Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Tad More on Science and Religion

Just to remind you: the piece, below mentioned: http://www.tnr.com/booksarts/story.html?id=1e3851a3-bdf7-438a-ac2a-a5e381a70472

An email:

"...Itzik,

Thanks for the essay, I had skimmed it, since I have never thought anything else, and while I did not recognize all the equivocations it has always seemed obvious to me that one could not believe, logically, in a God anything like the usual kind, and science. At one time, therefore, I believed that religion was slowly done for, and it has been most dismaying that this obvious nonsense maintains a powerful hold on all sorts of people. That very smart, highly educated people believe it is the most dismaying fact of all.

I am teaching Paradise Lost, and while the theology is silly, the psychology is very good.

I have also been waging a little battle against efforts to make literary study Darwinian, because there is a distinction between shaping and passing down artistic traditions (which I think literary study does) and finding out how the world works causally, an entirely different matter. If I haven't shown you this stuff I'll send it along if you are interested.

Roger.."

My response:

"...Roger,

A standard argument for the coexistence of science and religion was given by Stephen Jay Gould, amongst others, that they simply occupy different realms: one—if I can put it this way—the *public* realm of science; the other, the private realm of faith. I think Coyne makes a pretty good hash of this by observing this explanation is trivial. He says what Gould says amounts to saying someone married can still commit adultery. The two can co-exist, but they are, given the general meaning of marriage, irreconcilably at odds with each other. So I agree with you that one cannot consistently be religious and be a scientist or committed to the principles of science. Another way of understanding that inconsistency is the idea of miracles. They undo science, destroy it, but are a necessary condition of religion.

I don’t entirely understand this, though I think I have a glimmering: “I have also been waging a little battle against efforts to make literary study Darwinian, because there is a distinction between shaping and passing down artistic traditions (which I think literary study does) and finding out how the world works causally, an entirely different matter”. From my glimmering, I wouldn’t have thought “Darwinian” literary studies would have been the province of English Departments, and are not really literary studies as such, but are, rather, an inquiry into literature and its making and functioning from "external" perspectives ; the latter could be, if my glimmering has any light, provinces of say Psychology Departments or Sociology and Anthropology Departments. I’d be interested to see what you have written.

Itzik

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