May 28, 2012
Many religious people claim that religion and science are compatible. This raises the question, what do we mean by compatible? A person may hold both science and religion in high regard, but this tells us nothing about their values as ideas. People can and do hold plenty of contradictory beliefs. Where some people turn solely to philosophy to tell us whether religion and science are compatible, physicist and author Victor Stenger took a broader view in his new book, God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion. As you can imagine from the title, things do not go well for the compatibility argument. In a sweeping historical survey that begins with ancient Greek science and proceeds through the Renaissance and Enlightenment to contemporary advances in physics and cosmology, Stenger makes a convincing case that Christianity held back the progress of science for one thousand years. It is significant, he notes, that the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century occurred only after the revolts against established ecclesiastic authorities in the Renaissance and Reformation opened up new avenues of thought. The author goes on to detail how religion and science are fundamentally incompatible in several areas: the origin of the universe and its physical parameters, the origin of complexity, holism versus reductionism, the nature of mind and consciousness, and the source of morality. In the end, Stenger is most troubled by the negative influence that organized religion often exerts on politics and society. He points out antiscientific attitudes embedded in popular religion that are being used to suppress scientific results on issues of global importance, such as overpopulation and environmental degradation. When religion fosters disrespect for science, it threatens the generations of humanity that will follow ours. Join us this Sunday as Dr. Stenger joins us to talk about his book.