Jerry Coyne, Jason Rosenhouse and Chris Mooney debate evolution, religion and naturalism. Mooney:
In a recent New Republic book review, Coyne took on Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson, two scientists who reconcile science and religion in their own lives. Basically, Forrest’s point was that while Coyne may be right that there’s no good reason to believe in the supernatural, he’s very misguided about strategy. Especially when we have the religious right to worry about, why is he criticizing people like Miller and Giberson for their attempts to reconcile modern science and religion?
Let’s first dispose of one argument: Mooney and Forrest’s implicit requirement that atheists should “make nice” with their religious, evolution-accepting opponents and never, ever criticize them. Where in tarnation did this idea come from? Why are newspaper columnists, politicians, and even grant reviewers allowed to criticize the ideas of their peers, but we scientist/atheists are not? Why are we supposed to shut up and other analysts aren’t? Let’s be clear here:
1. I have never criticized an evolutionist, writer, or scholar in an ad hominem manner. My New Republic review, which Forrest and Mooney find so odious, was temperate and respectful. In fact, of all the comments I’ve gotten on this piece, none of them until now have thought it intemperate.
But then Mooney raises the following point:
In his post in response to me, Coyne remarks as follows of Dover[, Pennsylvania evolution case]:
…the progress that has been made [on evolution] is not in changing minds, but winning court cases, as in Dover. However, winning those court cases does not require that we show that science and religion are compatible. Rather, it requires showing that creationism and ID are forms of disguised religion.
Well, not exactly. Not as I read Jones’ opinion. While the latter demonstration is indeed fundamental to legal victory in a federal creationism case (due to the First Amendment’s establishment cause), the definition of science as methodological naturalism embraced here by Jones—and centrally articulated in Robert Pennock’s testimony—is also pretty integral to the logic of the ruling. And this definition inherently paves the way for a kind of reconciliation between science and religion—for as Judge Jones says, “while supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science.”
Why is this a form of compatibilism? Jones and Pennock describe science, and its “ground rule” of methodological naturalism, as an inquiry into the workings of the natural world–one assuming the existence of natural laws that we can discern, and naturalistic processes that we can measure and describe. But, they add, there science basically ends. Is there a “supernatural” that is somehow beyond or outside of nature? Science just can’t say.