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Inferior minds are causing the divide between religion and science

According to Marylinne Robinson, the war between religion and science has been caused by inferior minds on both sides. Robinson made this argument during her recent guest appearance on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, in which they discussed her new book The Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self and the growing divide between religion and science. Robinson argues (correctly) that this is a relatively recent development and she also argues that good science and good religion should be seen as partners rather than competitors.

And, since she’s a Pulitzer prize-winning novelist, it should come as no surprise that the interview came with some great lines. My favorites were:

  • “I don’t think that it’s scientific to proceed from the study of ants to a conclusion about the nature of the cosmos.”
  • “It’s the quality of the science and the quality of religion that determines the nature of the conversation.”
  • And, in a line that only she could pull off successfully, “The gladiators for both sides are, I think, inferior representatives of both sides.”

The one criticism I have is that she referred at one point to the idea that both science and religion press beyond the borders of knowledge and that this is where there is room for the two to meet. At the very least this seems to continue the framework of consigning religion to the realm of “whatever can’t be addressed by science.” That puts science in the driver’s seat and has led to the steady marginalization of religion over the last couple of centuries.

Overall, though, this is a great interview and well worth investing five minutes on.

Update: PZ Myers offers a response to this interview from a secular perspective. He sums it up as “Jon Stewart, you let me down.” The comments on this one are worth perusing if you can stand it for more than a few minutes. They give good insight into how a whole spectrum of society thinks about religion and science issues. (HT)


Flotsam and jetsam (6/8)