What’s Religion In Conflict With?

Here’s a short video by Anglican Minister Chris Mulherin wherein he takes an accomodationist position that there is no conflict between religion and science.  Instead, they fulfill a more “non-overlapping magisteria” role, where science answers questions about “how” and religion answers questions about “why”.

If you’re not well-versed in these kinds of arguments, then it all sounds very reasonable, especially if you’re a moderate Christian who really wants to believe that your religious beliefs are compatible with science.  There are lots of people like that out there, comforted by theistic beliefs yet increasingly nervous that science has left their religion with few places it can go.  The idea that these are separate methods of examining the same thing is very appealing to many theists, it allows them to keep most of their intellectual integrity while maintaining their religious faith.

It might surprise you to learn that I largely agree with Mulherin on this, science and religion are not directly in conflict.  However, it’s not for the reasons he wants to pretend, the fact is it isn’t religion and science that are at odds, but religion and reality.

See, both science and religion are methods of looking at the world.  In that, they are compatible in their intent.  However, they absolutely are not equal in their outcome.  Science is the only demonstrably valid means we currently have for making factually true discoveries about the real world.  It is testable.  It proposes hypotheses which can be verified.  It produces evidence.  It is repeatable.  Compare that to religion, which has none of those things and you can see that, given a choice between the two, only one option has any reason to rationally accept it.  Science and religion are both tools, like a hammer and a screwdriver, but when you’ve got a nail, the science hammer demonstrably works, whereas the religion screwdriver can only sit there and believe it works.

Therefore, Mulherin is asking the wrong question here.  It’s not “are science and religion compatible”, it’s “can science and religion both provide credible answers” and the answer to that is absolutely not.  Science certainly can.  Religion cannot.  Ultimately, if we’re to be honest, religion has no better track record than clams of psychics.  Both claim to be able to discern facts about reality but neither can produce any evidence whatsoever that they can make predictions that can consistently be demonstrated to be true.  The James Randi prize has never been in any significant danger from the hucksters who make big claims about reading minds or the like because no one has ever managed to back up their claims in a controlled setting.  Neither has religion.  Not a single supernatural claim ever made by any religion has ever been demonstrated to be actually so.

So even if you will accept that science and religion are more-or-less compatible, you’re still left with the undeniable fact that one is factually, demonstrably true and the other is a miserable failure on all counts.

 

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