Brace yourselves. The Friendly Atheist has shown us that Religion and Science are Incompatible:
Oh boy. Throughout Mehta’s four minute sermon, there is not one single original thought or argument. Instead, Mehta simple regurgitates old talking points that apparently derive largely from his slavish devotion to Sam Harris. From where I sit, it is kind of sad to see how New Atheism can intellectually cripple people. Anyway, let’s have a closer look.
Mehta:But I don’t think those two worlds are really compatible. I think if you’re a religious person and someone who accepts the scientific method, something’s gotta give.
Yes, what has to give is simple-minded, shallow thinking about science and religion. Unfortunately for Mehta, his talking points are premised on simple-minded, shallow thinking.
Whenever science succeeds, religion loses, because a gap was just filled by something other than God.
This is nonsense. When scientists discovered chromosomes, did religion lose because God was supposed to have created non-physical heritable material? When scientists discovered the double-helical nature of DNA, did religion lose because God was supposed to have used a different form? When scientists discovered that ribosomes synthesized proteins, did religion lose because angels were supposed to be making proteins? When scientists discovered the horizontal transfer of DNA among bacteria, did religion lose because God was supposed to have disallowed that? I could go on and on and on. The bottom line here is simple – the vast, vast majority of scientific discoveries have not caused any “losses” for the Christian religion. Christianity never entailed the denial of chromosomes, DNA. ribosomes, horizontal transfer, etc.
Part of the problem with this idea of NOMA is that science does have something to say about morality.
More nonsense. At this point, Mehta is referring to Sam Harris’s pseudoscience:
And, like I said, science has something to say about morality. Sam Harris wrote a whole book about it (the Moral Landscape). One of his ideas in the book is that science can show us what increases or decreases people’s pleasure and we can work to make the good stuff happen more often. I’m just exploring the surface here.
The only people who take Sam Harris’s whole book seriously are Sam Harris and his small community of devoted fans. That this thesis resonates only among such a fringe group should tell you something. That, and the simple fact that Harris has never been able to use science to resolve a single moral dilemma. Look, if there was anything other than pseudscientific posturing to Harris’s crackpot thesis, he would have used science to solve a moral problem by now. Then, scientists and philosophers everywhere would have noticed, praised him, and followed his lead. A fruitful track record of success would emerge and Mehta wouldn’t have to appeal to some 6-year old book that has been rejected by mainstream scientists and philosophers (even Jerry Coyne doesn’t buy into it!). Instead, he would point to the scientific community resolving the various moral disputes all around us. But he can’t.
And religion has plenty to say about what happened and how things happen. The magisteria overlap all the time. And they can’t both be true.
I don’t think Mehta understands what “all the time” means.
Religions make claims about the natural world all the time. Not just what happens in the afterlife, but how the world actually works.
Get ready for the same little laundry list of talking points:
Creationists do this, saying the world is only 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs and people lived at the same time, and that there was a great flood.
People who believe God performs miracles do this — they say people get healed in ways science can’t possibly explain.
These are testable claims — and they have been tested. And the religious explanations fail every time.
We know the universe isn’t 6,000 years old. The evidence for that is overwhelming.
We know intercessory prayer — when you pray for people who don’t know you’re praying for them — has no statistically significant effect on them.
We know literal miracles don’t happen; if someone’s cured of a disease, there’s either a scientific explanation for it… or, if we don’t have one, I’d bet good money we would if we just had more information.
I told you above that the vast, vast majority of scientific discoveries have not caused any “losses” for the Christian religion. You can see that I was right. When it came time for Mehta to show us the places where religion has plenty to say about what happened and how things happen and does so “all the time,” we get the same little list we always get: creationism and miraculous healings through prayer.
Now, yes, I would agree that if you are a young earth creationist, your views about origins conflict with modern science. But I am an evolutionist and see no incompatibility. As for prayers, I have previously shown the silliness of thinking that science can truly address this issue.
Okay, it took me 15 seconds to show science is not incompatible with my Christian views. Look, if you believe the Earth is 6000 years old and you believe that everytime you pray for a miracle, God will grant your wish, then yes, those beliefs are incompatible with science. But that does not mean Christianity, let alone, religion, is incompatible with science.
So what’s next?
The point is that science and religion don’t occupy these different worlds. They’re in this together.
Yes, and they entail different approaches, perspectives and points of emphasis. There isn’t a person on this planet who relies solely on science to make sense of all reality around them.
And I believe we have to choose one or the other.
No one has successfully made the case that an either/or choice is necessary. Mehta is free to believe what he wants. But if he insists on imposing this need to make some either/or choice, he will have to begin the process of justifying his belief.
Do you put your faith in evidence… or faith? The choice seems obvious to me.
Huh? If we followed Boghossian’s definitions, does this mean we are supposed to pretend to know we have evidence when we don’t know? Or pretend to know that evidence will lead us to the truth when we don’t know that? I think this is one place where Mehta confuses his talking points. Faith is always supposed to bad.
Don’t get me wrong: There are brilliant scientists who stick to science in the lab but still believe in God… they accept the evidence for evolution but believe God started the whole process. They accept the Big Bang, but say God put it all into motion. They run controlled tests in the lab… but believe in God because of a feeling they have. I think all of that is intellectually dishonest and it only gets the more devout you are with a specific religion.
So the Friendly Atheist decides to lash out at religious scientists by accusing them of being theists “because of a feeling” and being a theist makes them “intellectually dishonest.” How friendly of him. I can understand Mehta’s need to attack religious scientists, but the only intellectual dishonesty I see comes from the man who is trying make money off these baseless smears of religious scientists.
I don’t think you can actually believe Jesus was born from a virgin mother if you actually understand and accept how biology works. You can’t believe Jesus rose from the dead if you understand how death works; it doesn’t work that way.
I have long refuted this shallow-minded talking point.
- Science and the Resurrection Belief Are Not Incompatible
- More Bad Science and Bad Theology from Sam Harris
You get the idea. The idea that science and religion are truly compatible is an idea that’s well past its expiration date. You can say you believe in both, but don’t expect people to take you seriously if you do.
This part is ridiculous. There are only two groups of people who think religion and science is incompatible: a) the militant atheists of the Soviet Union and b) the New Atheists. And the Soviet atheists are no longer with us.
Mehta is oblivious to the fact that the only people who take the Science Is Incompatible with Religion claims seriously are the New Atheists. It’s the position that tags you as a militant atheist. And it’s certainly not the position of mainstream scientific organizations. Look at it this way. Jerry Coyne tried to mainstream this idea with his last book, Faith vs. Fact. Since today is the one year anniversary of the book’s publication, how did it do? Put simply, it was a flop. It was essentially ignored by the academic community just like someone might try to ignore the latest conspiracy theories of their crazy uncle at a family gathering. Among the handful of reviews it received, the only positive reviews came from Coyne’s New Atheist allies. On Amazon, it is currently ranking around 100,000, meaning it’s selling about one or two copies a day. Coyne himself is celebrating the release of the paperback version by giving two talks, one to a Humanist group and one to a FFRF meeting. One year later, instead of presenting his thesis at scientific meetings and conferences, Coyne is still preaching to the same old choir.
You get the idea. The idea that science and religion are truly incompatible is an idea that’s well past its expiration date. It should have died with the Soviet Union, but has been kept alive by Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her intellectual successors – the New Atheists. You can say you believe science and religion are incompatible, but don’t expect people outside the New Atheist Movement to take you seriously if you do.