only that people can hold two conflicting notions in their heads at the same time. If that meant compatibility, we could make a good case, based on the commonness of marital infidelity, that monogamy and adultery are perfectly compatible. No, the incompatibility between science and faith is more fundamental: Their ways of understanding the universe are irreconcilable.

You can read the rest by clicking here … I fully recommend it and I also fully associate with it. Having previously been a believer, I no longer am, I can truly understand how it really is possible to embrace mutually exclusive concepts.

There is also a prevailing belief that you need God to be truly good, and that without God you can only be wicked and evil. Not only is that a perverse idea that has no evidence to back it up, but it is in fact a denial of the basic humanity within us. “Who”, you might ask, “will go out and help the helpless and bring relief if you don’t have religion?”. Easy, the same people who do it today. Take for example the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The folks who made a real difference were the secular charities and relief organizations, the believers who turned up did nothing but get in the way and turned out to be a hindrance for those who needed to get on with real relief work. Ah, but thats not fair, you might comment, what about all the good done by Catholic charities? … would that perhaps be the same Catholic charities that have left a trail of abused and devastated lives, as described by the Irish Times, “Abuse was the system”, or perhaps the Sisters of Charity in India who keep the poor in the gutter, embrace poverty as a virtue and refuse to take the steps truly necessary to make a real difference, and also refuse to permit those who work in that order permission to receive medical training. Shall we also mention the millions condemned on the basis of their sexuality simply because some ancient text says so, or million of AIDS victims condemned to death because a belief system dictates against the one way of stopping this killer in it tracks. No, the evidence is clear, despite all the positive propaganda, belief has devastated humanity.

When faced with claims that there exists a supernatural being who has a personal interest in you, and all you need to do is to use telepathy to communicate with it to make you good because a mythological talking snake tricked a mythological ancestor of yours into eating some fruit … then … be skeptical.

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