A first glance at the issue may indicate that there is no conflict between science and religion. They work in different areas of human reality, and do not infringe on each other. But as is often the case, a first glance does not tell the whole story. To tell the whole story, we have to take a closer look at the activities of scientists and the claims of religious people. When we do, we shall find reason for rejecting the claim that there is no conflict between two areas of human activity.
Even though a sizable minority of (mostly very religious) women oppose abortion choice[i], the overwhelming majority of anti-choice voices in power (in our pulpits, media and political machines) have always been voices that will never have to experience an unwanted pregnancy — powerful male voices — voices from cardinals, bishops, priests, televangelists and ministers — voices from U.S. congressmen and state assemblymen.
Every year in the U.S. over three million unintended pregnancies occur. About 1.3 million end in abortions. But with emergency contraceptive pills (EC) taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex the number of unintended pregnancies might actually be cut in half. Thus, the widespread easy availability of EC could constitute one of the most important advances in birth control in the last 40 years. Yet, there remains strong religious opposition to EC, mostly from the Roman Catholic Church.
Contrary to the “hunger for perfection,” I agree with the many biologists, historians, and political scientists who deny that the idea of perfection as an absolute by which we evaluate human knowledge has any place in our natural, social world and can at best serve only as a limiting concept.
Whenever I hear this point raised by some theologian, or a theistic philosopher, or any apologist for the theistic line I’m reminded of an episode from “The Simpsons” in which young Bart is confronted with some mischief that points to him as the perpetrator. He makes a series of exclamations of diminishing innocence.
In 1988, a survey was reported involving more than 2000 college students on 41 campuses across the country.[i] About 40% of these students (62% in Texas from a different survey[ii]) said they believed that human life originated in the Garden of Eden in the last 10,000 years, and that the worldwide flood described in Genesis was literally true, and that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time.
House of Representatives passed the Ten Commandments (10C) Defense Act Amendment by a vote of 248 to 180. This act called for the 10C to be posted in every public school room, courtroom and government building across our nation.[i] Supporters in Congress claimed that “God’s Laws” formed the basis of the American legal system. . .Yet, posting the 10C is a really bad idea, unless our goal is a medieval Christian theocracy.
A conflict of global importance exists today between two fundamentally different views of morality and even of reality, itself. One view is supported by several hundred years of solid scientific discoveries, rational critical thought, comparative religious studies, and humanistic ethics. The other view is based on narrow inflexible interpretations of ancient religious texts. The United States with its Christian Right and their medieval faith-based agenda is a disquieting anomaly in the present industrialized world — an anomaly that wishes to turn the clock back and undo not only the scientific and democratic revolutions of our time, but also to repeal the Enlightenment.
A few centuries ago, physical evidence for an all-powerful God seemed everywhere in the Western world. After all, how else could one explain the existence of our bountiful Earth at the center of an awe-inspiring cosmos, with planets and stars circling Earth in perfect God-like circles? . . Then came modern science and over the last 400 years essentially all of the “proofs” for God’s existence turned out either to be false or to have quite natural explanations. All of the relevant scientific evidence—from astrophysics, to our evolution, to the biochemistry of life, strongly supported the thesis that there never were any gods in the first place, . .
Many believers in God are offended by the mere statement of non-belief. Many believers in a supernatural being look on the contrary statement of non-belief as a threat, an insult, and even an “outrage.” Why is this so?