“I’ve been a scientist for as long as I can remember. Children are born scientists; they experiment with everything, are naturally inquisitive and through this exploration they learn about how the world works. And I’ve never grown out of it. Of course, for many people, their modes of thought change as they find or are brought up with faith. Some manage, somehow, to hold religious beliefs alongside a dedication to the rationality of science.”
“In his provocative new book, evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne lays out in clear, dispassionate detail why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion—including faith, dogma, and revelation—leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions.
“Coyne is responding to a national climate in which over half of Americans don’t believe in evolution (and congressmen deny global warming), and warns that religious prejudices and strictures in politics, education, medicine, and social policy are on the rise. Extending the bestselling works of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, he demolishes the claims of religion to provide verifiable “truth” by subjecting those claims to the same tests we use to establish truth in science.”
“A new book by the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne tackles arguments that the two institutions are compatible.
“In the book’s 262 pages, Coyne tackles arguments stating that belief in God is a laudable quality, and reasons instead that faith is detrimental, even dangerous, and fundamentally incompatible with science, even while peacemakers try to find common ground between the two. Coyne, it should be noted, has spent much of his career objecting to religious rejection of Darwinism—he published a bestseller, Why Evolution Is True, that was based on his blog of the same name. In Faith Versus Fact, his overarching argument is that religion and science both make claims about the universe, but only one of the two institutions is sufficiently open to the fact that it might be wrong.
“Many of us wish to be good, and we work to be good. But in a complex world, the question of what is good and what is moral is always shifting. Society’s sense of morality, of how we should act and react, changes.”
“Its faith-based 12-step program dominates treatment in the United States. But researchers have debunked central tenets of AA doctrine and found dozens of other treatments more effective.”
“For secular thinkers, the continuing vitality of religion calls into question the belief that history underpins their values. To be sure, there is disagreement as to the nature of these values. But pretty well all secular thinkers now take for granted that modern societies must in the end converge on some version of liberalism. Never well founded, this assumption is today clearly unreasonable. So, not for the first time, secular thinkers look to science for a foundation for their values.”
“The English philosopher John Gray, himself an atheist, says today’s evangelical New Atheists have far more in common with the religionists they despise than they think they do. In a rich, rewarding essay in the Guardian, Gray says that an earlier generation of modern atheists worshiped Science, which in their reasoning made them supporters of eugenics … until Nazism showed where that led. It is today conveniently forgotten, says Gray, that those who preached Science as the foundation for modern political life were, in the pre-Nazi 20th century, the most avid promoters of eugenics”
“The spread of measles has called attention to parents who don’t vaccinate children because of religious beliefs. New York City is accommodating an Orthodox Jewish circumcision practice that can infect babies with herpes. Some states even let believers in faith healing deny life-saving medical care to their children.
Should parents’ religious beliefs allow them to refuse medical care for their children or avoid standard medical practices?”