Before you raise the “separate magisteria” and “different-ways-of-knowing-about-the-world” arguments for the inherent compatibility of faith and science, have a gander at this article from the Telegraph. The Taliban are preventing children in Pakistan from getting polio vaccine. If this isn’t a direct confrontation between science and faith, I don’t know what is. o.k., Drs. Polkinghorne and Haught, deal with this. Polio vaccine is proven to work: it’s one of the most effective vaccines around. Scientific research has shown this. The faithful reject it on religious grounds. Children will die or become paralyzed in the name of Islam.
Miliants in northern Pakistan have triggered a medical emergency by refusing to allow health officials to conduct a polio vaccination campaign.
Taliban militants in the former tourist destination of Swat Valley have obstructed officials from vaccinating over 300,000 children.
Militants have seized control of most of Swat and its capital, Mingora, and have extended their rule since striking a peace deal with the government and army earlier this year.
“There is a real emergency there. It is urgent to go in and vaccinate children,” said Dr Nima Abid, the Polio Team leader from the World Health Organisation in Pakistan.
Extremist clerics have used mosque loudspeakers and illegal radio stations to spread the idea that the vaccinations cause infertility and are part of a US-sponsored anti-Muslim plot.
Dr Abid said that militants have not allowed polio vaccinations to take place at a critical time.
“Polio vaccination is effective in first three months of the year when virus transmission is lowest and so there is no interference with the vaccine virus,” said Dr Abid.
“Wait,” you say. “Western religions don’t do that kind of stuff.” Two (oxymoronic) words: Christian Science.
NB: To the reader who responded “I don’t think anyone – even Gould – would deny that it is possible to understand religion and science as in conflict with one another. Gould’s point with NOMA, and Haught and Polkinghorne and Barbour and others with their view of a potential for positive interaction, is that other relationships are possible, and preferable.”
Try telling the Taliban, Christian Scientists, or other believers in spiritual healing that it is “preferable” for them to give up their faith.
19 thoughts on “No conflict between science and faith? Think again.”
The Taliban are special fuckwads.
If Allah wills that children should have polio – so be it.
Sickening, just sickening. And wait, when polio does reappear, it will be the fault of the infidels.
I often think that when we battle the religious mindset in the US, we are really gearing up for the real fight – our rationalism has yet made little inroads on vast parts of the world.
I don’t think anyone – even Gould – would deny that it is possible to understand religion and science as in conflict with one another. Gould’s point with NOMA, and Haught and Polkinghorne and Barbour and others with their view of a potential for positive interaction, is that other relationships are possible, and preferable.
Our fundies would be just as bad if we weren’t there to moderate them.
Science and religion can be in conflict, such as we see here, but you keep confusing what it means that science and religion should remain separate. Comments such as; “supernatural phenomena are not completely beyond the realm of science” helps illustrate the point. Science says nothing in what the Taliban do; scientist and the rest of us do though. The boundary between the two does have areas where there is obvious interaction, but let’s stop confusing what is understood about science. What the religious are doing in these circumstances is wrong, and it is in conflict with scientific evidence, there is a distinct moral argument to be made and should be made. Saying that does not suddenly open science up to claims that “supernatural phenomena” are somehow within its purview. I have long been disturbed by stories such as this, but it does not help to create illusions that “supernaturalism” can be part of science, or that this reflects that “supernatural” beliefs are scientific and are affecting the science. The questions raised here fall on moral grounds, deliberate and honest ignorance, and the disturbing beliefs and behaviors of humans who can contain contradictory notions in their minds. The battle is not between science and religion; it is between scientific evidences and the religious beliefs and behaviors, in this way we are all responsible in some way to speak out for rational resolutions. This is obviously not to say all ideas or opinions (beliefs etc.) are the same, it is only the recognition that science is the study of natural phenomena and “supernatural” beliefs have no part in the process.
The Taliban are special fuckwads
While this has a certain truth to it, the important lesson to be learned here has absolutely nothing to do with Islam in particular. It has everything to do with the end results of dogma (religious or otherwise) that claims its own “special” priority on knowledge – knowledge that can’t be empirically shown to those who don’t “believe”.
