Non-Overlapping Magisteria?: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Evolution, Religion, and Intelligent Design

Harvard Biologist Stephen J. Gould’s “non-overlapping magisteria” argument presented by the AAAS:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to Non-Overlapping Magisteria?: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Evolution, Religion, and Intelligent Design

  1. Ken says:

    Do you find Gould’s argument about nonoverlapping magisteria convincing?

    I have read about his argument, but have not read his book. My impression is that it is probably not convincing because science and religion do overlap. It is hard to hold that they do not.

    In my own conversations with people about evolution and theology, my impression is that the way people generally manage to believe in both God and evolution involves some degree of skepticism towards (or incomplete understanding of) the argument that natural selection is sufficient to explain the origin of species.

  2. santitafarella says:

    Ken,

    Like you, I personally find the “overlapping magisteria” argument, if not dubious, at least questionable—but I thought the video is worth seeing, so I posted it.

    I think very highly of Gould and his books (perhaps because they are so “literary”).

    I also think that scientists have to, as a practical matter, do a song and dance of the sort depicted in the video so that the public doesn’t develop an equation of science with Dawkins-like atheism or agnosticism.

    Beyond keeping creationism out of the public schools, money is at stake—the funding for projects etc.

    As for natural selection as “sufficient to explain the origin of species,” I’m not sure why that should be a reason to do away with God. Maybe God set out a mechanism, in advance, that works in accord with the laws of nature, to produce complex organisms (“be fruitful and multiply”).

    It’s just an awfully bloody and violent mechanism, isn’t it?

    It all always seems to come back to the problem of mass death and suffering.

  3. Ken says:

    Hearing that Gould’s writing is literary makes me want to read his work.

    I think you explanation of the reason for the video makes sense. Believing that natural selection is sufficient to explain the origin of species does not in itself lead to harsh criticism of religion, nor even, in the minds of many, to atheism.

    Although I think you are right that one can believe in God and evolution by believing that evolution is a mechanism set out by God, I think that evolution (meaning origin of the species through natural selection) can be understood as a nonreligious view of the world, interpreting the word “religion” as many religion scholars have, including Frazer, Freud, Marx as well as Otto and Eliade. (Personally, I am most sympathetic to Eliade’s interpretation. It seems fair to say that the view that natural selection is sufficient to explain the origin of species is a nonreligious view of things as he uses the word religion.)

    As you have written here, I think what makes almost all of us shudder is the suffering and death that marks the struggle for life at the heart of natural selection, of which each of us is a survivor, temporarily.

  4. santitafarella says:

    ken,

    nobody gets out alive.

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