Jerry Coyne on faith and science

In the most recent New Republic, biologist Jerry Coyne has a lengthy review of two recent books by Christians who argue that science and Christianity are compatible, and finds them both unpersuasive:

True, there are religious scientists and Darwinian churchgoers. But this does not mean that faith and science are compatible, except in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind. (It is like saying that marriage and adultery are compatible because some married people are adulterers. ) It is also true that some of the tensions disappear when the literal reading of the Bible is renounced, as it is by all but the most primitive of JudeoChristian sensibilities. But tension remains. The real question is whether there is a philosophical incompatibility between religion and science. Does the empirical nature of science contradict the revelatory nature of faith? Are the gaps between them so great that the two institutions must be considered essentially antagonistic? The incessant stream of books dealing with this question suggests that the answer is not straightforward.

. . .

And so we have Karl Giberson and Kenneth Miller, theistic scientists and engaging writers, both demolishing what they see as a false reconciliation–the theory of intelligent design–and offering their own solutions. Giberson is a professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College, a Christian school, and has written three books on the tension between science and religion. He is the former editor of Science and Spirit, a magazine published by the Templeton Foundation. (Saving Darwin was also financed by Templeton.) Kenneth Miller, a cell biologist at Brown University, is one of the most ardent and articulate defenders of evolution against creationism. He is also an observant Catholic. Miller’s new book, Only a Theory, is an update of Finding Darwin’s God. Both books offer not only a withering critique of intelligent design, but also a search for God in the evolutionary process.

Together, Saving Darwin and Only a Theory provide an edifying summary of the tenets and the flaws of modern creationism, the former dealing mainly with its history and the latter with its specious claims. If these books stopped there, they would raise a valuable alarm about the dangers facing American science and culture. But in the end their sincere but tortuous efforts to find the hand of God in evolution lead them to solutions that are barely distinguishable from the creationism that they deplore.

Read it all here. After you read the full review, let us know what you think.

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