Historically, scientist have suffered persecution at the hands of religion and throughout the Middle Ages progress in the sciences was thwarted by religious beliefs. Even today, Christian fundamentalist fight against the teaching of basic scientific facts in schools while in some Muslim countries people are threatened for having such beliefs. Taking the larger picture however, it is clear that rationality is triumphing and the Catholic doctrine of NOMA is a perfect example of this. Whereas in the middle ages, the Catholics tortured and imprisoned scientist (and many others) for having contrary views, they have now retreated far, far away into safe obscurity. With NOMA, they have formally relinquished all rights to disagree with science, thus ceding much of the intellectual territory for which they viciously fought for centuries. The only question is, ‘Have Catholics been utterly defeated, or have the merely retreated?’.
At first, the acceptance of something like NOMA would seem to be a fatal blow to any religion. Once you’ve accepted that science is correct, what is their left for religion to do? The purview of science is, by definition, all observable phenomenon. If science has the final word on all observable phenomenon, then what is the proper magisteria of religion? Clearly, it must be unobservable phenomenon. Even if we accept this as a proper magisteria then there is still a problem. Religious leaders need a way of defining and communicating what it is that they are talking about. This necessarily involves reference to external, objective, observable phenomenon. Thus, there seems to be no way for religion to avoid defining their concepts in terms of scientific concepts. In this case, all religious claims should revert back to scientific claims, over which science has ultimate authority. Thus, it appears that their retreat has not led them to safe ground, it has merely bought them breathing room and temporarily sated some religious skeptics.