Monday, December 14, 2009

Non-overlapping magisteria

Last Thursday I posted some thoughts about science and religion, and several people contacted me saying that there were good ideas there. When this happens, it often means that someone else has already said it and said it better. Nick, in a comment, pointed me to the idea of Non-overlapping magisteria, and rather than try to explain it myself, I'll just give an extract from Wikipedia:

"Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that "science and religion do not glower at each other...[but] interdigitate in patterns of complex fingering, and at every fractal scale of self-similarity."[1] He suggests, with examples, that "NOMA enjoys strong and fully explicit support, even from the primary cultural stereotypes of hard-line traditionalism" and that it is "a sound position of general consensus, established by long struggle among people of goodwill in both magisteria.

Gould's separate magisteria

In his book Rocks of Ages (1999), Gould put forward what he described as "a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to ... the supposed conflict between science and religion."[1] He defines the term magisterium as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution"[1] and the NOMA principle is "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."[1]

In a speech before the American Institute of Biological Sciences Gould also stressed the political reasons for adopting NOMA as well, stating "the reason why we support that position is that it happens to be right, logically. But we should also be aware that it is very practical as well if we want to prevail." Gould argued that if indeed the polling data was correct—and that 80 to 90% of Americans believe in a supreme being, and such a belief is misunderstood to be at odds with evolution—then "we have to keep stressing that religion is a different matter, and science is not in any sense opposed to it," otherwise "we're not going to get very far.""

Thanks Nick!

1 comment:

Nick said...

haha, now I am a blog celebrity.

"Basks in glory for all of two seconds before going back to Optical Engineering finals study"

Thanks Professor