SCIENCE AND RELIGION: Are They Compatible?
Over the past two decades, science and religion have been seeking common ground through ongoing dialogue. The contributors to this volume provide a dimension to the conversation that has seldom been heard. Most of these essays originated as papers delivered at a 2001 conference in Atlanta sponsored by the Center for Inquiry, which is committed to the use of science and reason to conduct free inquiry into all areas of human interest. The very simple thesis of the collection is that science and religion can never be compatible. Rich and suggestive essays by such well-known thinkers as Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Arthur C. Clarke range over topics from intelligent design to sociobiology and creationism. Nobel Prize–winning physicist Steven Weinberg opens the book by declaring that a dialogue between science and religion cannot be constructive, for science has made it possible for people to be not religious. Botanist Massimo Pigliucci argues that the newly popular theory of intelligent design is a kind of "neocreationism" trying to get into public school curricula by the back door. Finally, philosopher and editor Kurtz (Skeptical Odysseys, etc.) contends that science and religion are minimally compatible, for where science has provided an understanding of the vast and mysterious cosmos, religion is "dramatic existentialist poetry," a product of humankind's creative imagination designed to overcome fear and uncertainty with hope and love. Although some will dismiss most of the essays as arrogant and contentious, they nevertheless present important and provocative voices too often drowned out by the move to assert complete compatibility between science and religion. (For another view of this dialogue, see the review of By Design, by Larry Witham, on p. 69.) (Apr.)