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Science&Religion: Non-Overlapping Magisteria?

RuvDraba
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8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
In 1997, agnostic paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote:
In early 1984, I spent several nights at the Vatican housed in a hotel built for itinerant priests.

At lunch, the priests called me over to their table to pose a problem that had been troubling them. What, they wanted to know, was going on in America with all this talk about "scientific creationism"? One asked me: "Is evolution really in some kind of trouble. and if so, what could such trouble be? I have always been taught that no doctrinal conflict exists between evolution and Catholic faith, and the evidence for evolution seems both entirely satisfactory and utterly overwhelming. Have I missed something?"

A lively pastiche of French, Italian, and English conversation then ensued for half an hour or so, but the priests all seemed reassured by my general answer: Evolution has encountered no intellectual trouble; no new arguments have been offered. Creationism is a homegrown phenomenon of American sociocultural history -- a splinter movement (unfortunately rather more of a beam these days) of Protestant fundamentalists who believe that every word of the Bible must be literally true, whatever such a claim might mean. We all left satisfied, but I certainly felt bemused by the anomaly of my role as a Jewish agnostic, trying to reassure a group of Catholic priests that evolution remained both true and entirely consistent with religious belief.

Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Natural History 106 (March 1997): 16-22

This thought seems quite at odds with the conversations frequently seen in the Religion and Science forums here on DDO, and in society at large. If science is raised in a Religious conversation, it's often for theologians to attack its supposed narrow-mindedness and theological insensitivity. If religion is raised in a Science conversation, it's often to point out its historical political and intellectual opposition to scientific progress.

Yet Gould wasn't simply being diplomatic; he was striving to make a case. In the same article, he wrote:

I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria -- the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions.

This then, was Gould's vision: that science naturally 'owns' the domain of the intellect, while religion naturally 'owns' the domain of moral sensibility, and that these domains do not, cannot, and should never overlap.

Do you believe this?

I personally don't. I think that theology never has, never can, and never shall distance itself from matters mundane and intellectual, while science has always been bound to, directed by, and informing of moral human concerns.

As an atheist and a former scientist, for me to accept Non-Overlapping Magisteria or NoMa, would be to accept the impractical and unacceptable. Namely to:

1) Deny that as an atheist I have any interest in matters moral (in fact I'm strongly interested in morality);
2) Insist that only theology has any place in the moral conversation (I'm strongly opposed to the moral conversation being confined to dialogue between theologies, and often wonder what gives theology any right to claim moral authority in the first place);
3) Uphold that science must defer to society for its morality (I think science needs to do more: it needs to inform, track, anticipate and help evaluate moral sensibility); and
4) Deny theology -- and by implication lay society -- the intellectual critique of science. I'd strongly advocate the reverse: that society builds better skills to participate more in the development and informed critique of science; and
5) Either believe in no conversation between science and religion (hah!) or imagine some language that spans these domains in respectful discourse (what language simultaneously upholds irreverent pragmatism and the tender cherishing of sacred traditions?)

So it seems to me that, approaching 20 years after Gould's paper:
* NoMA hasn't worked;
* Nobody really wants it to work, since neither side was ever going to respect moral/intellectual boundaries that arguably never existed anyway;
* It's not in our moral, social or intellectual interests to try and make it work; and
* It's also likely not within our skill or wisdom to make it work, even could we imagine wanting it, and it ever actually working.

So... Do you think NoMA can or should work? If so, how, and why? Or if you think NoMA shouldn't work, what do you believe that means for the sometimes strained relationship between religion and science? Can we improve on it? If so, how? Should we not try and improve on it? If so, why not?

I look forward to reading your comments, and am also happy to answer your questions. As is my custom in threads I initiate, I view my role as facilitatory unless invited otherwise. While I may ask questions about your views, or quote other peoples' views for contrast, I won't defend a view myself, unless another member specifically asks me to do so.

I hope that may be of interest.
RuvDraba
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8/13/2015 9:12:13 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
A link to Gould's original NoMA article in full at: [http://www.colorado.edu...]

He also wrote a book based on this article called Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life [http://www.amazon.com...] I haven't read it, but would invite critiques from anyone who has.
dhardage
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8/13/2015 1:31:41 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
In 1997, agnostic paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote:
In early 1984, I spent several nights at the Vatican housed in a hotel built for itinerant priests.

At lunch, the priests called me over to their table to pose a problem that had been troubling them. What, they wanted to know, was going on in America with all this talk about "scientific creationism"? One asked me: "Is evolution really in some kind of trouble. and if so, what could such trouble be? I have always been taught that no doctrinal conflict exists between evolution and Catholic faith, and the evidence for evolution seems both entirely satisfactory and utterly overwhelming. Have I missed something?"

A lively pastiche of French, Italian, and English conversation then ensued for half an hour or so, but the priests all seemed reassured by my general answer: Evolution has encountered no intellectual trouble; no new arguments have been offered. Creationism is a homegrown phenomenon of American sociocultural history -- a splinter movement (unfortunately rather more of a beam these days) of Protestant fundamentalists who believe that every word of the Bible must be literally true, whatever such a claim might mean. We all left satisfied, but I certainly felt bemused by the anomaly of my role as a Jewish agnostic, trying to reassure a group of Catholic priests that evolution remained both true and entirely consistent with religious belief.

Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Natural History 106 (March 1997): 16-22

This thought seems quite at odds with the conversations frequently seen in the Religion and Science forums here on DDO, and in society at large. If science is raised in a Religious conversation, it's often for theologians to attack its supposed narrow-mindedness and theological insensitivity. If religion is raised in a Science conversation, it's often to point out its historical political and intellectual opposition to scientific progress.

Yet Gould wasn't simply being diplomatic; he was striving to make a case. In the same article, he wrote:

I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria -- the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions.

This then, was Gould's vision: that science naturally 'owns' the domain of the intellect, while religion naturally 'owns' the domain of moral sensibility, and that these domains do not, cannot, and should never overlap.

Do you believe this?

I personally don't. I think that theology never has, never can, and never shall distance itself from matters mundane and intellectual, while science has always been bound to, directed by, and informing of moral human concerns.

As an atheist and a former scientist, for me to accept Non-Overlapping Magisteria or NoMa, would be to accept the impractical and unacceptable. Namely to:

1) Deny that as an atheist I have any interest in matters moral (in fact I'm strongly interested in morality);
2) Insist that only theology has any place in the moral conversation (I'm strongly opposed to the moral conversation being confined to dialogue between theologies, and often wonder what gives theology any right to claim moral authority in the first place);
3) Uphold that science must defer to society for its morality (I think science needs to do more: it needs to inform, track, anticipate and help evaluate moral sensibility); and
4) Deny theology -- and by implication lay society -- the intellectual critique of science. I'd strongly advocate the reverse: that society builds better skills to participate more in the development and informed critique of science; and
5) Either believe in no conversation between science and religion (hah!) or imagine some language that spans these domains in respectful discourse (what language simultaneously upholds irreverent pragmatism and the tender cherishing of sacred traditions?)

So it seems to me that, approaching 20 years after Gould's paper:
* NoMA hasn't worked;
* Nobody really wants it to work, since neither side was ever going to respect moral/intellectual boundaries that arguably never existed anyway;
* It's not in our moral, social or intellectual interests to try and make it work; and
* It's also likely not within our skill or wisdom to make it work, even could we imagine wanting it, and it ever actually working.

So... Do you think NoMA can or should work? If so, how, and why? Or if you think NoMA shouldn't work, what do you believe that means for the sometimes strained relationship between religion and science? Can we improve on it? If so, how? Should we not try and improve on it? If so, why not?

I look forward to reading your comments, and am also happy to answer your questions. As is my custom in threads I initiate, I view my role as facilitatory unless invited otherwise. While I may ask questions about your views, or quote other peoples' views for contrast, I won't defend a view myself, unless another member specifically asks me to do so.

