Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible by Jerry A. Coyne
BL 240.3 .C69 2015
“The last five hundred years have seen monumental conflicts between science and faith, from Galileo’s sentence to lifetime house arrest in 1632 over his claim of a Sun-centered solar system to the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial,” the titanic clash between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan over whether a high-school teacher could tell his students that humans had evolved (the jury said no). Schoolteachers in 2015 are still battling to teach evolution; long-conquered childhood diseases are reappearing because of religious objections to inoculation; despite legal victories, there are still vicious battles over abortion, assisted suicide, and homosexuality; and scientists fearing for their federal funding (controlled by climate-change-denying congressional committees) cling to “accommodationism” as a refuge – can’t we just tolerate each other’s beliefs and get along that way?
Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne could not be clearer: his answer is “Absolutely not.” Science and religion are incompatible because they have different methods for getting knowledge about reality, have different ways of assessing the reliability of that knowledge, and, in the end, arrive at conflicting conclusions about the universe. “Knowledge” acquired by religion is at odds not only with scientific knowledge but with that professed by other religions. In the end, religion’s methods, unlike those of science, are useless for understanding reality.
Using the clear-eyed, rational methodology of a world-class scientist, Coyne dismantles every claim to explaining the physical world, and the life in it, that religion proposes, from Genesis on. While science relies on observation, reason, testing, and experiment, methods that have led to tremendous progress, religion’s methods are based on faith – belief in things for which there is no evidence, insufficient evidence, or even counter-evidence – as well as on dogma, authority, and “confirmation bias,” the tendency to see as true what you want to be true. Coyne irrefutably demonstrates the grave harm – to individuals and to our planet – in mistaking faith for fact in making the most important decisions about the world we live in.”
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