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Science and Religion
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Wired's December cover story concerns science and religion, how compatible they are as human endeavors and modes of thought, and whether they're reconcilable.

From the opening:

In 1981, the National Academy of Sciences declared, "Religion and science are separate and mutually exclusive realms of human thought." Case closed.

And now reopened.

Author Gregg Easterbrook seems to think the two can really go together like cookies and milk.

The article goes on to talk about how it really makes a lot of sense to talk about the origin of the universe as a "miracle".

But then Easterbrook moves on to what he calls "the other big question", the origin of life:

Espousing a theory known as intelligent design, molecular biologist Michael Behe and others are attempting to forge a synthesis.

Well, no. Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, isn't interested in "forging a synthesis". He and others who have failed to get creationism into classrooms are interested in dressing up that particular pseudoscientific hodge-podge in new clothes and passing it off as "science". A new synthesis? Give me a break.

Look, the National Academy of Sciences had it right. Science and religion are mutually exclusive realms of thought.

Science seeks truth through:

1) Empiricism
2) Reason

Religion claims truth via:

1) Authority
2) Holy texts
3) Received truth (presumably directly from god)

How could a scientist go into a lab five days a week, having a particular standard for truth, and then throw it out the window Sunday morning when walking into a church?

The earth goes round the sun? What proof do you have? Water is made out of little things called atoms? Two hydrogen and one oxygen? Prove it. There's a standard, an extremely high one, for accepting such assertions as truth.

And yet, does it seem perfectly reasonable for the same scientist to walk into church on a Sunday morning and accept all manner of supernaturalism as truth without applying the same standards? 2,000 years ago some guy walked on water and healed lepers. Okay, sure. Who needs proof? You say he rose from the dead? Sure, I can buy that. No need to apply the same standards here.

This incongruence is not reconcilable. Either one has reasonable standards of believing that something is true (via empiricism and reason), or one is willing to swallow whatever a guy in a robe dishes out, simply on the basis of authority and "holy" texts.

One of these paradigms is useful in discovering true things about the world. One is utterly abysmal. They are not compatible.

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