I hope that may be of interest.

Based upon my understanding of Non-Overlapping Magisteria as you have explained it, I find it both impossible and reprehensible. It essentially strips me, as an agnostic or atheist, of any 'right' to question or comment on morality at all. It marginalizes my feelings and my opinions, ceding that right only to the theists of the world and that is an abhorrent thought. I would not in any way support NoMa and would vociferously protest it should it ever be recommended to me.
RoderickSpode
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8/13/2015 4:50:58 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:

So it seems to me that, approaching 20 years after Gould's paper:
* NoMA hasn't worked;
* Nobody really wants it to work, since neither side was ever going to respect moral/intellectual boundaries that arguably never existed anyway;
* It's not in our moral, social or intellectual interests to try and make it work; and
* It's also likely not within our skill or wisdom to make it work, even could we imagine wanting it, and it ever actually working.

So... Do you think NoMA can or should work? If so, how, and why? Or if you think NoMA shouldn't work, what do you believe that means for the sometimes strained relationship between religion and science? Can we improve on it? If so, how? Should we not try and improve on it? If so, why not?

I look forward to reading your comments, and am also happy to answer your questions. As is my custom in threads I initiate, I view my role as facilitatory unless invited otherwise. While I may ask questions about your views, or quote other peoples' views for contrast, I won't defend a view myself, unless another member specifically asks me to do so.

I hope that may be of interest.
Interesting thread. I think what I'll do is use any response I might have given in the last thread I created, in this thread, as I think they are similar enough (and apparently a source of motivation for this thread).

I actually do not accept the idea of NoMa (and not just because it sounds like a district in San Francisco). I don't even think the Bible suggests such a thing. The bible refers at times to moral people without suggesting belief or even theology being a cause.

Being moral doesn't override accountability of violating law. If you, a moral person, commits a crime no matter how large or small, that crime has to be dealt with. Unless it's a situation of corruption, even if you are pardoned, it's still a verdict based on the crime that was committed.

Most of us do not have a problem with this societal concept, but we (generally speaking) have a problem with the idea of being accountable to a creator. So even if one is moral, it still doesn't solve the problem of accountability for any given committed violation in the divine or cosmological realm.

If you can entertain the idea for a moment, that the God of the Bible exists, then for that moment dismiss any idea of Christianity being comfortable (believing in God in general is often suggested to be a form of a comfort zone). The comfort zone in life is not a part of the Christian walk. The problem with a relationship with Jesus Christ for the comfort zone seeker (like myself) is the problem of being pushed out of the comfort zone. In a quintessential perfect moral/humanistic society (which doesn't exist) self/family-preservation would still exist. However, in the real world, it's what kills society. It's that zone everyone puts around them which acts as a barrier to protect the individual and their family. Within that zone there may be acts of humanitarianism. Some have a larger zone/barrier than others. There's no human law that demands any particular size for that barrier. However, in the Christian life (the God of the Bible existing), no matter how big the barrier is, God pushes the individual outside of that barrier. Going outside of that barrier might be the difference between a high school kid leading a life of crime, or changing direction and live a law abiding life (see the book "The Cross And The Switchblade").

There's no obligation from society for any individual to reach out to someone obviously disturbed. That disturbed person is obligated to conform to society's moral standards. However, Christ might obligate someone(s) to do just that. Reach out to a disturbed individual where there is no other source claiming such an obligation.

Now as far as science is concerned, the question now becomes, does a believer in God have a right to not accept evolution? From what I've gathered so far from your statements, we do in principle (we all have a right to believe what we want) just so long as it doesn't extend into the educational/professional arena.

In reality, the existence of God, particularly the God of the Bible could (notice the emphasis on "could") render evolution obsolete. In other words, if we all found out that God exists, we would need to expand our minds considering the possibility that evolution is false. But from your standpoint, it is absolutely impossible for anyone to know whether or not God exists. And if one makes that claim, they need to adjust their thinking somehow to conform to what you perceive as the ideal humanist/moral society.
RuvDraba
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8/13/2015 5:38:25 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 1:31:41 PM, dhardage wrote:
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
This then, was Gould's vision: that science naturally 'owns' the domain of the intellect, while religion naturally 'owns' the domain of moral sensibility, and that these domains do not, cannot, and should never overlap.

Do you believe this?

Based upon my understanding of Non-Overlapping Magisteria as you have explained it, I find it both impossible and reprehensible. It essentially strips me, as an agnostic or atheist, of any 'right' to question or comment on morality at all. It marginalizes my feelings and my opinions, ceding that right only to the theists of the world and that is an abhorrent thought. I would not in any way support NoMa and would vociferously protest it should it ever be recommended to me.

That's what I find so curious, D. It's as though Gould has just thrown his hands up about morality, denied that evidence, reason, transparency or accountability have any place in moral thought, and just figured we may as well accept morality as whatever custom or rite we're born into.

Gould is no longer with us, so he can't address that concern, and I've yet to see a place where he really considered it in life. As an agnostic himself, surely he didn't imagine every nontheist was so morally passive?
DanneJeRusse
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8/13/2015 5:39:28 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 4:50:58 PM, RoderickSpode wrote:
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:

So it seems to me that, approaching 20 years after Gould's paper:
* NoMA hasn't worked;
* Nobody really wants it to work, since neither side was ever going to respect moral/intellectual boundaries that arguably never existed anyway;
* It's not in our moral, social or intellectual interests to try and make it work; and
* It's also likely not within our skill or wisdom to make it work, even could we imagine wanting it, and it ever actually working.

So... Do you think NoMA can or should work? If so, how, and why? Or if you think NoMA shouldn't work, what do you believe that means for the sometimes strained relationship between religion and science? Can we improve on it? If so, how? Should we not try and improve on it? If so, why not?

I look forward to reading your comments, and am also happy to answer your questions. As is my custom in threads I initiate, I view my role as facilitatory unless invited otherwise. While I may ask questions about your views, or quote other peoples' views for contrast, I won't defend a view myself, unless another member specifically asks me to do so.

I hope that may be of interest.
Interesting thread. I think what I'll do is use any response I might have given in the last thread I created, in this thread, as I think they are similar enough (and apparently a source of motivation for this thread).

I actually do not accept the idea of NoMa (and not just because it sounds like a district in San Francisco). I don't even think the Bible suggests such a thing. The bible refers at times to moral people without suggesting belief or even theology being a cause.

Being moral doesn't override accountability of violating law. If you, a moral person, commits a crime no matter how large or small, that crime has to be dealt with. Unless it's a situation of corruption, even if you are pardoned, it's still a verdict based on the crime that was committed.

Most of us do not have a problem with this societal concept, but we (generally speaking) have a problem with the idea of being accountable to a creator. So even if one is moral, it still doesn't solve the problem of accountability for any given committed violation in the divine or cosmological realm.

If you can entertain the idea for a moment, that the God of the Bible exists, then for that moment dismiss any idea of Christianity being comfortable (believing in God in general is often suggested to be a form of a comfort zone). The comfort zone in life is not a part of the Christian walk. The problem with a relationship with Jesus Christ for the comfort zone seeker (like myself) is the problem of being pushed out of the comfort zone. In a quintessential perfect moral/humanistic society (which doesn't exist) self/family-preservation would still exist. However, in the real world, it's what kills society. It's that zone everyone puts around them which acts as a barrier to protect the individual and their family. Within that zone there may be acts of humanitarianism. Some have a larger zone/barrier than others. There's no human law that demands any particular size for that barrier. However, in the Christian life (the God of the Bible existing), no matter how big the barrier is, God pushes the individual outside of that barrier. Going outside of that barrier might be the difference between a high school kid leading a life of crime, or changing direction and live a law abiding life (see the book "The Cross And The Switchblade").

There's no obligation from society for any individual to reach out to someone obviously disturbed. That disturbed person is obligated to conform to society's moral standards. However, Christ might obligate someone(s) to do just that. Reach out to a disturbed individual where there is no other source claiming such an obligation.

