Noma: Reconciling Science and Religion

Pictured: Stephen Jay Gould
Evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould, who was a bitter enemy of “creationism” and “intelligent design,” nonetheless proposed that science and religion can find harmony if they are separated into different spheres. He called this NOMA -- Non-Overlapping Magisteria. (Magisterium refers to a teaching authority.)

Gould would give the physical world and the issue of origins to evolutionary science while leaving the issues of morality and purpose to religion. Science deals with “empirical facts,” whereas religion deals with non-testable metaphysics. He said, “We [evolutionists] study how the heavens go, and they [religion] determine how to go to heaven.” (In reality Gould shared John Lennon’s atheistic faith that there is neither heaven nor hell.) According to this policy, religion and science are supposed to treat one another with respect but are not to interfere with the other’s “magisterium.”

This did not originate with Gould, of course. Even Darwin’s Bulldog, Thomas Huxley, left a place for “God” in his agnosticism as long as religionists didn’t interfere with science. He even proposed the publication of an edition of the Bible that taught morality but left out the miracles and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City promotes the reconciliation of science with religion. It depicts man as a product of blind Darwinian evolution, but a video presentation features some prominent evolutionists claiming that science and religion are friends. Francis Collins, for example, former director of the Human Genome Project, says, “For me, as a scientist who studies the human genome, the instruction book for our own species, without the framework of evolution to understand what we look at every day, it would make no sense. What science doesn’t do and cannot do is what the Greek philosophers called telling us what the good life is. Science doesn’t tell us what’s right or wrong. Science doesn’t tell us about good and evil. Science doesn’t tell us what the meaning and purpose of existence is. That’s what philosophy is for. That’s what religion is for and that’s what moral and ethical systems are for. I’m a scientist that believes the tools of science are the way to understand the natural world and one needs to be rigorous about that. But I’m also a believer in a personal God. I find the scientific worldview and the spiritual worldview to be entirely complementary. And I find it quite wonderful to be able to have both of those worldviews existing in my life in a given day, because each illuminates the other”

This might sound respectful toward “religion,” but in fact it is a brash repudiation of the Bible, because the Bible refuses to speak only about “religious things.” The Bible begins with the account of how the material universe was made, so it refuses to leave such things to “science.” And if the Bible is wrong about the material universe there is no reason to believe it is right about anything else and no reason to “respect” its teachings on any other subject.

NOMA has rightly been called “a gag-order masquerading as a principle of tolerance.”


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