Gould Too Cute on Science v. God

From the Boston Review archives: H. Allen Orr writes a succinct reivew of Stephan Jay Gould’s Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. In the book, Gould proposes that science and religion can be happily reconciled so long as they are considered as Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA). In these orthogonal utopias, science deals with factual characterization of nature, while religion deals with morality. Orr laments however, that the “Religion” in the book’s sub-title is a misnomer, because Gould’s thoughts on religion appear to be those of a secular humanist. Thus, what the book really proposes is that secular humanism and science can be happily reconciled; it does not deal with the much stronger and radical flavors of religion that are encountered today.

Taking that point a little further, consider applying the NOMA argument for overtly non-secular religions. In that case, the magisteria are still orthogonal, but the scientific method (hypothesis to experiment to accepted theory) is very different from the religious method (unquestioning faith in the word of the concerned God(s)). Thus, while religion and science might be logically consistent, the person living the dual life might find them difficult, almost impossible, to reconcile.


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