New Scientist has an interview with Francisco Ayala, the evolutionary geneticist who just won the Templeton Prize. I think anybody familiar with this website could fill in the answers, which are straight-up NOMA-style faitheism. For example:
You won for arguing there is no contradiction between science and religion. Many disagree.
They are two windows through which we look at the world. Religion deals with our relationship with our creator, with each other, the meaning and purpose of life, and moral values; science deals with the make-up of matter, expansion of galaxies, evolution of organisms. They deal with different ways of knowing. I feel that science is compatible with religious faith in a personal, omnipotent and benevolent God.
Some day, just some day, I’d like one of these people to describe in a bit more detail what religion helps us “know.”
Oh, and, like Ruse and other faitheists, Ayala claims that those among the faithful who see a conflict with science aren’t practicing proper religion:
And yet conflict exists. Why?
Religion and science are not properly understood by some people, Christians particularly. Some want to interpret the Bible as if it were an elementary textbook. It is a book to teach us about religious truths. At the same time, some scientists claim they can use science to prove God does not exist. Science can do nothing of the kind.
Thank you, Dr. Ayala. Now would you mind telling those millions of fundamentalists that they simply don’t understand Christianity?
On mutual respect:
You talk about mutual respect between science and religion. How can we foster this?
People of faith need better scientific education. As for scientists, I don’t know what they can do: not many argue in a rational and sustained way that religion and science are incompatible.
Au contraire: I think most of us make that argument fairly rationally, for at least we explicitly define what we mean by “compatible” (for me, compatibility would mean that religion and science have similar methods for learning about the universe).
Ayala, like Ruse, sees evolution as way to resolve the problems of theodicy:
Why do you say creationism is bad religion?
Creationism and intelligent design are not compatible with religion because they imply the designer is a bad designer, allowing cruelty and misery. Evolution explains these as a result of natural processes, in the same way we explain earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions. We don’t have to attribute them to an action of God.
This is problematic because it still leaves the big question of theodicy unanswered: why would an omnipotent and beneficent God allow the occurrence of natural disasters that kill a lot of innocent people? Note that Ayala claims that “science is compatible with religious faith in a personal, omnipotent and benevolent God”. But why would such a God choose a plan for creation that requires millions of people and creatures to suffer needlessly? If you’re religious, evolution—or the existence of “natural processes”—is not a sufficient explanation for evil or suffering. It just pushes the problem back a notch.
What do you say to people like Richard Dawkins, who argue that we don’t need religion to lead moral lives?
One can accept moral values without being religious. However, by and large, people get their moral values in association with their religion.
Well, they might say that they get their moral values in association with religion, but I really believe, with Plato, that most peoples’ morality comes from places far deeper than religion, and in fact is antecedent to religion. I would claim that in a world without faith, morality would increase, not decline. Look at atheistic Europe, for instance. But at least Ayala avers that you can be moral without faith.
I’m an atheist. Am I missing out?
No, because you can have a meaningful life without faith in God. But most people live in poverty and misery, suffering from diseases. The one thing that brings them some hope and meaning is their faith. I don’t want to take that from them.
This is a really bad argument for refraining from criticizing religion. As P.Z. has noted, none of us are boorish enough to preach atheism to our dying religious grandmothers. Indeed, religion does bring some hope and meaning: that’s why it is strongest in those societies that are most dysfunctional (e.g., the work of Gregory Paul and others). But religion is also a potent source of poverty, misery and disease (look at AIDS in Africa, for instance, or the effect of Islam on the suppression of women, or of Catholicism on the abuse of children), and by and large it’s an excuse to do nothing. Without faith, we have only ourselves to look to, and, rather than blaming God, we must realize that we have to roll up our sleeves and fix those problems ourselves.
I think that by now all of us could give these stock answers to questions about faith and science. Just adhere to and preach the following principles, and you’re on your way to a Templeton Prize!
1. Faith and science are alternative and complementary ways of knowing about the world.
2. Faith and science should respect each other.
3. Faith and science are not in conflict. If they appear to be, that’s simply because the faith is improper!
4 Faith is good because it makes us moral.
5. If there is a God, He used evolution as His means of creation, and you shouldn’t ask questions about that.
6. Atheists (especially New Atheists) should refrain from criticizing religion.