Oh, how I wish that Stephen Jay Gould were still alive! Not only would we have a huge additional corpus of writing about evolution and other topics (although Gould’s writing got less readable and more baroque as he aged), but I’d also be able to tease him about NOMA, his untentable notion that religion and science are compatible because they comprise “non-overlapping magisteria.”
NOMA, as most of you surely know, was laid out in Gould’s 1999 book Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. I reviewed that book (negatively) for the Times Literary Supplement, but I can’t find the review online. At any rate, Gould claimed that religion’s sphere was to discuss and adjuciate meaning, morals, purpose, and values, and to stay the hell away from claims about the natural world. Science, on the other hand, deals explicitly with the natural world, and, according to Gould, should stay away from religion’s bailiwick.
You’ll immediately recognize the two big problems with this thesis—and I’m surprised Gould didn’t. First, there’s a long tradition of secular and philosophical analysis of “meaning, morals, and values,” and, in fact, those areas give better answers than do religion. Secular philosophy, for instance, doesn’t decree it immoral to have sex before marriage, divorce your spouse, or allow women to drive. (Gould really did appear to construe all analysis of values and purpose as “religious.”)
Second, religion simply can’t keep its mitts off the natural world or the cosmos, for it’s constantly making statements about the way things are. With the exception of obscurantist theologians like David Bentley Hart, religion makes truth claims about heaven, hell, divine beings, the veracity of scripture, the occurrence of miracles, and so on. In fact, it is on those grounds that theologians and religious scientists have criticized NOMA, and these include folks like John Haught and Ian Hutchinson.
And, of course, creationism is a huge intrusion of religion into the magisterium of science. But Gould insulated himself in advance from that criticism by claiming that creationist faiths weren’t “proper” religions. By defining “proper” religions as those not making existence claims about the cosmos, Gould at once made his NOMA a tautology, as well as informing billions of believers whose faith rests on existence claims that their religions weren’t “proper.”
This is all a long-winded introduction to this video, presented by Right Wing Watch, showing Matthew Hagee, executive pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Pastor Hagee presents a perfect violation of NOMA by claiming that if science conflicts with God’s word, the science must be wrong. In this case the “science” is global warming, which Hagee claims is not man-made, but a harbinger of Jesus’s return.
A partial transcription from RWW:
Matthew Hagee kicked off this week’s “Hagee Hotline” by informing his viewers that in situations where “men are saying things that contradict God’s word, God’s word is accurate and men are wrong” … and that is why Christians should not believe in climate change.
As Hagee explained, the views put forth by scientists and experts on any subject are not to be believed if those views are at odds with what the Bible teaches. As such, the extreme weather events that the climate has been experiencing are not the result of climate change but are rather signs of the End Times and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
“The Bible says that whenever we approach the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Hagee explained, “that there would be strange weather patterns. Jesus said this in Matthew the twenty-fifth chapter. So we have a decision to make: do we believe what an environmentalist group says and choose to live in a world where we’re attempting to make everything as clean in the air as possible, or do we believe what the Bible says, that these things were going to happen and that rather than try to clean up all of the air and solve all of the problems of the world by eliminating factories, we should start to tell people about Jesus Christ who is to return?”
In other words, forget cap and trade, forget trying to clean up the planet and forestall our planet’s imminent human-caused degeneration. Jesus will set it right—and the Good News is that he’s on his way!
h/t: Miss May