USA Today: “Science and Religion Aren’t Friends” If you’re religious, science isn’t for you—and vice versa, according to evolutionary biologist (and staunch creationist critic) Jerry Coyne.
For atheist Coyne, things are looking good. “Science nibbles [away] at religion” while “America’s fastest-growing brand of belief is non-belief,” he writes in USA Today, confidently asserting that (among other things) “[w]e now know that the universe did not require a creator” (emphasis added). But religion won’t just go away quietly, Coyne laments; the so-called “New Atheists” have been met by a new generation of theists who argue that religion and science go hand in hand. His uncompromising response?
“America’s fastest-growing brand of belief is non-belief.”
I see this as bunk. Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible, and for precisely the same reason that irrationality and rationality are incompatible. They are different forms of inquiry, with only one, science, equipped to find real truth. . . . Science helps religion only by disproving its claims, while religion has nothing to add to science.
The University of Chicago biologist easily knocks down his own straw men, positing that only religious scientists “can hold two conflicting notions in their heads at the same time.” A few paragraphs later, Coyne tries to defend his argument that science and faith contradict each other by pointing out how many scientists are atheists or agnostics; however, we would point out that their worldview is a religion and that our worldview, with its starting point—God’s Word—makes more sense of the origin of the laws of logic, morality, and nature than their worldview. It is impossible to prove that there is no God, yet he easily accepts that there is no God, while claiming that in science, “No finding is deemed `true’ . . . unless it’s repeated and verified by others.”
But at the heart of Coyne’s dismissal of religion are relatively common complaints. For instance, he claims to think that the Holocaust should be enough to “make [Christians] abandon [their] beliefs in God and Jesus,” and he repeatedly references religiously motivated terrorism, implying that all religion is prone to evil. Not to worry, though; according to Coyne, atheists embrace “the same moral truths” as the religious—though he provides no explanation as to how atheists are intellectually consistent in doing so. And, as an atheist, Coyne holds to a worldview that purports to explain everything, and thus he holds to a religious belief (albeit a he’s a non-theist).
For Coyne, the ultimate problem of religion is the faith that, come what may, one’s religion is right. “I’ve never met a Christian,” he declares, “who has been able to tell me what observations about the universe would make him abandon his beliefs in God and Jesus.” (Whether that problem is necessarily generalizable to all religious views, we leave for the reader to consider.) By contrast (according to Coyne), “I can think of dozens of potential observations, for instance—one is a billion-year-old ape fossil—that would convince me that evolution didn’t happen.” But what if we responded that finding a living ape-man would disprove creation—is that criterion for falsification any less realistic than Coyne’s?
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