Now as far as science is concerned, the question now becomes, does a believer in God have a right to not accept evolution? From what I've gathered so far from your statements, we do in principle (we all have a right to believe what we want) just so long as it doesn't extend into the educational/professional arena.

In reality, the existence of God, particularly the God of the Bible could (notice the emphasis on "could") render evolution obsolete. In other words, if we all found out that God exists, we would need to expand our minds considering the possibility that evolution is false.

Sorry, but evolution stands entirely on it's own as fact. Even if God revealed Himself to all mankind, this would not render evolution invalid, refuted or false. Not a chance.
Marrying a 6 year old and waiting until she reaches puberty and maturity before having consensual sex is better than walking up to
a stranger in a bar and proceeding to have relations with no valid proof of the intent of the person. Muhammad wins. ~ Fatihah
If they don't want to be killed then they have to subdue to the Islamic laws. - Uncung
Without God, you are lower than sh!t. ~ SpiritandTruth
dhardage
Posts: 4,545
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8/13/2015 6:00:24 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 5:38:25 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 8/13/2015 1:31:41 PM, dhardage wrote:
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
This then, was Gould's vision: that science naturally 'owns' the domain of the intellect, while religion naturally 'owns' the domain of moral sensibility, and that these domains do not, cannot, and should never overlap.

Do you believe this?

Based upon my understanding of Non-Overlapping Magisteria as you have explained it, I find it both impossible and reprehensible. It essentially strips me, as an agnostic or atheist, of any 'right' to question or comment on morality at all. It marginalizes my feelings and my opinions, ceding that right only to the theists of the world and that is an abhorrent thought. I would not in any way support NoMa and would vociferously protest it should it ever be recommended to me.

That's what I find so curious, D. It's as though Gould has just thrown his hands up about morality, denied that evidence, reason, transparency or accountability have any place in moral thought, and just figured we may as well accept morality as whatever custom or rite we're born into.

Gould is no longer with us, so he can't address that concern, and I've yet to see a place where he really considered it in life. As an agnostic himself, surely he didn't imagine every nontheist was so morally passive?

I doubt that he considered in that light. I would assume he felt that as long as religion was not hand in hand with political power, things would be all right. I don't see that as a truism, only that it makes it more difficult for religion to promote its agenda though other means. Persecution does not only come from the government but can be just as easily ignored if one chooses to let religion run more or less unfettered by law. I don't believe he seriously extrapolated the possibilities if such an approach was actually taken in a highly religious nation where political power, although ostensibly prohibited to religion, was still important to politicians to insure they remain in positions of authority.
RuvDraba
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8/13/2015 6:45:53 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 4:50:58 PM, RoderickSpode wrote:
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
Do you think NoMA can or should work? If so, how, and why? Or if you think NoMA shouldn't work, what do you believe that means for the sometimes strained relationship between religion and science? Can we improve on it? If so, how? Should we not try and improve on it? If so, why not?
Interesting thread. I think what I'll do is use any response I might have given in the last thread I created, in this thread, as I think they are similar enough (and apparently a source of motivation for this thread).
Hi and welcome, Roderick, and thank you for responding. Because I initiated this thread, there'll be things I won't say here that I might have elsewhere. So if there's something broader you want to talk about (e.g. specifics of evolution), I'll be happy to jump out and pursue it there if you're interested.

I actually do not accept the idea of NoMa (and not just because it sounds like a district in San Francisco).
Mm. I hadn't considered that as an additional weakness!

Being moral doesn't override accountability of violating law.
Yes. It may not matter for this thread, but I think we can agree that law is about more than morality. For example, it's also about social order and respect for civic institutions.

Most of us do not have a problem with this societal concept, but we (generally speaking) have a problem with the idea of being accountable to a creator.
Even before that, Roderick, I think people (of faith and not) often have some problem of being accountable to one another. Would you agree?

Something science and morality have in common is that neither is a solitary enterprise. Critical to science is the role of peer review: one can claim whatever insight or inspiration one wants, and back it up by the best experiments ever, but science doesn't uphold any of that as legitimate until one compiles the data, methodology and reasoning, and presents it to others for diligent scrutiny.

Similarly, can there really be a purely personal, individual morality? Every theology I've ever read says there can't -- morality, theology asserts, must be shared. As an atheist, I think it's shared too (though some atheists might differ), but all I'd say is that it's also emergent: no one person or dogma has absolute or inerrant moral authority; our moral sensibilities must be developed together in our communities and as a species.

And perhaps what makes that most challenging is deciding just how much accountability we have to one another. I note that theologies generally do not like to make themselves accountable to anyone outside their faith -- and often they reverse the accountability inside the faith: so that adherents are accountable to theology, but theology is much less accountable to adherents.

But people of faith also often say (quite rightly, I think) that members of secular society seek to minimise accountability to one another; that they uphold law, but seek to evade moral cohesion. I think that's particularly true in large, culturally diverse societies.

So even if one is moral, it still doesn't solve the problem of accountability for any given committed violation in the divine or cosmological realm.
Yes, this is an example of holding people accountable to theology while not really pronouncing on the accountable of theology to people.

The comfort zone in life is not a part of the Christian walk. The problem with a relationship with Jesus Christ for the comfort zone seeker (like myself) is the problem of being pushed out of the comfort zone. In a quintessential perfect moral/humanistic society (which doesn't exist) self/family-preservation would still exist. However, in the real world, it's what kills society.
I think I may have restated this problem myself above, Roderick, in talking about upholding law, but denying mutual accountability beyond the law. In your account Roderick, you say that faith (or your faith) forces one to uphold more than law -- to uphold an accountability to the whole. But I would say that some nontheistic philosophies do too. In fact, I think I may be asking whether morality may not be those things we consider important to sacrifice for regardless of whether law compels that sacrifice.

However, in the Christian life (the God of the Bible existing), no matter how big the barrier is, God pushes the individual outside of that barrier.
I would suggest that this is not limited to Christianity, though, Roderick. Any approach to life based on compassion, love and concern for one's fellow man should do the same. I also agree that the decision to become involved or not, can have a profound affect on the lives of others, and that just how much of this we do and when, really defines the kind of culture we have, and the kind of people it produces.

There's no obligation from society for any individual to reach out to someone obviously disturbed. That disturbed person is obligated to conform to society's moral standards.
I agree that it's very hard for society to compel that obligation (actually, it has been compelled in some societies, though isn't in ours.) But of course a society can induce it by teaching and exemplary behaviour.

Now as far as science is concerned, the question now becomes, does a believer in God have a right to not accept evolution? From what I've gathered so far from your statements, we do in principle (we all have a right to believe what we want) just so long as it doesn't extend into the educational/professional arena.
Evolution isn't the first scientific position that has upset theology. I think the first was a point made by Galileo: that being a priest didn't give you the right to pronounce on how the stars moved, but owning a telescope did. :) The clergy of the time were quite offended by that statement because the stars were celestial and therefore almost by definition, divine. :) While Galileo lost that fight humiliatingly (he was put under house arrest and forced to recant), he also fired the first, rather loud shot that made European theology realise that empiricism was actually in a contest for intellectual authority. He's often called the Father of Science for this reason.

But if Galileo's was the first shot between science and theology, then perhaps Gould's was the last serious attempt to draw up a peace. Gould's peace plan is a sort of two-state solution that gives science intellectual authority and religion moral authority. And like you Roderick, I don't see it as workable or even desirable on either side.

Specifically, as an atheist of an empirical and largely humanistic mind-set, I don't actually uphold people's right to believe what they want. I strongly affirm and defend everyone's intellectual right to investigate and challenge ideas, but also affirm their moral accountability for whatever they say and do. So I affirm the right to question evolution, cosmology, theology or whatever you want, but uphold accountability for whatever we teach or advocate regardless -- be it science, pseudoscience, or theology. While I understand that some people hold certain beliefs sacred, I don't hold any to be sacrosanct. If you talk about it or act on it, it can be challenge and critiqued -- and the challenge can also be critiqued, and hopefully better wisdom ensues.

