Francisco Ayala 'falou e disse': a religião não tem nada a ver com a ciência e vice-versa

sábado, maio 29, 2010

Religion has nothing to do with science – and vice versa

Scientists like Richard Dawkins say the universe has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, but these things are not the business of science, says geneticist Francisco J. Ayala. They are the exclusive preserve of religion.

By the same token, religion should not make assertions about the natural world that are contrary to science. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters

Are religion and science incompatible?

Some scientists assert that valid knowledge can only come from science. They hold that religious beliefs are the remains of pre-scientific explanations of the world and amount to nothing more than superstition.

On the other side, some people of faith believe that science conveys a materialistic view of the world that denies the existence of any reality outside the material world. Science, they think, is incompatible with their religious faith.

I contend that both – scientists denying religion and believers rejecting science – are wrong. Science and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction. If they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters.

The scope of science is the world of nature: the reality that is observed, directly or indirectly, by our senses. Science advances explanations about the natural world, explanations that are accepted or rejected by observation and experiment.

Outside the world of nature, however, science has no authority, no statements to make, no business whatsoever taking one position or another. Science has nothing decisive to say about values, whether economic, aesthetic or moral; nothing to say about the meaning of life or its purpose.

Science has nothing to say, either, about religious beliefs, except when these beliefs transcend the proper scope of religion and make assertions about the natural world that contradict scientific knowledge. Such statements cannot be true.

People of faith need not be troubled that science is materialistic. The materialism of science asserts its limits, not its universality. The methods and scope of science remain within the world of matter. It cannot make assertions beyond that world.

Science transcends cultural, political and religious beliefs because it has nothing to say about these subjects. That science is not constrained by cultural or religious differences is one of its great virtues. It does not transcend these differences by denying them or taking one position rather than another. It transcends cultural, political and religious convictions because these matters are none of its business.

Some scientists deny that there can be valid knowledge about values or about the meaning and purpose of the world and of human life. The biologist Richard Dawkins explicitly denies design, purpose and values.

In River out of Eden, he writes:

"The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference."

William Provine, a historian of science, asserts that there are no absolute principles of any sort. He believes modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws, no absolute guiding principles for human society.

There is a monumental contradiction in these assertions. If its commitment to naturalism does not allow science to derive values, meaning or purposes from scientific knowledge, it surely does not allow it, either, to deny their existence.

In its publication Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, [1] the US National Academy of Sciences emphatically asserts that religion and science answer different questions about the world:

"Whether there is a purpose to the universe or a purpose for human existence are not questions for science."

The academy adds:

"Consequently, many people including many scientists, hold strong religious beliefs and simultaneously accept the occurrence of evolution."

Science as a mode of inquiry into the nature of the universe has been immensely successful and of great technological and economic consequence. The US Office of Management and Budget has estimated that 50% of all economic growth in the US since the second world war can be directly attributed to scientific knowledge and technical advances.

The technology derived from scientific knowledge pervades our lives: the high-rise buildings of our cities, throughways and long-span bridges, rockets that take men and women into outer space, telephones that provide instant communication across continents, computers that perform complex calculations in millionths of a second, vaccines and drugs that keep pathogens at bay, gene therapies that replace DNA in defective cells.

These remarkable achievements bear witness to the validity of the scientific knowledge from which they originated.

People of faith should stand in awe of the wondrous achievements of science. But they should not be troubled that science may deny their religious beliefs.

Nor should people of faith transgress the proper boundaries of religion by making assertions about the natural world that are contrary to scientific knowledge. Religion concerns the meaning and purpose of the world and human life, the proper relation of people to their Creator and to each other, the moral values that inspire and govern their lives.

Science, on the other hand, concerns the processes that account for the natural world: how the planets move, the composition of matter and the atmosphere, the origin and function of organisms.

Religion has nothing definitive to say about these natural processes: nothing about the causes of tsunamis or earthquakes or why volcanic eruptions occur, or why there are droughts that ruin farmers' crops. The explanation of these processes belongs to science. It is a categorical mistake to seek their explanation in religious beliefs or sacred texts.

Read more here/Leia mais aqui: The Guardian


[1] Esta e algumas outras publicações da National Academy Press podem ser baixadas gratuitamente para habitantes do Terceiro Mundo e de países emergentes como o Brazil. Basta inscrever-se. 2.8 MB