thu7dec2006—49w341d93%— 08h09m00s—0utc

If there was one fragment from Richard Dawkins’s Why There Almost Certainly Is No God that startled me, and that has continued to do so for over a week, is this counterfactual.

[Stephen Jay] Gould claimed that science and true religion never come into conflict because they exist in completely separate dimensions of discourse:

To say it for all my colleagues and for the umpteenth millionth time (from college bull sessions to learned treatises): science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists.

This sounds terrific, right up until you give it a moment’s thought. You then realize that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science. A universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference..

To see the disingenuous hypocrisy of religious people who embrace NOMA [‘non-overlapping magisteria’, Gould’s “argument”], imagine that forensic archeologists, by some unlikely set of circumstances, discovered DNA evidence demonstrating that Jesus was born of a virgin mother and had no father. If NOMA enthusiasts were sincere, they should dismiss the archeologists’ DNA out of hand: “Irrelevant. Scientific evidence has no bearing on theological questions. Wrong magisterium.” Does anyone seriously imagine that they would say anything remotely like that? You can bet your boots that not just the fundamentalists but every professor of theology and every bishop in the land would trumpet the archeological evidence to the skies.

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