In reality, the existence of God, particularly the God of the Bible could (notice the emphasis on "could") render evolution obsolete.
Or perhaps to put more broadly, if our universe ever suddenly and fundamentally changed, science would have to change, and our morality and theology might too.

I agree. But science is used to unexpected change; theology, less so. I often think theology is only really ready for change that validates itself.
RuvDraba
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8/13/2015 7:01:21 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 5:39:28 PM, DanneJeRusse wrote:
At 8/13/2015 4:50:58 PM, RoderickSpode wrote:
In reality, the existence of God, particularly the God of the Bible could (notice the emphasis on "could") render evolution obsolete. In other words, if we all found out that God exists, we would need to expand our minds considering the possibility that evolution is false.

Sorry, but evolution stands entirely on its own as fact. Even if God revealed Himself to all mankind, this would not render evolution invalid, refuted or false. Not a chance.

Except perhaps in a pathological way, Danne. For example, if we were ever able to learn that (say) our universe were a parametric simulation -- then all our memories and records might be synthetic. If we could ever establish that, then all our science would be back up for review again -- and so might empiricism itself.

But that position doesn't help orthodox theologies much either. So I agree that if there were a metaphysical agency to manifest and claim responsibility for the universe in a non-pathological way, it would have to also claim responsibility for evolution, the expansion of the universe, thermodynamics, and wave/particle duality. I agree that no theology is ready to talk lucidly and specifically about those things, so I think it very unlikely that a metaphysical creator would be any predicted by a traditional theology.

And for me, this brief line of joint thought illustrates how fragile NoMa is -- how readily it breaks no matter how gently we handle it. Theology is too tied to the operation of the universe; morality too contingent on observation; science too invested in human welfare and the study of man to ever extricate these things one from another.
RuvDraba
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8/13/2015 7:14:05 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 6:00:24 PM, dhardage wrote:
At 8/13/2015 5:38:25 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 8/13/2015 1:31:41 PM, dhardage wrote:
Based upon my understanding of Non-Overlapping Magisteria as you have explained it, I find it both impossible and reprehensible. It essentially strips me, as an agnostic or atheist, of any 'right' to question or comment on morality at all. It marginalizes my feelings and my opinions, ceding that right only to the theists of the world and that is an abhorrent thought. I would not in any way support NoMa and would vociferously protest it should it ever be recommended to me.

That's what I find so curious, D. It's as though Gould has just thrown his hands up about morality, denied that evidence, reason, transparency or accountability have any place in moral thought, and just figured we may as well accept morality as whatever custom or rite we're born into.

Gould is no longer with us, so he can't address that concern, and I've yet to see a place where he really considered it in life. As an agnostic himself, surely he didn't imagine every nontheist was so morally passive?

I doubt that he considered in that light. I would assume he felt that as long as religion was not hand in hand with political power, things would be all right.

Yes. But scarily, Gould's notion of NoMa could be interpreted as science in service to theocracy -- which I imagine was not what he intended. :)

Yet as we've been discussing above, the separation of church and state doesn't really do anything to help decide what sort of a society we ought to have -- it just stops theology from dictating it a priori.. And Gould would argue that science can't dictate it either. So what can?

Here, I agree with a position often taken among theologians: I don't think one can have justice or morality by popular consensus. But where I differ from theologians is, I think consensus must nevertheless be built for these things, and the morality and justice one architects must always be accountable for its impacts. One can't simply dictate, ignore criticism, and sweep away challenge and dissent as heresy.

I think morality and justice have to be forged and reforged from a continuing social conversation, and while science itself may not be the chair, I think it has a key role in setting the agenda and moderating the voices. And that role cannot be NoMA at all.
dhardage
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8/13/2015 7:20:45 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 7:14:05 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 8/13/2015 6:00:24 PM, dhardage wrote:
At 8/13/2015 5:38:25 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 8/13/2015 1:31:41 PM, dhardage wrote:
Based upon my understanding of Non-Overlapping Magisteria as you have explained it, I find it both impossible and reprehensible. It essentially strips me, as an agnostic or atheist, of any 'right' to question or comment on morality at all. It marginalizes my feelings and my opinions, ceding that right only to the theists of the world and that is an abhorrent thought. I would not in any way support NoMa and would vociferously protest it should it ever be recommended to me.

That's what I find so curious, D. It's as though Gould has just thrown his hands up about morality, denied that evidence, reason, transparency or accountability have any place in moral thought, and just figured we may as well accept morality as whatever custom or rite we're born into.

Gould is no longer with us, so he can't address that concern, and I've yet to see a place where he really considered it in life. As an agnostic himself, surely he didn't imagine every nontheist was so morally passive?

I doubt that he considered in that light. I would assume he felt that as long as religion was not hand in hand with political power, things would be all right.

Yes. But scarily, Gould's notion of NoMa could be interpreted as science in service to theocracy -- which I imagine was not what he intended. :)

Yet as we've been discussing above, the separation of church and state doesn't really do anything to help decide what sort of a society we ought to have -- it just stops theology from dictating it a priori.. And Gould would argue that science can't dictate it either. So what can?

Here, I agree with a position often taken among theologians: I don't think one can have justice or morality by popular consensus. But where I differ from theologians is, I think consensus must nevertheless be built for these things, and the morality and justice one architects must always be accountable for its impacts. One can't simply dictate, ignore criticism, and sweep away challenge and dissent as heresy.

I think morality and justice have to be forged and reforged from a continuing social conversation, and while science itself may not be the chair, I think it has a key role in setting the agenda and moderating the voices. And that role cannot be NoMA at all.

You are, in my opinion, correct that morality and justice must be constantly examined and reforged. I also agree that science must have a seat at the table, or at least reason and logic. There are too many different voices that claim to have moral authority from theists, each with their own interpretation of their holy writ. What's needed is a system that respects the rights of each individual with 'bias toward none and justice for all'.

In other words, no one should have any right to tell another how to live as long as it does not harm anyone else. Every person should have the right to believe as they wish but should never seek to force that belief on others. It's not really that hard. Even the Christ of the Bible never sought to make laws and force people into anything. He lived the example, taught the lessons to those who wanted to learn. He forgave the prostitute, the tax collector, and even the soldiers who supposedly killed him. If that was the example we all emulated, the world would be a much better place.
12_13
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8/13/2015 8:07:08 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
This then, was Gould's vision: that science naturally 'owns' the domain of the intellect, while religion naturally 'owns' the domain of moral sensibility, and that these domains do not, cannot, and should never overlap.

Do you believe this?

I think religion should not reject intellect, especially when science seems to have reject all intellect and turned into modern day Mother Earth cult (better known with name evolution).
RuvDraba
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8/13/2015 8:46:36 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 8:07:08 PM, 12_13 wrote:
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
This then, was Gould's vision: that science naturally 'owns' the domain of the intellect, while religion naturally 'owns' the domain of moral sensibility, and that these domains do not, cannot, and should never overlap.

Do you believe this?

I think religion should not reject intellect, especially when science seems to have reject all intellect and turned into modern day Mother Earth cult (better known with name evolution).

Hi 12_13. I note that you're barely on-topic here, so let me try to bring it back.

Whatever Gould's ideas of magisteria, science has never barred anyone of any faith from participation, as long as they uphold the principles of being accountable, systematic, transparent and fair to the data. You might be surprised how many people of faith accept evolution, and how many have even contributed to its advancement in science, education and communications. Did you know, for example, that the conservative Pope Benedict XVI called evolution 'almost certain', and that the RC Church has accepted that there's no theological conflict with evolution since 1950? Or that the Anglican church issued a formal apology to Charles Darwin in 2008?

