Tag Archives: Stephen Jay Gould

Is Keith Ward really that naive about science?

Credit: Jesus and Mo

I am really amazed by some of the rubbish theologians and philosophers of religion think they can get away with when talking about science.

The Guardian article Religion answers the factual questions science neglects is just one recent example. It’s written by Keith Ward, a professorial research fellow in the philosophy of religion at Heythrop College, London. With these qualifications I would have expected something much better.

He loosely bases his arguments on Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of Non-overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) (see my post Overlapping Magisteria? for a brief description of NOMA). Ward claims:

“Many religious statements are naturally construed as statements of fact – Jesus healed the sick, and rose from death, and these are factual claims. So Stephen Gould’s suggestion that religion only deals with value and meaning is incorrect, though it is correct that scientists do not usually deal with such questions.”

Here are some points

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Science and the “supernatural”

I have discussed the issue of “supernaturalism” and science before but return to it having just read  Can Science Test Supernatural Worldviews?  by Dr  Yonatan I. Fishman. It’s an excellent paper which I recommend you read as it may challenge some of your ideas. You can download the full text here.

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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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Weaving a web of lies

Honesty is really the best policy. If you start with a lie, and then won’t admit it, you are forced to continue lying. In the end you create a web of lies, each dependent on the other. It’s like juggling a whole lot of balls. It requires a lot of effort and is ultimately self-defeating as it’s impossible to keep track of the whole web.

The creationist arguments are just like that. And today its easy for even the most amateur creationist to construct these arguments by copying and pasting from creationist web sites. These sites have done all the quote mining work and provide plenty of material. Even those who are scientifically challenged can put together arguments which appear scientific and authoriatative to others who are similarly challenged. These arguments also work well with people who desperately wish to find evidence for their fundamentalist religious belief.

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