Wall? What wall? Do you see a wall?

Karl Giberson and Lawrence Krauss seem to see things differently. (Now there’s a surprise.) Giberson tells us that science and religion aren’t in tension at all at all.

A religious scientist functions routinely as a scientist in the lab, perhaps looking for the gene that causes hyperbole. While they are engaged in this search they believe that God is the creator. On regular occasions this scientist goes to church, where he or she sings hymns, listens to sermons, volunteers at the soup kitchen, takes communion, and puts money in the offering plate, all the while believing that the scientific picture of the world is accurate. Occasionally this religious scientist may even daydream about finding that gene for hyperbole while listening to the sermon. At no time do the co-existing mindsets conflict or create cognitive dissonance.

Well one, he doesn’t know that. He doesn’t know that about any religious scientist other than himself, and he may not know it about himself. He could be kidding himself, or forgetting, or exaggerating. And two, if the co-existing mindsets never conflict or create cognitive dissonance, then that’s a sign that the religious scientist is not thinking properly. They should conflict or create cognitive dissonance. One of them is based on evidence and inference, and the other is based on just Believing. The second is inferior to the first.

Krauss highlights this:

Consider the results of a 2009 Pew Survey: 31 percent of U.S. adults believe “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” (So much for dogs, horses or H1N1 flu.) The survey’s most enlightening aspect was its categorization of responses by levels of religious activity, which suggests that the most devout are on average least willing to accept the evidence of reality.

You see? That is cognitive dissonance, the very thing that Giberson said “the religious scientist” simply doesn’t have. Being unwilling to accept the evidence of reality is that tension. Giberson of course means that in practice he walls the two off from each other, and he does accept the evidence of reality when he’s Doing Science. But he also means that he (and others like him) simply never notice the wall. Well if they don’t they should, and Giberson can’t know that none of them do in any case.

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