I think science has for centuries, upheld a dedicated and reasonably faithful professional commitment to making the most accountable sense of whatever data can be found, whatever they tell us, and not reaching for one idea over another. Obviously, that has been very successful, to the extent that I think most traditional theologies now accept that science now does a better job of explaining how the world works than they did.

Notwithstanding that, on the moral front, I think most scientists would also strongly repudiate the fallacy of Naturalism. Biologists in particular are keenly aware that what occurs spontaneously in nature isn't terribly kind or pleasant, nor is it especially good for individual species, since it has killed off nearly all of them over time. I can't speak for all scientists, but I don't personally know a scientist who thinks imitating nature in all its horrific amorality would make for a great human morality.

Which leaves us with a sort of hole at the point where intellect meets morality: if theology isn't terribly good at explaining the world intellectually, then how intellectually accountable are its ideas of morality? But if science repudiates the morality of the very area it studies, then for all its intellect, how can science possibly offer moral advice?

Gould's idea of NoMA is silent on this, and in your post, you were too. Do you have any ideas?
Burzmali
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8/13/2015 8:56:51 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I'm inclined to half-agree, in that I think religion should keeps its nose out of making claims about the material world. There certainly would be less conflict between religion and science if that were the case. On the morality side, though, there are a lot of moral ideas that depend on having a factual understanding the physical world. If "harm" is a concept in morality, specifically that it should be avoided when possible, then it's important to understand what does and doesn't cause harm. We learn about what constitutes "physical harm" through scientific means.

To Ruv and dhardage talking about Gould appearing to cede morality to religion, though, I don't think that's what he was saying at all. If not based in religion, moral arguments are often based on philosophical ideas. If I were to agree with Gould that science should not be involved in moral discussions, I would still say that we can use reason and philosophy to reach moral conclusions without religion.
Skepsikyma
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8/13/2015 10:32:41 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I think it's accurate, insofar as science should not comment on moral prescriptions, and religion should not comment on empirical matters. That's a good, functioning model for Western society. Notice that it doesn't preclude entirely profane philosophical moral arguments from being made, it only restricts scientific claims from being made about morality. Religion is by no means given a monopoly.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
12_13
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8/14/2015 8:03:45 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 8:46:36 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
...a scientist who thinks imitating nature in all its horrific amorality would make for a great human morality.

That wouldn"t be very intellect.

Gould's idea of NoMA is silent on this, and in your post, you were too. Do you have any ideas?

My point was, all matters, scientific, moral or religious, should be taught intellectually. I don"t see any good reason why intellect should somehow only concern scientific matters.
RuvDraba
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8/14/2015 8:05:33 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Welcome, Burzmali. Thank you for your contributions.

At 8/13/2015 8:56:51 PM, Burzmali wrote:
I'm inclined to half-agree, in that I think religion should keeps its nose out of making claims about the material world.

Coming as I do from a science background I'm inclined to agree, Burzmali. But is that even possible? The authority of religion frequently depends on claims about the accuracy of its revelations and the knowledge, character and deeds of its prophets and sages.

Aren't those all physically-testable claims, in principle at least?

Religions also frequently have creation myths, tying metaphysics to morality to physics and providing some sort of perspective on the relationship of man to the world around him. Those myths often introduce and substantiate definitive philosophical concepts (like sin in Christianity, or druj in Zoroastrianism.) Without the mythical claims, the philosophical concepts can become meaningless.

And most religious canon was written before there even was a science to offer reliable testing. What should happen to that canon? Should it be discarded as unauthoritative? Reinterpreted as inspirational only? And how exactly is that to be implemented, given that we generally uphold freedom of worship to mean freedom to choose one's own doctrine?

To Ruv and dhardage talking about Gould appearing to cede morality to religion, though, I don't think that's what he was saying at all. If not based in religion, moral arguments are often based on philosophical ideas. If I were to agree with Gould that science should not be involved in moral discussions, I would still say that we can use reason and philosophy to reach moral conclusions without religion.

I've wondered about that too, Burzmali -- whether perhaps Gould meant that morality should be the province of philosophy. Argued that way, one might say that theology is a branch of philosophy so of course it can pronounce on morality. And of course for atheists like me, there are non-theological philosophies that might too.

But I think that interpretation has two problems:

1) It isn't actually what he said, and isn't supported by what he wrote. In fact the words 'philosophy' and 'philosopher' don't even appear in his article, and the word 'philosophic' only appears once. We don't find the word 'ethics' or 'ethicist' appearing there either, and the word 'ethical' only appears as a referent of particular ideas. So it's hard to see that this is his vision for things.

2) Science itself began as a branch of philosophy called Natural Philosophy. Whether science is still a branch of philosophy is debatable, but is there any reason in principle that ethical philosophy cannot or should not be informed by science? So even if we accept that this was intended, how does it produce a disjunction between morality and intellect?
RuvDraba
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8/14/2015 8:08:12 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/14/2015 8:03:45 PM, 12_13 wrote:
At 8/13/2015 8:46:36 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
...a scientist who thinks imitating nature in all its horrific amorality would make for a great human morality.

That wouldn"t be very intellect.

I agree. It's not very moral, or very intelligent. :)

Gould's idea of NoMA is silent on this, and in your post, you were too. Do you have any ideas?

My point was, all matters, scientific, moral or religious, should be taught intellectually. I don"t see any good reason why intellect should somehow only concern scientific matters.

Exactly! Me either. :) I can't see at all why morality and insight into the human condition should not be informed by evidence and reason, whatever other inspirations might inform it. We're strongly agreed on this, 12_13, and I bet you don't have atheists saying that to you often. :)
RuvDraba
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8/14/2015 8:56:21 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Welcome, Skeps! I'm glad you're contributing.

At 8/13/2015 10:32:41 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
I think it's accurate, insofar as science should not comment on moral prescriptions, and religion should not comment on empirical matters. That's a good, functioning model for Western society.

Is that an ethical position, or a pragmatic one, or both?

Also, neither science nor religion are confined to Western society. I think we'd both accept that science is interfaith, intercultural, and belongs to everyone, while religion is almost ubiquitous, and even turns up in those few jurisdictions that discourage it.

So how does NoMA work for Buddhism, say? Buddhists tend to see no great distinction between morality and rationality. They generally hold that a Buddhist approach to morality is a rational approach, while a compassionate approach to empiricism gives you something much like Buddhism. How does NoMA work for them?

Notice that it doesn't preclude entirely profane philosophical moral arguments from being made, it only restricts scientific claims from being made about morality. Religion is by no means given a monopoly.

Yes, I've wondered whether that's what Gould meant. However, I note the absence of reference to philosophy or ethics in his article. So if he was really trying to define a science/philosophy division, that isn't what he wrote.

But moreover, if philosophical arguments are permitted in morality, then why should scientific arguments be barred? I mean, can philosophers use science to justify moral positions? One would hope that they would where they could.

So if science can be used in the examination of moral positions, is it simply that scientists should be silent on matters moral due to some supposed conflict of interest? If a philosopher or theologian says one should ban selling cigarettes to kids, is that okay, while if a medical researcher says it, it's not?

That just doesn't jibe with me. If there is some conflict of interest between science and morality, what creates it, other than what may be the very artificial NoMA division? It seems to become something of a circular argument.
Skepsikyma
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8/17/2015 12:54:19 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/14/2015 8:56:21 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Welcome, Skeps! I'm glad you're contributing.

At 8/13/2015 10:32:41 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
I think it's accurate, insofar as science should not comment on moral prescriptions, and religion should not comment on empirical matters. That's a good, functioning model for Western society.

Is that an ethical position, or a pragmatic one, or both?

Pragmatic.

Also, neither science nor religion are confined to Western society. I think we'd both accept that science is interfaith, intercultural, and belongs to everyone, while religion is almost ubiquitous, and even turns up in those few jurisdictions that discourage it.

