The [in]compatibility of science and religion

By Ken Perrott 19/01/2012 3

There have been several books lately promoting the idea the religion and science are compatible – or at least challenging any suggestion that they might be incompatible. Of course, these were written by advocates of religion, or at least advocates of “belief in belief.”

While many of these books were critiqued in reviews there has been very little challenge presented in book length. So I was very pleased to see news that Victor Stenger has a new book, released in Apri,l called God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion.

John W. Loftus at debunking Christianity has read a pre-release copy and is very impressed (see  Stenger’s New Book: God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion). He calls it a tour de force.

Loftus says (in part):

“The reader is treated to the history of the conflict between science and religion where Stenger argues there is a fundamental conflict between the two. “Science” he writes, “has earned our trust by its proven success. Religion has destroyed our trust by its repeated failures. Using the empirical method, science has eliminated smallpox, flown men to the moon, and discovered DNA. If science did not work, we wouldn’t do it. Relying on faith, religion has brought us inquisitions, holy wars, and intolerance. Religion does not work, but we still do it.” (p. 15)”

I have often said that religion and science are not incompatible at the individual level. After all many scientists are also religious. But their basic approach to knowledge, their epistemologies, are incompatible. So I agree with this comment by Loftus:

“Believers generally do not trust science. Stenger’s book is the antidote. Believers will see just how science works and why it is to be trusted over anything religion has ever produced. “Science and religion are fundamentally incompatible,” Stenger argues, “because of their unequivocally opposed epistemologies–the separate assumptions they make concerning what we can know about the world.” (p. 16)”

Loftus thinks this is Stenger’s best book yet – because it is ” written for the average intelligent reader. There isn’t a lot of technical jargon in it.” He believes it will “appeal to a broad range of readers . . . because he’s hit the nail on the head, writing about the essential problem between scientifically minded people and believers.”

Another book to look forward to.

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3 Responses to “The [in]compatibility of science and religion”

  • “But their basic approach to knowledge, their epistemologies, are incompatible”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, I don’t understand while whole books need to be written on the subject (either pointing out or denying that they are compatible).

    “Stenger’s book is the antidote. Believers will see just how science works and why it is to be trusted over anything religion has ever produced”
    This seems a rather optimistic and naive opinion. Many other books have not changed believers minds, why should this one?
    I think the only value of this type of book is for those who are already questioning religion.

    • I agree that the book is not going to get through to the committed believer.

      However, I think we need books like this. There is currently an offensive mounted on science which does not get adequately challenged. Scientific epistemology is attacked by theological philosophers. And the history of science is being rewritten by religious apologists. This is often happening at the academic level and does have it’s effect.

      i don’t think there is sufficient challenge at the academic level. Hopefully this book will provide some.

      Of course, I have yet to see the book so don’t know how successful it will be. I have been offered a review copy so look forward to receiving that.

  • Agree with committed believer thing. I have a good friend in the US who is very religious and loves debating and discussing with people from other religions or atheists. In that way she is very open-minded compared to some. But it is from a point of view of trying to understand other viewpoints, because she is VERY steadfast in her belief. In a letter I had recently she said that science only makes her believe in god more, since it is so fantastic and magical >:/ That’s when I lost patience with the ‘debate’! I am less tolerant of her views than she is of mine 😉

    That said, she is a great person. I just wish she knew it was because of her genes and environment, not because of the man in the sky :/

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