Tag Archives: NOMA

Overlapping Magisteria?

The relationship between science and religion, and the demarcation of their fields, or magisteria, seems to be topical at the moment. On the one had the boundary appears to be violated by religious promotion of creationism and attacks on evolutionary science. On the other, scientists are starting to make assertive comments about the nature of morality and the lack of any requirement for gods in understanding the origins of the universe and life.

This has been accompanied by debates among scientists about how to relate to religion. Whether religion should be immune from criticism or not? Should we challenge religion’s fanciful claims about reality?

So its not surprising that the concept of “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” is being discussed again.

This concept has both its supporters and critics. Different people ascribe different meanings to the concept. And there are of course political and ideological reasons for this.

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Morals, values and the limits of science

We often hear the argument that science has limits – that there are questions science cannot answer, problems science cannot solve. Most scientists agree. They acknowledge that science cannot, for example, solve ethical questions. The definition of right and wrong is not a scientific task (although science may help us understand how we make that decision).

However, this argument is often accompanied by the claim that such questions are really the province of religion. I believe this claim is unjustified because there is no evidence that religion is capable of solving such problems. The claim is also basically anti-human because it denies any rights to participation of the non-religious in solving ethical and moral problems.

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