You are completely missing the point. Nobody is saying that religion and science are incompatible, of course they are – both are activities. Theism and metaphysical naturalism certainly are incompatible. This is where the confusion comes in. Religion and metaphysical naturalism are not in tension if one, for example, sees religion and its claims as metaphors; as most academic theologians and a majority of those in the science and religion field do. In effect by advocating for various versions of religious non-realism compatibility and a degree of intellectual honesty can be achieved. A few examples from some quite well-known religious scientists:
Theodosius Dobzhansky saw no conflict with his religion and evolutionary biology because, as Francisco Ayala pointed out in his obituary “Theodosius was a religious man but he held no traditional beliefs; no personal God; no after life; no bodily resurrection and no miracles….”.
Revd. Professor Michael Reiss explaining his religion in “The Times” newspaper
“But Reiss finds that religion helps him to make sense of the world, to place it in an overall framework. Where is the evidence for a God? “The evidence is not the sort of evidence that stands up for a scientist,” he states. “It’s not scientific evidence. It’s more what one might call inference.” I tell him that it sounds like instinct, or intuition. Non-believers like me have that too; and in any case, hasn’t science revealed that instinct is simply the brain working very, very quickly? His view is that a scientific worldview does not automatically invalidate a religious one.
“I’m extremely comfortable with the idea of scientific explanations for instincts and intuition, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those instincts and intuitions are mistaken. Our physiological perception of a sunset, using rods and cones, doesn’t take away from the beauty of a sunset. You can have beauty and science, in the same way you can have religion and science, or moral philosophy and science. There’s no clash between them, in my view.”
His conviction that science and religion can co-exist is symbolized neatly on the front cover of a book, Teaching about Scientific Origins: Taking Account of Creationism , that he co-wrote with the American educator Leslie Jones: it features a Christian cross encircled by the DNA double helix, with a primate sitting to one side.
“But nor do I think I see sunsets any more beautifully than Harry Kroto does, just because I have religious faith,” Reiss adds quickly. “One might see things differently, but religious belief doesn’t make you a morally better person, a nicer person, a wiser person or anything like that.” While he finds militant atheists wearing, it is still the religious fundamentalists, with their agenda of hate and terror, who cause him most despair.
For some people, belief in a God — for which, by his own admission, there is no scientific evidence — is akin to believing in fairies or astrology. Does he find that offensive? “No, I am not offended,” he smiles. “Astrology claims to be a science, in which the positions of planets influence things. Those claims can be tested objectively and refuted. Good religion doesn’t make those sorts of scientific claims so it’s in a different category.
“The thing about belief in fairies and Father Christmas is that we grow out of them. It’s clear that religion is pretty different, in that there are not millions of highly intelligent, well-functioning people who believe in fairies and spend many hours each week devoted to persuading other people to believe in fairies. One might just be able to erect an argument that they are on a spectrum of belief, and that there’s some thread that connects them, but, at the very least, they are orders of magnitude apart.”
And he lines up another analogy: the importance of religion to believers is a bit like the importance of music to others. While music structures the lives of some, for others it is incidental. His work as an education researcher — he has never taught RE — is all about getting the music-lover (the believer) and the musically deaf (the non-believer) to understand a little of where the other is coming from”
Religion is non-propositional and non-cognitive – it cannot clash with metaphysical naturalism. Remember this a world-class academic placing religion in the “not even wrong box”. He is also president of the International Society for Science and Religion.
Dennis Alexander director former director of the Faraday Centre in Cambridge points out “There is no incompatibility between science and religion as we at Faraday we ignore the truth claims of religion”.
Prof Nicholas Lash “I believe in God but I don’t think that he exists”.
Revd Giles Frazier when asked if he believed that God exists replied “I believe in doing God”.
I could add scores of more example but I think that the above statements are pretty standard. You can be a follower of Islam Judaism, Christianity and still be a metaphysical naturalist – this is exactly the position that most intelligent/sophisticated religionists take.
Even worse is that a vast majority of scientists at the elite level are solid in their belief and acceptance of metaphysical naturalism; well over 90% in both the NAS and The Royal Society.
Books like the one discussed seems to ignore these facts, just because a minority of, usually minor, scientists hold some type of realist religious belief – it does not make them rational scientist/believers. A textbook example is Raymond Damadian who has made, probably, the greatest individual contributions to MRI is a YEC. This belief probably cost him a Nobel Prize but he can’t be a rational scientist-believer, As Harry Kroto member of The Royal Society, Nobel Prize winner and Knight Bachelor points out, you cannot hold science and religious belief rationally, or with integrity. The only way you can hold religion and science together is too hold the religious part in a non-realist manner. Of course I am not saying that religious believers hold such extreme views as Damadain but all religious beliefs are either wrong or as Reiss says above, religious beliefs are “in a different category” so not even wrong.
I don’t hold to the methodological/metaphysical naturalism distinction as it only becomes an issue in the science/religion talk and politics. Methodological naturalism does not entail metaphysical naturalism, but as a methodology combined with an argument from authority (weakish I know) and all the evidence we have – metaphysical naturalism is the only intellectually acceptable description of the world. God might be a reality but no one has epistemological grounds for believing in one. This is all that Peaceful Science can mean - religious community and the hard facts of science with no miracles, spirits, resurrections and almost certainly no God.