Let’s take a look at Jerry Coyne’s USA Today article entitled, “Science and religion aren’t friends.” It is worth looking at this article as it represents the Gnu Atheists best shot at convincing the general public religion and science are incompatible. However, because my time is limited, I will dissect the article in parts.
Let’s start with the way Coyne sets up his case:
The biggest area of religious push-back involves science. Rather than being enemies, or even competitors, the argument goes, science and religion are completely compatible friends, each devoted to finding its own species of truth while yearning for a mutually improving dialogue.
There is no need for all the extra fluff about being friends with a mutually improving dialog. All we need to focus on is this simple claim: science and religion are compatible. And the Gnus deny this to be the case. They insist that science and religion are incompatible.
Yet, we already encounter a problem. Coyne does not bother to define what he means by “compatible.” So he must be relying on his USA Today readers using a definition that would be commonplace. As such, let’s check the dictionary. Five definitions are cited and the one that I think of when this debate comes up is as follows:
able to exist together with something else:
Yep, that’s how I think of it. Two things are compatible if they can co-exist together. They are incompatible if co-existence cannot be maintained.
The nice thing about this definition is not only does it enable communication due to its widespread usage, but it is also empirically detectable. As such, we can easily demonstrate the compatibility of religion and science with two pictures.
Is he one of those guys who supposedly burned all those hundreds of scientists at the stake? No, try again:
His name was Gregor Mendel. Actually, he was born Johann Mendel, but he took the name Gregor when he began his training as a priest.
He is also the father of modern genetics.
It is a simple, undeniable, empirical fact that a modern genetics was birthed in a monastery. And it is rather obvious to me that this fact is incompatible with the incompatibility argument. That Gnu atheists have come up with ways to explain away this fact with rationalizations tells us that their incompatibility argument is an unfalsifiable belief. Coyne personally believes, with great conviction, that science and religion are incompatible. But he has no way of knowing whether he is wrong.