So how does NoMA work for Buddhism, say? Buddhists tend to see no great distinction between morality and rationality. They generally hold that a Buddhist approach to morality is a rational approach, while a compassionate approach to empiricism gives you something much like Buddhism. How does NoMA work for them?

Most religions actually hold that belief, and have factions within them which strive to reconcile the two aspects into fluid whole (the Jesuits and certain Islamic scholars being good examples.) To a Muslim scholar, Islam is the correct thing to believe because it is rational. The same applies to Buddhism. I obviously disagree with both of them, as I am no longer a Buddhist and am not a Muslim.

Notice that it doesn't preclude entirely profane philosophical moral arguments from being made, it only restricts scientific claims from being made about morality. Religion is by no means given a monopoly.

Yes, I've wondered whether that's what Gould meant. However, I note the absence of reference to philosophy or ethics in his article. So if he was really trying to define a science/philosophy division, that isn't what he wrote.

But moreover, if philosophical arguments are permitted in morality, then why should scientific arguments be barred? I mean, can philosophers use science to justify moral positions? One would hope that they would where they could.

So if science can be used in the examination of moral positions, is it simply that scientists should be silent on matters moral due to some supposed conflict of interest? If a philosopher or theologian says one should ban selling cigarettes to kids, is that okay, while if a medical researcher says it, it's not?

That just doesn't jibe with me. If there is some conflict of interest between science and morality, what creates it, other than what may be the very artificial NoMA division? It seems to become something of a circular argument.

The medical researcher can say 'cigarettes have been shown to lead to x, y, and z, which can lead to these bad things' but it's up for the moral powers of society to decide what is to be done with that information. Fundamentally, scientific inquiry deals with 'is' statements. Our 'ought' positions can certainly be informed by what they discover, but I think that scientists tend to step our of their depth when they go from descriptive mode to prescriptive mode. What society does about cigarettes wraps into fields which the scientist is probably ignorant of, like law, political history and philosophy, economics, pragmatic feasibility, etc. Societies generally have another class of intellectuals to deal with those issues.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
RuvDraba
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8/17/2015 1:30:02 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/17/2015 12:54:19 AM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 8/14/2015 8:56:21 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Welcome, Skeps! I'm glad you're contributing.

At 8/13/2015 10:32:41 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
I think it's accurate, insofar as science should not comment on moral prescriptions, and religion should not comment on empirical matters. That's a good, functioning model for Western society.

Is that an ethical position, or a pragmatic one, or both?

Pragmatic.

So you're saying if it were feasible, you'd have no objection?

Is it really infeasible then? In fact, isn't it already occurring?

I hope to explore that below.

Also, neither science nor religion are confined to Western society. I think we'd both accept that science is interfaith, intercultural, and belongs to everyone, while religion is almost ubiquitous, and even turns up in those few jurisdictions that discourage it.

So how does NoMA work for Buddhism, say? Buddhists tend to see no great distinction between morality and rationality. They generally hold that a Buddhist approach to morality is a rational approach, while a compassionate approach to empiricism gives you something much like Buddhism. How does NoMA work for them?

Most religions actually hold that belief, and have factions within them which strive to reconcile the two aspects into fluid whole (the Jesuits and certain Islamic scholars being good examples.)

I agree that many religions believe that the only rational position is their own belief, though I don't see many actually committing to constantly retesting dogma for evidence and rationality and abandoning any that fails the test, so I conclude that the claim may be more rhetorical than ideological. :)

But I'm not sure about most, Skeps. Faith can aspire to an ecstatic approach that may not be logically consistent or rationally meaningful, and this seems pretty popular. The Sufi sect of Islam might count here; perhaps alongside the hesychasm of Eastern Orthodox mysticism; talking in tongues in Charismatic Christianity might also count. I think if you scratch hard there are a lot of ecstatic/trans-rational/sub-rational (depending on viewpoint) apprehensions in religion.

I obviously disagree with both of them, as I am no longer a Buddhist and am not a Muslim.
I agree with your disagreement. :)

Notice that it doesn't preclude entirely profane philosophical moral arguments from being made, it only restricts scientific claims from being made about morality. Religion is by no means given a monopoly.

Yes, I've wondered whether that's what Gould meant. However, I note the absence of reference to philosophy or ethics in his article. So if he was really trying to define a science/philosophy division, that isn't what he wrote.

But moreover, if philosophical arguments are permitted in morality, then why should scientific arguments be barred?
The medical researcher can say 'cigarettes have been shown to lead to x, y, and z, which can lead to these bad things' but it's up for the moral powers of society to decide what is to be done with that information.

I wonder if you see a difference between 'moral powers', legislature and judiciary? if not, what do you think makes them moral, what informs their morality and where is it codified? For example, how is the operation of a hospital not a moral issue, and how could one pronounce sensibly on that without the input of medical professionals and the community?

Personally, I find it hard to see legislature or judiciary as moral powers. I see them as legislative and judicial powers informed by morality. But surely in a democracy, the moral conversation occurs everywhere? That being so, surely some of that conversation is naturally and properly vested in science, and in a secular democracy, surely a great deal of the moral conversation takes place outside churches and philosophy books?

Pragmatically, we can argue that scientists shouldn't offer blind and unqualified policy or judicial advice -- and I'd strongly support that. But what is it that disqualifies a scientist from offering moral commentary?

From this perspective, I don't see that morality is a magisterium of faith at all. To me it looks like a human magisterium, involving everyone affected, and it seems to me that science should contribute to it, as should government, the judiciary, related professional and commercial sectors, workers, parents and so on.

As to who coordinates that, we might agree on the key role of government and community groups. But all professions also have their own ethical bodies, and I'd suggest that they're involved sectorally too.

As you can see I'm more exploring than debating here. I appreciate your thoughts, Skeps.
arnold_torsen
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8/17/2015 4:51:38 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
In 1997, agnostic paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote:
In early 1984, I spent several nights at the Vatican housed in a hotel built for itinerant priests.

At lunch, the priests called me over to their table to pose a problem that had been troubling them. What, they wanted to know, was going on in America with all this talk about "scientific creationism"? One asked me: "Is evolution really in some kind of trouble. and if so, what could such trouble be? I have always been taught that no doctrinal conflict exists between evolution and Catholic faith, and the evidence for evolution seems both entirely satisfactory and utterly overwhelming. Have I missed something?"

A lively pastiche of French, Italian, and English conversation then ensued for half an hour or so, but the priests all seemed reassured by my general answer: Evolution has encountered no intellectual trouble; no new arguments have been offered. Creationism is a homegrown phenomenon of American sociocultural history -- a splinter movement (unfortunately rather more of a beam these days) of Protestant fundamentalists who believe that every word of the Bible must be literally true, whatever such a claim might mean. We all left satisfied, but I certainly felt bemused by the anomaly of my role as a Jewish agnostic, trying to reassure a group of Catholic priests that evolution remained both true and entirely consistent with religious belief.

Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Natural History 106 (March 1997): 16-22

This thought seems quite at odds with the conversations frequently seen in the Religion and Science forums here on DDO, and in society at large. If science is raised in a Religious conversation, it's often for theologians to attack its supposed narrow-mindedness and theological insensitivity. If religion is raised in a Science conversation, it's often to point out its historical political and intellectual opposition to scientific progress.

Yet Gould wasn't simply being diplomatic; he was striving to make a case. In the same article, he wrote:

I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria -- the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions.

This then, was Gould's vision: that science naturally 'owns' the domain of the intellect, while religion naturally 'owns' the domain of moral sensibility, and that these domains do not, cannot, and should never overlap.

Do you believe this?

I personally don't. I think that theology never has, never can, and never shall distance itself from matters mundane and intellectual, while science has always been bound to, directed by, and informing of moral human concerns.

