RR Excerpt #16: Science vs. Religion "Reconciliation Theories"

This is excerpt #16 from The Reason Revolution: Atheism, Secular Humanism, and the Collapse of Religion, a short, FREE e-book available at Smashwords, Goodreads, and Amazon

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How can faith in the supernatural be reconciled with natural science, particularly the science-based reasons for skepticism summarized above? Below are ways people of faith commonly attempt to resolve inconsistencies between science and religion:

1. The science supporting some or all of the reasons for skepticism might be correct, but faith provides comfort for people and is therefore important to maintain, even if belief is unfounded in fact and incompatible with settled science.

2. Science has not advanced sufficiently to discover the existence of God, heaven, and other realities that are revealed in the holy book. (The Bible, Torah, Quran, and more than fifteen other religious texts are believed by various faiths to be divinely inspired). Future scientific discoveries will confirm realities that are currently taken on faith alone. Therefore, deities and afterlives are part of the natural universe and will be discovered to not be supernatural.

3. The (correct) holy book is the only source of truth. To the extent there are incompatibilities between teachings in the holy book and science, science must be wrong, even if it appears rational. Followers of faiths that do not accept the authority of the holy book are infidels.

4. Science is invalid as a way of knowing. Scientific findings such as those reported above as reasons for skepticism are misleading and irrelevant to the search for truth.

5. Science is the work of Satan, a temptation designed to lure the faithful away from God. Scientists are false prophets, and so the reasons for skepticism are false.

6. A higher (supernatural) reality exists that science cannot examine and that is accessible only through faith. The apparent correctness of the reasons for skepticism is an illusion.

7. God is another term for the physical and chemical laws of the universe—a belief known as pantheism. Gods are not supernatural beings and there is no spiritual afterlife. Therefore, there is no conflict between religion and science. (This definition of god blurs the distinction between religion and science. Pantheism might serve as a semantic convenience to avoid admitting that one is an atheist.)

8. Philosophy, theology, and the natural sciences are all parts of an intellectual toolkit enabling humanity to probe the mysteries of existence. Without needlessly discarding older beliefs simply because they are older or because their methods differ, each person can consider new data and integrate the best available information into a coherent personal worldview. (This reconciliation theory contends that all knowledge, including both settled science and religious belief, is tentative and therefore subject to revision as new knowledge is gained—it is premature to conclude that science and religion are irreconcilable.)

9. Agnosticism—accepting the essential unknowability of truth—is the only logical position in the debate between religion and science. Scientific findings such as the reasons for skepticism above are valid, yet it remains impossible to prove that deities, an afterlife, and other supernatural realities do not exist.

The foregoing reconciliation theories are not mutually exclusive, and the list is certainly not exhaustive. I look forward to receiving additional or better-defined reconciliation theories that describe how readers' faith positions reconcile with science.

How to prepare a better reconciliation theory:

1. Carefully review the nine reasons for skepticism above to ensure your full understanding of them.

2. If possible, select the single reconciliation theory listed above that most closely approximates your personal approach to reconciling your faith with the science reported in the reasons for skepticism.

3. Revise the selected reconciliation theory to reflect your approach more accurately. Please limit your statement to 100 words.

4. If your personal reconciliation theory is categorically different from the ones presented above, prepare another theory to be added to the list. Again, limit your statement to 100 words.

5. Send your text by email to atheism@dandana.us. Please indicate whether I have your permission to include your name in the Acknowledgements section.

Thank you in advance for your contributions, which will be included in future editions.

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Comment by DAN DANA on September 11, 2014 at 11:26am

Michael, thanks for your comment.  I mostly hear theory #1, "Belief is comforting, so don't bother me with the facts."

Comment by Michael Penn on September 11, 2014 at 11:15am

Most theists believe number 2 above but there is no proof of it. I no longer believe in anything supernatural.

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