As we’ve seen, Chris Mooney remarked a couple of days ago that “The fact is, journalism (and dialogue) about science and religion are pretty difficult to oppose.”
Actually they’re not. There are reasons for opposing some general enterprise of treating science and religion as necessarily connected, and there are reasons for opposing much of the product of that enterprise, too. There are also reasons for doing the opposite.
One reason for opposing the product, frankly, is that it tends to be a boring vacuous waffly waste of time. Witness the detailed blow-by-blow account by Tom Paine’s Ghost of the World Science Festival session “Faith and Science” for instance.
Check it out. It’s mostly harmless, it’s pleasant enough, but it’s at best drearily familiar, and weightless, and futile. Enterprises in squaring the circle usually are, I would guess. They don’t have anything really substantive to say, so they just discuss, in a circling inconclusive “what am I doing here” way. Mooney is probably right that there’s not much need to oppose that kind of talk with any energy (its implied messages are another matter), but it does look like a waste of time and effort.
To be sure, we hear a fair amount about theological thought here–and I have my difficulties with theology as a field, simply because of my personal identity if nothing else. Being an atheist, it is pretty hard to relate to a theological perspective on something like, say, the meaning of the doctrine of creation. Why would something like that speak to me, resonate for me, or even make sense to me?
Why indeed – but it’s not primarily a matter of personal identity. He should have talked about the “if nothing else” part – the something else is the part that counts. Atheism is not just an identity; identity should come last rather than first. People are atheists for reasons. I assume even Mooney is an atheist for reasons, although he is careful not to mention them these days. That’s perhaps one of the most distasteful aspects of his anti-atheism: his reluctance to do more than say he is an atheist – rather as a non-observant Jew might say she is a Jew. It’s as if Mooney is a non-observant atheist.
But not all of us are. Lots of us really do have reasons for our atheism, and we think the reasons matter. Treating them as beside the point or unimportant seems odd to us. And the reasons we are atheists are the reasons we think science and religion don’t go together. We think they are different, for reasons, that matter.