As an atheist and a former scientist, for me to accept Non-Overlapping Magisteria or NoMa, would be to accept the impractical and unacceptable. Namely to:

1) Deny that as an atheist I have any interest in matters moral (in fact I'm strongly interested in morality);
2) Insist that only theology has any place in the moral conversation (I'm strongly opposed to the moral conversation being confined to dialogue between theologies, and often wonder what gives theology any right to claim moral authority in the first place);
3) Uphold that science must defer to society for its morality (I think science needs to do more: it needs to inform, track, anticipate and help evaluate moral sensibility); and
4) Deny theology -- and by implication lay society -- the intellectual critique of science. I'd strongly advocate the reverse: that society builds better skills to participate more in the development and informed critique of science; and
5) Either believe in no conversation between science and religion (hah!) or imagine some language that spans these domains in respectful discourse (what language simultaneously upholds irreverent pragmatism and the tender cherishing of sacred traditions?)

So it seems to me that, approaching 20 years after Gould's paper:
* NoMA hasn't worked;
* Nobody really wants it to work, since neither side was ever going to respect moral/intellectual boundaries that arguably never existed anyway;
* It's not in our moral, social or intellectual interests to try and make it work; and
* It's also likely not within our skill or wisdom to make it work, even could we imagine wanting it, and it ever actually working.

So... Do you think NoMA can or should work? If so, how, and why? Or if you think NoMA shouldn't work, what do you believe that means for the sometimes strained relationship between religion and science? Can we improve on it? If so, how? Should we not try and improve on it? If so, why not?

I look forward to reading your comments, and am also happy to answer your questions. As is my custom in threads I initiate, I view my role as facilitatory unless invited otherwise. While I may ask questions about your views, or quote other peoples' views for contrast, I won't defend a view myself, unless another member specifically asks me to do so.

I hope that may be of interest. : :

God's true servants enjoy the scientific data and equipment that helped complete God's work in this era of man.
Skepsikyma
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8/20/2015 3:36:43 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/17/2015 1:30:02 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 8/17/2015 12:54:19 AM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 8/14/2015 8:56:21 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Welcome, Skeps! I'm glad you're contributing.

At 8/13/2015 10:32:41 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
I think it's accurate, insofar as science should not comment on moral prescriptions, and religion should not comment on empirical matters. That's a good, functioning model for Western society.

Is that an ethical position, or a pragmatic one, or both?

Pragmatic.

So you're saying if it were feasible, you'd have no objection?

Is it really infeasible then? In fact, isn't it already occurring?

I hope to explore that below.

I don't think that we'll get very good results from it, though.

Also, neither science nor religion are confined to Western society. I think we'd both accept that science is interfaith, intercultural, and belongs to everyone, while religion is almost ubiquitous, and even turns up in those few jurisdictions that discourage it.

So how does NoMA work for Buddhism, say? Buddhists tend to see no great distinction between morality and rationality. They generally hold that a Buddhist approach to morality is a rational approach, while a compassionate approach to empiricism gives you something much like Buddhism. How does NoMA work for them?

Most religions actually hold that belief, and have factions within them which strive to reconcile the two aspects into fluid whole (the Jesuits and certain Islamic scholars being good examples.)

I agree that many religions believe that the only rational position is their own belief, though I don't see many actually committing to constantly retesting dogma for evidence and rationality and abandoning any that fails the test, so I conclude that the claim may be more rhetorical than ideological. :)

But I'm not sure about most, Skeps. Faith can aspire to an ecstatic approach that may not be logically consistent or rationally meaningful, and this seems pretty popular. The Sufi sect of Islam might count here; perhaps alongside the hesychasm of Eastern Orthodox mysticism; talking in tongues in Charismatic Christianity might also count. I think if you scratch hard there are a lot of ecstatic/trans-rational/sub-rational (depending on viewpoint) apprehensions in religion.

Well, yes, but the original debate was about whether or not Buddhism can transcend NOMA. I don't think that it is in a unique position to do so because certain subsets of the movement are more rationally inclined than others.

I obviously disagree with both of them, as I am no longer a Buddhist and am not a Muslim.
I agree with your disagreement. :)

Notice that it doesn't preclude entirely profane philosophical moral arguments from being made, it only restricts scientific claims from being made about morality. Religion is by no means given a monopoly.

Yes, I've wondered whether that's what Gould meant. However, I note the absence of reference to philosophy or ethics in his article. So if he was really trying to define a science/philosophy division, that isn't what he wrote.

But moreover, if philosophical arguments are permitted in morality, then why should scientific arguments be barred?
The medical researcher can say 'cigarettes have been shown to lead to x, y, and z, which can lead to these bad things' but it's up for the moral powers of society to decide what is to be done with that information.

I wonder if you see a difference between 'moral powers', legislature and judiciary? if not, what do you think makes them moral, what informs their morality and where is it codified? For example, how is the operation of a hospital not a moral issue, and how could one pronounce sensibly on that without the input of medical professionals and the community?

Yes, when I'm talking about moral powers I'm talking primarily about professional philosophers and ethicists, who can be either religious or secular.

Personally, I find it hard to see legislature or judiciary as moral powers. I see them as legislative and judicial powers informed by morality. But surely in a democracy, the moral conversation occurs everywhere? That being so, surely some of that conversation is naturally and properly vested in science, and in a secular democracy, surely a great deal of the moral conversation takes place outside churches and philosophy books?

Pragmatically, we can argue that scientists shouldn't offer blind and unqualified policy or judicial advice -- and I'd strongly support that. But what is it that disqualifies a scientist from offering moral commentary?

From this perspective, I don't see that morality is a magisterium of faith at all. To me it looks like a human magisterium, involving everyone affected, and it seems to me that science should contribute to it, as should government, the judiciary, related professional and commercial sectors, workers, parents and so on.

Scientists, to me, are not equipped to directly participate in an ethical debate in their capacity as scientists. Can a scientist also be an ethicist, and make ethical arguments? Yes. But in their capacity as scientists, they are investigating 'is' statements, not 'ought' ones. In the end, they can supply raw evidence to ethicists, but I fail to see how, at all, the scientific method can test an esoteric moral prescription. It's definitely a human magisterium, but it's one which precludes itself from being tested scientifically by its very nature.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
RuvDraba
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8/20/2015 7:42:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/20/2015 3:36:43 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 8/17/2015 1:30:02 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
I don't see that morality is a magisterium of faith at all. To me it looks like a human magisterium, involving everyone affected, and it seems to me that science should contribute to it, as should government, the judiciary, related professional and commercial sectors, workers, parents and so on.

Scientists, to me, are not equipped to directly participate in an ethical debate in their capacity as scientists.

What capacities do you think one requires to participate productively in an ethical or moral debate, Skeps? Serious question here. I have my own list, but I'd be interested in yours.

Not to pre-empt your answer, but I think we'd agree that science is founded on scrupulous adherence to evidence, honesty, transparency, and accountability. Would you say that over-all, those qualities diminish an ethical discussion, or enhance them?

What additional qualities (if any) do you believe theology might bring? Which qualities do you feel it might lack?

Can a scientist also be an ethicist, and make ethical arguments? Yes. But in their capacity as scientists, they are investigating 'is' statements, not 'ought' ones.

I hear that a lot, but is there any ethical or moral question that suffers from a better understanding of 'is'? For example, does our morality diminish or improve if we move from believing that disease is created by past transgressions, to understanding that it is caused by exposure to microbes?

Isn't it true that over-all, ethical and moral explorations improve from a better understanding of 'is'? Actually, might I say it more strongly: that we can't really have an effective ethical or moral discussion unless we are acutely aware of how causes create consequences?

And for contrast, do you feel that there's any sense in which a compassionate, effective morality of human health (for example) does not need our best medical knowledge, yet does somehow need theology? Or is there a moral discussion of gender relationships that suffers from a better understanding of gender psychology yet benefits from adopting some gender-based creation myth?

Finally, is science truly confined to 'is'? Aren't its conjectures and the innovations of engineering the exploration of what 'might be'?

