Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
Mano Singham’s The New War Between Science and Religion published in CHE is an odd duck. Here’s a portion of the set-up
The former group, known as accommodationists, seeks to carve out areas of knowledge that are off-limits to science, arguing that certain fundamental features of the world—such as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the origin of the universe—allow for God to act in ways that cannot be detected using the methods of science. Some accommodationists, including Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, suggest that there are deeply mysterious, spiritual domains of human experience, such as morality, mind, and consciousness, for which only religion can provide deep insights.
This either misrepresents the accommodationist view or generalizes to a degree that the point is lost. Can “a group” seek to do something in the sense that Singham suggest. Maybe. But the position seems to me to be somewhat difficult to understand. Accommodationism as an ism is, bluntly speaking, a matter of attitude perhaps.
The question I ask is: so what?
Singham has a point to make:
Why have organizations like the National Academy of Sciences sided with the accommodationists even though there is no imperative to take a position? After all, it would be perfectly acceptable to simply advocate for good science and stay out of this particular fray.
One has to suspect that tactical considerations are at play here. The majority of Americans subscribe to some form of faith tradition. Some scientists may fear that if science is viewed as antithetical to religion, then even moderate believers may turn away from science and join the fundamentalists.
I doubt the last conclusion. Do people think that science is antithetical to religion? And what does that mean? Let’s say that I have a question that calls for experiment: how big is the solar system or is the solar system expanding? When does science become antithetical to religion in a real sense in this case?