Coyne Says Religion and Science Incompatible?


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #1

Well according to Coyne - Faith and Science aren’t compatible and can’t be compatible. He wrote a whole book on it. He mentions Biologos in his book. I am clearly in Coyne’s camp in this regard that Christian Faith and Science can’t be made compatible without gutting the fundamental tenets of Christian Faith - A&E, global flood genocide, virgin birth, resurrections, life after death.


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(Daniel Ang) #2

Yeah, I read parts of Coyne’s book (I even used an excerpt for a philosophy club discussion that I led on campus). I have never scrutinized Coyne’s thought very closely, but I wasn’t very impressed (and neither were any of the agnostics/atheists in the discussion group). About a week ago I commented on a different thread pointing out that even after writing a whole book against religion and blogging about it for a long time, Coyne straight out misunderstood, or failed to pick up basic parts of Christian theology that Craig was referring to. Little slip-ups like these really undermine Coyne’s ability to cogently critique religion. It’s similar to if someone critiqued “relativity” without knowing the difference between special and general relativity. Basically, Coyne’s views on religion and science are philosophically very simplistic, and his thesis of simple incompatibility is more or less falsified by the existence of numerous scientists who are seriously religious.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

Coyne is a an excellent evolutionary biologist, frankly much better than Dawkins. He does not know much about the Christian faith. I’d trust him on evolution. No reason to trust him on theology. I honestly see no conflict between my faith and science.

What ever is going on in his book, he is a well respected scientist doing good work.

And that is my point to. He does not really seem to understand Christianity, and why should he any ways? And likewise, how could he know if Christianit and science are compatible?


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #4

Note that Coyne see an incompatibilities of all faiths with science not just Christian faith. Do you think that Coyne needs to be an expert on Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism to be able to make a general claim that all faiths are incompatible with science?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

For that claim to have any weight I’d think he would have to have some expertise on this. Any one can claim that A is compatible with B, but if they do not know much about B, why should we believe them?


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #6

Coyne may have enough based on his experiences with Christians but I don’t think it is important to know every nuance of every denomination of Christianity. I don’t know how important it is to know whether the Bible was inspired directly by God to the Bible writers as something different that being inspired by God to believe in him for today’s Christians.


(Daniel Ang) #7

Even though being Christian entails some tenets of Hinduism must be false, I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable writing a book-length critique of Hinduism without first researching the religion thoroughly. Similarly, one cannot critique physics or science without being aware of all its advances in the last century. No major scholarly subject relies on a single chain of reasoning such that it all falls down if you critique one major plank of it. This would be like someone who claims that special relativity is false because they claim to poke holes in Einstein’s 1905 paper, or the Michelson-Morley experiment. Even if they had some good points, relativity has embedded itself so deeply into physics that there has to be something in it that is true. Or someone who claims to disprove evolution by attacking Darwin’s Origin.

Coyne was confused about the Bible being an inspiring book for Christians and the Bible being divinely inspired. These are two very different uses of the word “inspire” - in one, the Bible is the subject, in the other, it is the object. The divine inspiration of the Bible is a doctrine believed by the majority of Christian denominations, even more mainstream liberal ones. It is not a very esoteric, subtle theological issue. If Coyne is this ignorant about Christianity, which is supposed to be the religion he knows best (I recall in the past he even committed to reading some theological books), then he is just not cut out to be a serious critic of religion.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8

I think we can all agree that many versions of Christianity are incompatible with evolutionary science.

I think we can all agree that many inconsistent and compromised versions of Christianity are compatible with evolutionary science.

What many people have yet to encounter is a version of Christianity with integrity that is compatible with evolutionary science. I think I’m an example of at least one version of Christianity in this category. It just takes one example to falsify the claim.

If the goal is to promote science in society, this is good news. If the goal is to war with religion, even when it is a positive force, then this is bad news.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #9

I was brought up Roman Catholic and I never heard the term inspired referring to the Bible. Roman Catholics don’t have this idolatry of the Bible like Evangelistic Christians do.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #10

Hehe, @patrick you are funny. The doctrine of inspiration is not idolatry. Other things are, but not that.


(Daniel Ang) #11

Catholics absolutely do believe in the inspiration of Scripture. (The details and mechanism of that inspiration as viewed by Catholics vs. Protestants are subtler points.) In fact, Protestants sometimes mistakenly attack Catholics on the basis that they don’t have a sufficiently reverent view of Scripture, even though that is not at all true.


(Ashwin S) #12

What does science have to say about the ressurection, the virgin birth or life after death?
The attitude that science answers these questions is ill informed.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #13

I’d also point out that:

  1. We’ve demonstrated here how a a literal account of Adam and Eve is consistent with the evidence.

  2. A global flood is not a central tenet of the faith.


(Ashwin S) #14

Which is why I did not mention it in my list to Patrick.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #15

What am I doing. Why am I discussing theology with a Physics Grad Student? I must be losing it. Dan, please tell me something new in Physics that you learned recently.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #16

Pretty much nothing as there is no evidence or data to support such claims.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #17

Einstein talked about theology too. A mark of many great scientists is that they think about greater things. Creative thinkers make great scientists, and they often dabble in other fields. @dga471 is training with the best of the best at Harvard. Maybe you are just dreaming with the next great physicist?


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #18
  1. Still got the talking snake problem.
  2. That’s good as a pilgrimage to Ark Encounter Mecca is not going to be required?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #19

Once gain you are being silly. Even YEC’s don’t believe it was a talking snake. Remember, Genesis was not written in English. News flash, right?


(Daniel Ang) #20

Exactly, Patrick. There is no relevant scientific data that is accessible right now. As miraculous events like the resurrection are one-off events that don’t have any traceable effects on the natural world, science cannot prove nor disprove it. The only thing we can rely on is historical evidence, which is a different debate entirely - something that is not the territory of a scientist.