Metametameta discussion of science ‘n’ religion

Meta times 3 because commenting on Thomas Dixon’s comments on Eric MacDonald’s review of Dixon’s book. Dixon says, in reply to Eric’s reply to him, that it is becoming clear how their approaches differ.

I think the bottom line is that I’m not happy to generalise about ‘religion’ in the way that you want to, nor to treat all ‘religion’ as if it were at one, extreme end of the spectrum in terms of scriptural literalism and authoritarianism; nor to suppose that there is just one ‘paradigmatic’ singular relationship between religion and science.

The trouble with that is, for some purposes it is necessary to generalize about religion in that way. Granted, religions differ, and the word can refer to different things – but when the subject under discussion is science and religion and whether there is or is not a conflict between them, then it becomes necessary to focus on the areas where there is conflict or potential for conflict. Otherwise the real issues are simply evaded, and what’s the point of that? Apart from a public relations exercise, that is.

Believers and fans of religion like to do that, of course. There is no conflict between science and, say, liking to get together with people to sing churchy music once a week. Indeed not. But there is conflict with religion understood in other ways, and that’s what should be addressed, not the parts that pretty much everyone agrees are not in conflict. Religion-as-ritual is not the issue, so discussions of Science&Religion really aren’t about religion defined that way. The site of the conflict is epistemology, so that’s the place to discuss it.

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