Wednesday, November 6, 2013

More Thoughts on Non-overlapping Magisteria

From guest blogger, Will. 

In this interview, , John Haught brings up a somewhat different interpretation of NOMA than we addressed in class, so I thought it might be useful to think about it. He says that NOMA, as described by Gould, implicitly precludes religion from making claims to truth. (He also brings up the idea that since science must make certain epistemological assumptions it exhibits some form of faith, but that’s not the main focus of this post.) It seems that Haught may slightly agree with some form of NOMA but he thinks it should extend to distinguishing the methodology and the valid ways of accessing truth that are specific to the two different magisteria, not just distinguish the subject matter or area of inquiry. He explicitly states that he doesn’t accept Gould’s separation of science and faith because the results of scientific inquiry are relevant to religious discourse. In my opinion this stance seems like it could be based on a misinterpretation of Gould, since NOMA doesn’t preclude scientific findings from being interpreted religiously - in fact it was the phenomenon of the Catholic church accepting and interpreting the theory of evolution that supposedly provided the motivation for the NOMA article in the first place. In my understanding Gould merely states that empirical questions should be answered with science and no attempts should be made to answer non-empirical questions with science. Perhaps Haught disagrees with even this formulation of NOMA, but I don’t think so, since it allows for faith to, as he says, “seek understanding” rationally since such a thing does necessarily require empirical questioning.

In any case, Haught’s conception of the relationship between science and religion establishes that the scientific method is the appropriate means for scientific inquiries and faith, which he views as being more than unjustified belief and perhaps involving rational inquiry to some extent, is the appropriate means for religious inquiries. Do you think that this epistemological distinction can be justified? In other words, do you think that it is acceptable to have different definitions of how truth is accessed (and perhaps what truth is) depending on the specific area of inquiry?

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