Religion and science are like totally the same
Mark Vernon has his own special brand of wool. I do not admire it. It is too unctuous.
Is science closer to religion than is typically assumed? Is religion closer to science? Might rational enquiry, based on evidence, share similarities with faith? These questions were raised by Charles Taylor, the distinguished Canadian philosopher, speaking at a Cambridge University symposium (pdf). He suspects that in the modern world we’ve bought into an illusion, one that posits a radical split between reason and revelation. Today, given the tension and violence that arises from misunderstandings about both, is a good time to examine them again.
It is annoying, and unctuous, that Vernon doesn’t mention that that ‘symposium’ was sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. Allow me to correct his omission: that ‘symposium’ was sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. It was called ‘Faith, Rationality, and the Passions.’ It kicked off with Templeton Prize-winner Charles Taylor. It looks to have been a very templetonian symposium.
Vernon summarizes Taylor explaining that it’s all an illusion, because ‘when you examine the way science actually works you see that there’s a third factor’ which is intuition. You know what’s coming next, of course, even if you haven’t already read Jerry Coyne’s take, or indeed the Vernon article itself – you know that up next is Kuhn and the paradigm shift and normal science, and so they all are. Therefore, Vernon (apparently via Taylor) sums up, religion and science are both faith so ha.
…the neat distinction between science and religion unravels, for religion involves commitments made on faith too. You might protest: revelation purports to come from God and is untestable, two characteristics that the scientist would certainly reject. Except that regardless of its source, a revelation can only make an impact if it makes sense to people, which is to say that they test it against their lives…
Therefore, revelation really is tested, just the way science is, because people ‘test it against their lives,’ whatever the fuck that means, therefore there is no ‘neat’ distinction between science and religion, therefore we can just forget all about all this poxy modernity and reason and science and testing (except for ‘testing it against our lives,’ which is way easy and painless and you can do it while you sleep) and live happily ever after. All shall come first! All shall have prizes! Though probably not Templeton Prizes.