If a Texas school board can subvert teaching factual material to students, this is another crime, albeit of a different magnitude. It’s a crime of omission rather than the more obvious Taliban crime of commission. If thousands of Pakistani children were to contract Polio, we could judge fairly precisely the result of the crime. How do we judge the end results, perhaps decades away, of children not being properly educated? It could be more devastating than several thousand deaths. There is no way of knowing.
But there is every reason for vocally opposing the entrance of dogmatic beliefs anywhere in the public sector.
An “anti-Muslim plot” indeed. But (per a recent account) it’s an entirely different story when it involves Viagra for the elders.
This is the same hysterical mumbo-jumbo the polio vaccine people came up against in parts of Africa not long ago.
I wouldn’t necessarily say it is preferable for them to ‘give up their faith’ (depending what you mean by that). I would (and do, frequently) tell them that they ought to change their views on this subject – as I did.
‘Wait,” you say. “Western religions don’t do that kind of stuff.” Two (oxymoronic) words: Christian Science.’
Oxymoron, eh?. What about Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, Francis Bacon and the founder members of the Royal Society; Issac Newton, Charles Lyell, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, Sir Arthur Eddington and lets not forget R A Fisher. I suppose we will hear the usual lie that their religion had nothing to do with their science.
I should add in addendum to that, I’m not seeking to have a go or anything so apologies for the terseness. I enjoy reading both this blog and PZ’s. I just don’t see why you have to have a go at the moderates the whole time. We are supposed to be on the same side (more or less)
I’m lost here. Isn’t the Pope doing this exact same thing right now in Africa telling everybody not to use condoms to prevent AIDS?
Lord Kitchener – you could have named a whole lot more “great minds” through history who have been religious. The problem to me, is that their religiousness in no way proves the truth of any religious dogma. I only wonder at how great much greater a guy like Newton would have been, had he not wasted a significant portion of his life on religious mysticism.
As far as being on the same side, I consider you such if you have “faith” but don’t claim to have any special knowledge of what god is or what his laws are. The problem with “moderates” is that their very presence on the landscape makes it difficult to tell the more fanatical that they are wrong in their faith. Hey, you’re all just making it up as you go along, so why are you right and them wrong?
Anybody watched Apocalypse Now? Yeah, I know it’s fictional, but the story in there about the Vietcong reaction to vaccination didn’t strike any you as puzzling because of the lack of a religious motivation, did it? The Taliban are religious, yes, but I am surprised everyone is overlooking the political aspect of this. I’m sure you’ve all tired of hearing about the Tamil Tigers whenever jihadists are brought up, but they bear out the relevant point that you don’t need relgious explanations when you have political ones.
Lord Kitchener’s list of “christian scientists”, and the myriad others one can find bruited about on the internet, would perhaps have more impact if they included more late 19th and 20th century scientists of note. It is just silly to cite a scientist as Christian when that status was a given in the culture.
Well well. Lets stick with the original list since you cite it as deficient. The definition of ‘late 19th century’ I would take to include the 1860s and 70s when James Clerk Maxwell made some of his most important contributions in Electromagnetism and Colour analysis. In the 20th century I had both Eddington and R A Fisher. That’s 3 out of a list of 9 and I was going for a spread across the centuries. I could of course, have included people like Max Planck and Theodosius Dobzhansky.
It really would be a bold hypothesis to state that their religious faith played no part in their lives and was nothing but a label imposed upon them by society. Good luck with that.
“To the reader who responded ‘I don’t think anyone – even Gould – would deny that it is possible to understand religion and science as in conflict with one another. Gould’s point with NOMA, and Haught and Polkinghorne and Barbour and others with their view of a potential for positive interaction, is that other relationships are possible, and preferable.’
“Try telling the Taliban, Christian Scientists, or other believers in spiritual healing that it is ‘preferable’ for them to give up their faith.”
Truly, why would anyone assume that a conflict in certain cases demands an overall conflict and a conflict in every case? That’s monumentally silly. By the same reasoning, science itself would be rejected because of its misuse by the eugenics movement. Moreover, one needn’t rely solely upon religion as an irrational basis for opposing vaccinations. Look no further than Bill Maher….
there is a good article on this subject available at: https://www.examiner.com/x-11491-Syracuse-Political-Buzz-Examiner~y2009m5d21-Invested-in-ignorance-How-many-religious-arguments-are-dangerous-to-society