We last did a version of this topic in 2014, led by Carl and Jim Z. If I recall correctly, we talked about the “New Atheism.” This is a moniker given to a group of scientists and public intellectuals that, starting in the late 1990s I think, took a very hard line in opposition to all religious faith. In books like The God Delusion and The End of Faith, New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and others declared that science and religion are simply incompatible.
The New Atheists – and most atheists I know – say that religion is irrational and un-empirical, a remnant from a pre-scientific time and the source of way too many human miseries. I think the conventional wisdom is that this movement was spurred to action by Islamic extremism and/or the U.S. religious Right. I have included in this week’s optional readings an article by Harris (“Science Must Destroy Religion” – Tell us what you really think), and a debate between Dawkins and another scientist who is a Christian and advocates mutual respect.
I’m not so sure that faith and science are incompatible. But, I’m also not sure how best for Civilized Conversation to approach the matter. Not my area of expertise. I’ve got lots of questions though. Do science and religion inhabit two different realms? Are they answering different types of questions – or is there only one type of question or evidence, that of materialism and natural phenomena? Is religion inherently magical; i.e., supernatural and thus only accessible by faith? Is science the only way to truly know the world – or our fellow humans? Really? If faith is irrelevant, why has it lasted long past the emergence of a scientific age?
Deep. I’ll skip the opening lecture thing on Monday evening and just ask for people to open our discussion with whatever is on their minds. Just remember the “Civilized” part.
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
- Some good links at our 2014 mtg on this subject (none are repeated below).
Are Religion and Science Compatible, Y/N?
- No, they are not. No, because religious faith is unsupportable in the modern world.
- New Atheist Sam Harris: Science must destroy religion.
- Wrong. Religion and science can coexist, says this Catholic POV. The two have more in common than you think.
- Let’s move beyond this stale debate.
- Or, let’s wallow in it: Richard Dawkins debates Francis Collins in Time Magazine. .
- Are humans hard-wired to prefer either religious or scientific explanations of the natural world but not both?
- Are we all predisposed to believe in God because of our childhood?
- [I may add more links in defense of faith later this weekend.]
Next Week (Sept 19): Raise/Don’t Raise the Minimum Wage.