Riker's Mailbox

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


"As Science, Evolution, and Creationism makes clear, the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future."
-Science, Evolution, and Creationism (2008), National Academy of Sciences (NAS)

I'm reading this study, a page at a time, between bouts of doing my actual job today. This excerpt is from the preface to the report, and I had to shake my head a little after reading it. It's that middle sentence: "Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world."

That sentence jarred me.

Now, I know the authors (who represent the entire NAS) have to perform a little political soft-shoe in their introduction, since there is unfortunately a real and significant deference to faith among our political representatives who would eventually be reading it... but that sentence was dishonest.

Let me be clear about this:

Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world like German and burping are different ways of speaking to Germans.

Science and religion are certainly different ways of thinking about the world. But religion does not help us understand anything.* In fact, religion actively hinders our understanding.

That said, I don't expect to read any more politically cautious statements in the remainer of the report; its purpose, after all, is to politely dispatch any and all faith-based concepts that might try to find their way into a public classroom. I'll write commentary on the report after I finish reading it.

Meanwhile, why don't you take some time to read my archived BLASPHEMY posts... I'm totally awesome at atheism.**

* - Well, it does help us understand one of the ways that people are susceptible to dramatic alterations of their personality and of their means of processing information ... but that's only after the application of science. Okay, fine... so I should've said 'religion helps us understand the effects of religion on the human mind.'
** - Does it come across as false modesty when I make a disclaimer about my use of false hubris?