“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.
“The respected rabbi James Rudin has written, ‘I abhor the term Old Testament,’ because it suggests’Judaism has been replaced by Christianity and that the New Testament is superior to the Old Testament.”
“Is he right? Is ‘Old Testament’ an abhorrent and offensive phrase? I don’t think so. The phrase ‘Old Testament’ is not ideal. Yet, it is better than any of the alternatives.”
“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?”
How does a person’s notion of faith affect their charitable giving? How does it affect how honestly they donate their money? In an interesting Planet Money podcast and accompanying article, economists study how Mormons think about what they give to the church and what they don’t and principles the IRS could learn from them.
“I asked a Mormon bishop in Salt Lake City if a few more rules defining income might make tithing easier on Mormons or bring in more money for the church. He said all this soul-searching about what you owe God is kind of the point.”
Below are some links about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham from early 2014 about whether evolution or creationism better explains life on Earth.
Some interesting questions emerge from this debate. How do proponents of evolution and creationism approach knowledge and truth differently? This can be extended to the natural science and religious knowledge systems. Both look to find answers and truth and construct knowledge in fundamentally different ways. The two articles get into this issue a bit. You can watch the debate itself, it’s a bit long but worth watching at least a little bit.
1.Why Bill Nye Won the Creationism Debate Last Night
2. Bill Nye v Ken Ham: should scientists bother to debate creationism?
The public debate between Bill Nye and the president of a US creationist museum gives creationism a scientific legitimacy that it isn’t entitled to
3.Bill Nye versus Ken Ham: Who won?
“Questions of good and evil, right and wrong are commonly thought unanswerable by science. But Sam Harris argues that science can — and should — be an authority on moral issues, shaping human values and setting out what constitutes a good life.”
“Are all religions simply different ways up the same mountain? Or is the key to religious tolerance found in better understanding differences? In “God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World,” New York Times best-selling author and religion scholar Stephen Prothero argues that persistent attempts to portray all religions as different paths to the same God overlook the distinct problem that each tradition seeks to solve. Delving into the different problems and solutions that Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, Yoruba Religion, Daoism and Atheism strive to combat, provides a guide to the questions human beings have asked for millennia—and to the disparate paths we are taking to answer them today.”