Re: CULTURE: Dialogue Concerning (Un)Natural Religion

Date: Sat Mar 03 2001 - 16:00:34 MST

I have to admit that I did not read this whole essay closely, but I
want to comment on one point raised early on by Colin Tudge:

> Why, then, does science allow itself to be seen as the natural enemy of
> religion, and thus antagonise so many people for no good reason at all?
> ...
> But religion as a whole does not
> rest on that one piece of theology; and in general, given that religion
> is innately untestable, it remains outside the purlieus of science.
> There can be spats, but there is no mortal conflict in which to engage.

Tudge is suggesting that science is defined by testability and religion
by that which is untestable, and so there is no conflict.

However to say that religion is untestable is to say that it has no
effect in the world, that God is impotent in this life. Religion in
this view confines itself to a belief in the afterlife and in proper
moral conduct. This form of religion has no miracles, no holy men,
no prophets. Holy books are political and social documents, and the
gods and saints of the past were ordinary human beings.

Such a stripped-down view of religion may match that of a few ascetics,
but hardly corresponds to most religions that exist in the world today.
The vast majority of religious people believe in miracles, in the
efficacy of prayer, in the ability of God to affect the world. Ask them
to believe in a religion which has been pushed back to the "untestable"
level described by Tudge and you will not find many takers.

So it is no wonder that science and religion conflict; where once
religion held sway over the entire world, science has steadily pushed it
back as more of the world has come to be understood, and more phenomena
have come to be testable. Does prayer work? We can run the experiment
and find out. Can prophets predict the future? Let's do a statistical
analysis. Did Noah's flood cover the earth with water? Let's look at
the geological record.

The writing is on the wall for religion; eventually it will be reduced to
something like Zen Buddhism, a set of rituals practiced for the peace of
mind they bring. Unless, of course, some religion turns out to be true,
and God, or Allah, or whoever, steps in to protect his faithful and smite
the unbelievers. Without such intervention, science will kill religion.
Given this reality, conflict is inevitable.


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