And how do we prioritise 'might bes' other than by applying 'should be's?

Like you, Skeps, I grew up on the assertion that science is amoral. I spent my early career as a scientist believing it, since I never heard that assertion challenged. Apparently, Gould believed it too.

But where did this idea come from? Can we really say that any honest, accountable, transparent activity in service to one's fellow man, and critical to the development of an ethical and moral understanding of the world is an amoral activity?

And even more bafflingly to me: what on earth equips a theologian for a moral or ethical discussion, in which a scientist is not equally or better equipped?
August_Burns_Red
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8/20/2015 7:57:40 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
In 1997, agnostic paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote:
In early 1984, I spent several nights at the Vatican housed in a hotel built for itinerant priests.

At lunch, the priests called me over to their table to pose a problem that had been troubling them. What, they wanted to know, was going on in America with all this talk about "scientific creationism"? One asked me: "Is evolution really in some kind of trouble. and if so, what could such trouble be? I have always been taught that no doctrinal conflict exists between evolution and Catholic faith, and the evidence for evolution seems both entirely satisfactory and utterly overwhelming. Have I missed something?"

A lively pastiche of French, Italian, and English conversation then ensued for half an hour or so, but the priests all seemed reassured by my general answer: Evolution has encountered no intellectual trouble; no new arguments have been offered. Creationism is a homegrown phenomenon of American sociocultural history -- a splinter movement (unfortunately rather more of a beam these days) of Protestant fundamentalists who believe that every word of the Bible must be literally true, whatever such a claim might mean. We all left satisfied, but I certainly felt bemused by the anomaly of my role as a Jewish agnostic, trying to reassure a group of Catholic priests that evolution remained both true and entirely consistent with religious belief.

Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Natural History 106 (March 1997): 16-22

This thought seems quite at odds with the conversations frequently seen in the Religion and Science forums here on DDO, and in society at large. If science is raised in a Religious conversation, it's often for theologians to attack its supposed narrow-mindedness and theological insensitivity. If religion is raised in a Science conversation, it's often to point out its historical political and intellectual opposition to scientific progress.

Yet Gould wasn't simply being diplomatic; he was striving to make a case. In the same article, he wrote:

I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria -- the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions.

This then, was Gould's vision: that science naturally 'owns' the domain of the intellect, while religion naturally 'owns' the domain of moral sensibility, and that these domains do not, cannot, and should never overlap.

Do you believe this?

I personally don't. I think that theology never has, never can, and never shall distance itself from matters mundane and intellectual, while science has always been bound to, directed by, and informing of moral human concerns.

As an atheist and a former scientist, for me to accept Non-Overlapping Magisteria or NoMa, would be to accept the impractical and unacceptable. Namely to:

1) Deny that as an atheist I have any interest in matters moral (in fact I'm strongly interested in morality);
2) Insist that only theology has any place in the moral conversation (I'm strongly opposed to the moral conversation being confined to dialogue between theologies, and often wonder what gives theology any right to claim moral authority in the first place);
3) Uphold that science must defer to society for its morality (I think science needs to do more: it needs to inform, track, anticipate and help evaluate moral sensibility); and
4) Deny theology -- and by implication lay society -- the intellectual critique of science. I'd strongly advocate the reverse: that society builds better skills to participate more in the development and informed critique of science; and
5) Either believe in no conversation between science and religion (hah!) or imagine some language that spans these domains in respectful discourse (what language simultaneously upholds irreverent pragmatism and the tender cherishing of sacred traditions?)

So it seems to me that, approaching 20 years after Gould's paper:
* NoMA hasn't worked;
* Nobody really wants it to work, since neither side was ever going to respect moral/intellectual boundaries that arguably never existed anyway;
* It's not in our moral, social or intellectual interests to try and make it work; and
* It's also likely not within our skill or wisdom to make it work, even could we imagine wanting it, and it ever actually working.

So... Do you think NoMA can or should work? If so, how, and why? Or if you think NoMA shouldn't work, what do you believe that means for the sometimes strained relationship between religion and science? Can we improve on it? If so, how? Should we not try and improve on it? If so, why not?

I look forward to reading your comments, and am also happy to answer your questions. As is my custom in threads I initiate, I view my role as facilitatory unless invited otherwise. While I may ask questions about your views, or quote other peoples' views for contrast, I won't defend a view myself, unless another member specifically asks me to do so.

I hope that may be of interest.

Doc, wow, Id love to respond better to your Op but Im sorry, its just over my head. far too many big words and technical terms? NOMA? wth? LOL. I dont even know what magesteria IS! but what I CAN say is that as soon as you try to put a science lable on God or disect Him in a beaker or use science terms and try to find Him or prove Him like you would looking at a petri dish under a micrascope, well, as soon as you try all that you lose Him. the MORE you try that the further away you get from Knowing Him.
I said before: its like taking some honey and analyzing its chemical properties and writng science papers about it and debating it. all fine and well. but I say Atheist scientists might be well meaning bu are like guys doing this study of honey, but they have not taste buds. So they can never know the Taste of it, which is worth a million times more than reading about it. Believers who are in God's Grace TASTE. thus we find it hard to explain the Taste to guys with no taste buds. The Taste Buds is the Holy Spirit in you. you need this to taste. Good news is you CAN "grow" this unlike the taste buds! LOL. as we get older we lose our taste buds, BTW. half of em by the age of 60. this is also a science metaphor as the more science continues with trying to quanify or measure, the longer it goes (ages!) more they lost the chance to Know (taste) the Spirit.
Science doesn't have the tools to measure God. their insufficent. like trying to measure your feeling of Love for say your wife, with taking brain scans of your brain and looking at the pics. can a Doc who looks at your brain scan tell you how much you Love your wife or if your Love is real? I dont thinks so.

I like your attempts to mingle science and God. or religion, if thats what you were doing. Im not sure, like I said. and sorry if this post was off your desired topic or type of response. its just the closest I could get to what I think you mighta been asking.
God Bless.
Tomorrow's forecast: God reigns and the Son shines!
RuvDraba
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8/20/2015 8:27:36 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/20/2015 7:57:40 PM, August_Burns_Red wrote:
At 8/13/2015 9:03:43 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
In 1997, agnostic paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote:

I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria -- the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions.

This then, was Gould's vision: that science naturally 'owns' the domain of the intellect, while religion naturally 'owns' the domain of moral sensibility, and that these domains do not, cannot, and should never overlap.

Do you believe this?

I personally don't.

Doc, wow, Id love to respond better to your Op but Im sorry, its just over my head. far too many big words and technical terms? NOMA? wth?

Welcome, Augie! I'm glad you're participating.

I'm sorry that the language is offputting. Boiling it down, the guy who wrote this -- a scientist helping to explain and explore evolution in the late 20th century -- asked whether there's a fence between the intellect and morality, with science on the side of intellect, and religion on the side of morality; and with strong fences making good neighbours.

I grew up being taught to believe there was a fence. But on reflection I think there has never been a fence, and shouldn't be. I'm interested in other members' views.

what I CAN say is that as soon as you try to put a science lable on God or disect Him in a beaker or use science terms and try to find Him or prove Him like you would looking at a petri dish under a micrascope, well, as soon as you try all that you lose Him.

That's sometimes said of art too... that if you analyse it too much you lose the beauty. I've never felt that, though. You can analyse a sunflower and still find it beautiful; it's no less beautiful for knowing what a Fibonacci sequence is. [http://www.popmath.org.uk...]

I like your attempts to mingle science and God. or religion, if thats what you were doing.
Well, they're both human concerns, so in principle they connect somehow. I think this thread is about whether they're separate human concerns.

I'm not sure, like I said. and sorry if this post was off your desired topic or type of response. its just the closest I could get to what I think you mighta been asking.
I welcome your thoughts, Augie. Your contribution is valuable to me. :)