Addressing questions is one thing, answering them is another

One of the places we’ve seen this claim that science has nothing to say about God or other religious beliefs lately is in the article about Francisco Ayala in the Times after he won the Templeton Prize.

Professor Ayala…won the prize for his contribution to the question “Does scientific knowledge contradict religious belief?”…[Ayala] says science and religion cannot be in contradiction because they address different questions. It is only when either subject oversteps its boundary, as he believes is the case with Professor Dawkins, that a contradiction arises, he said.

That’s a recipe for epistemic chaos. We can’t have hermetically sealed ways of “addressing” questions – not if we want to get things right. Ways of addressing questions have to be consistent with each other, at least. The claim that science and religion address different questions only works if you admit that religion – when it comes to addressing questions – is simply a branch of fiction. This means you’re admitting that religion doesn’t really address questions at all, if “address questions” is taken to mean raising questions in the hope of answering them.

You can’t do both. You can’t say that they’re radically different, and still maintain that religion does anything other than raise questions only for the sake of giving answers that don’t have to meet any criteria.

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