This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Atheism could be science's contribution to religion

Atheism could be science's contribution to religion - Comments

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 1 by Laurie Fraser

More NOMA nonsense, and from Nature, of all places.

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 22:58:00 UTC | #225556

Ian's Avatar Comment 2 by Ian

I read this the other way: That the Nature editorial was NOMA and this is a timely rebuttal.

I don't see why the Templeton Foundation has the slightest relevance to science or to scientists in their work.

In fact I don't see that the foundation has the slightest relevancy to spirituality either.

Can I have $100,000 now? ;-)

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:09:00 UTC | #225559

theantitheist's Avatar Comment 3 by theantitheist

I'd disagree that this is NOMA , my understanding of that term is that Religion and Science do not 'overlap' and can be run in parrelel. This isn't saying that, it's saying that science is used to study religous effects i.e. belief in god and the wonder of the universe.

But it is saying that religion can offer nothing to the Sciences in terms of advancement. (SO Semi-NOMA??)

Hang on, now i've read Ian's and looked back at Lauries, i think i understand that Laurie was accusing Nature of the original NOMA text and that me and Ian simply read Lauries "More NOMA nonsense" as relating to the text about, which it wasn't.

My bag

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:11:00 UTC | #225560

SteveN's Avatar Comment 4 by SteveN

For those of you without access to Nature, here is the original editorial to which the letter above is replying:

When a wealthy individual seeks to leave a legacy through scientific philanthropy, researchers usually greet such generosity enthusiastically. But the death of investment mogul John Templeton marks an unusual, and notable, exception. At the time of his passing last week, Templeton had poured some US$1.5 billion into the John Templeton Foundation, which funds research at the intersection of science and spirituality. Critics have maintained that the foundation needlessly conflates science and faith, with some calling for an outright boycott of Templeton funding.

Templeton was a deeply spiritual, albeit unorthodox, individual (see page 290). He lived a life firmly rooted in the Christian traditions of modesty and charity. Yet he was also a great admirer of science, the undogmatic practice of which he believed led to intellectual humility. His love of science and his God led him to form his foundation in 1987 on the basis that a mutual dialogue might enrich the understanding of both.

This publication would turn away from religion in seeking explanations for how the world works, and believes that science is likely to go further in explaining human moral impulses than some religious people will welcome. Thus it shares a degree of suspicion with many in the scientific community at any attempt by religiously driven organizations to fund science. A chief concern is that the influential Templeton Foundation might be seeking to inject religion into the scientific world. And it is easy to understand that concern given the political activism of many American fundamentalists and their efforts to promote ideas such as intelligent design, which posits a divine hand in evolution. The foundation's most vigorous critics accuse it of attempting to lace science with spiritualism.

That claim is somewhat ironic, as Templeton himself seemed to have just the opposite in mind. He believed institutional religion to be antiquated, and hoped a dialogue with researchers might bring about advances in theological thinking. The foundation's substantial funding of science and religion departments around the world is directed towards those ends. Theologians have also used foundation money to develop and promote arguments that reconcile some of the apparent contradictions between science and religion. For those many scientists with a faith, promoting the compatibility of science with faith is a prudent and even necessary goal. Strict atheists may deplore such activities, but they can happily ignore them too.

The foundation's scientific agenda addresses 'big questions', which has sometimes resulted in work that many researchers regard as scientifically marginal. One field popular with the foundation is positive psychology, which seeks to gauge the effects of positive thinking on patients, and which critics argue has yielded little. Also heavily supported are cosmological studies into the existence of multiple universes -- a notion frequently criticized for lying at the edge of falsifiability. The concern is that such research has been unduly elevated by the foundation's backing. But whatever one thinks of positive psychology and the like, the foundation's support has not taken anything away from conventional funding. And in the field of cosmology at least, it has arguably yielded some new and interesting ideas.

The foundation's management now falls chiefly to Templeton's son, John M. Templeton Jr, whose Christian beliefs are reportedly much more conventional than his father's. A critical scrutiny of the foundation's scientific influence continues to be warranted, and no scientific organization should accept sums of money so large that its mission could be perceived as being swayed by religious or spiritual considerations. But critics' total opposition to the Templeton Foundation's unusual mix of science and spirituality is unwarranted.

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:16:00 UTC | #225561

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 5 by Richard Dawkins

I presume that Laurie Fraser's NOMA criticism was directed against the Nature Editorial, not against Cobb and Coyne's letter of response? It would be helpful if critics could make the target of their criticism clear, to avoid misunderstanding.

There's a lively and almost entirely positive discussion of this letter over at Pharyngula.


Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:22:00 UTC | #225562

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 6 by Diacanu

*Smirking sardonically, arms crossed, leaning on the nearest door-frame*

Tch, tch, tch, scolded by the big boss, Laurie.

I'm quite possibly the foulest most offensive poster here, and I haven't managed that yet.

...wait, what am I even doing in this thread getting on the Dawk's radar?

*Runs like Hell*

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:32:00 UTC | #225565

SteveN's Avatar Comment 7 by SteveN

I personally have always disliked and distrusted the Templeton Foundation and I think that Nature did a disservice to science by publishing the editorial as it did. The TF's efforts to promote 'research at the intersection of science and spirituality' implies that spirituality is a real area of investigation distinct from science. Throwing money at religion/spirituality in an attempt to give it scientific credibility is, I feel, deluded at best. I was therefore disappointed by Nature's editorial when it first appeared and applaud Cobb and Coyne's direct and forthright letter.



Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:38:00 UTC | #225567

critica's Avatar Comment 8 by critica

Sigh..... The problem is that whenever religion plays on the arena of rationality it has to lose. Stay off the field and try not to get noticed would be the best advice I can give - then religion can NOMA to its heart's content (though hopefully reason won't...).

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:39:00 UTC | #225568

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 9 by Diacanu

Diacanu's mom-
*Lifts serving tray lid to reveal a turd*
Would you like some bullshit with your science, sweetie?

Diacanu- No, ma!

*Whole thread groans and boos*

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:41:00 UTC | #225571

Raiko's Avatar Comment 10 by Raiko

I would give neither of the letters any NOMA-label at all. Anything that involves speaking out for or against the Templeton Foundation can't possibly be in the "NOMA"-field.

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:42:00 UTC | #225572

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 11 by Diacanu


Didn't you used to be Mitchell Gilks or something?

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 23:50:00 UTC | #225574

Sargeist's Avatar Comment 12 by Sargeist

I think Raiko and Mitchell are different people, who both happen to appreciate lady love.

In reality, the only contribution that science can make to the ideas of religion is atheism.

I find this sentence to be slightly ambiguous. I interpret it as meaning that science will lead people to atheism, and hence destroy religion. But it could also be read as being more like: "Science will only inform atheism, and it can say nothing about religion because science and religion are about different things."

In fact, I thought Laurie was referring to this sort of interpretation, which is not a hard thing to get from it. It is only because of the authors' names and Richard's approval of the article that I am confident that it is critical of NOMA.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 00:28:00 UTC | #225579

Vaal's Avatar Comment 13 by Vaal

In reality, the only contribution that science can make to the ideas of religion is atheism

Absolutely! The whole point of science is to describe the world without invoking the supernatural.

Every new discovery is a death-knell to religion, with the religious back-tracking to try and find another gap to fill with a supernatural agent. Why do you think there is such bitter opposition to evolution from the more religiously credulous, as it topples mankind from their privileged position in the Universe.

How many times have we heard, "I am not an animal". Well, yes you ARE you credulous fool, whether you believe it, or not.

EDIT: Thanks Laurie. Fixed.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 00:37:00 UTC | #225581

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 14 by Laurie Fraser

Comment #238294 by Richard Dawkins

Thanks, Richard - yes, my criticism was directed towards Nature. Sorry if I was ambiguous, other posters.

Edit - Vaal, you've left your bold on.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 00:42:00 UTC | #225584

SteveN's Avatar Comment 15 by SteveN

Sargeist said:

It is only because of the authors' names and Richard's approval of the article that I am confident that it is critical of NOMA.
Don't forget that the Templeton foundation has been, in effect, trying to do away with the idea of NOMA, sponsoring as it has the scientific investigation of religious beliefs. I dislike both NOMA and 'research at the intersection of science and spirituality' because both assume that there is such a thing as spirituality/religion that is partly or wholly distinct from scientific investigation. As I have said before, science does indeed have the potential to explain everything, including those areas of human experience usually considered the domain of religion and spirituality. My Venn diagram would not have two distinct (NOMA) or partially overlapping (Templeton Foundation) circles but instead would be comprised of a (very small) circle (spirituality/religion) contained within one big one (science).

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 00:48:00 UTC | #225588

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 16 by Dhamma

Laurie, I assume you edited the post, because I can't see why one would misinterpret it.

I wish this forum would display if someone's edited their posts or not, as it would clear up a lot of confusion.

Anyway, the article was spot-on. They made it quite clear religion and science can never co-exist peacefully.

If the bible is supposedly HOLY, then how can any single aspect of it be incorrect? A book inspired by an omnipotent and omniscient God, would never allow a single flaw, yet Christians today need to "interpret" everything in it in order to comply with their deluded beliefs. The creation took six days, and the days can NOT be symbolic for the evolution.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 01:03:00 UTC | #225591

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 17 by Laurie Fraser

Hi Dhamma - no, I didn't edit it. I think some people thought I was accusing the letter-writers of endorsing NOMA, when I naturally assumed people would realise I was talking about the editorial itself.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 01:10:00 UTC | #225594

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 18 by Dr. Strangegod

I thought your meaning was clear, Laurie.

Quite nice rebuttal. Succinct enough to just copy and paste anytime a NOMA argument comes up.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 01:19:00 UTC | #225597

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 19 by Dhamma

Well, I'm with you Laurie :)

You guys did really well in the Olympics, by the way! Which is the least one could say about Sweden.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 01:24:00 UTC | #225598

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 20 by Peacebeuponme

There's a lively and almost entirely positive discussion of this letter over at Pharyngula.
Well, we best start one there then. Don't want to let the side down...

I must say I did like this quote
The same is true of religion's poor cousin, 'spirituality', which you slip into your Editorial rather as a creationist uses 'intelligent design'.
The Nature article paints a somewhat different picture of John Templeton and the Foundation from what I've read from Richard and others. Does the Foundation actively push a theist/christian agenda, or simply "fund research at the intersection of science and spirituality"? As the letter writers note, such research, if properly conceived and carried out, could be useful.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 01:28:00 UTC | #225599

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 21 by Richard Dawkins

Well, we best start one there then. Don't want to let the side down...

Did you mean 'there' or 'here'?

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 01:46:00 UTC | #225604

Angels On a Pin Head's Avatar Comment 22 by Angels On a Pin Head

I'm rather fond of NOMA myself. But then the question we have to ask is then "what are the magisteria of science and of religion?". I tentatively propose the following:

Science: REALITY.
Religion: Everything else.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 02:00:00 UTC | #225613

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 23 by Peacebeuponme


Did you mean 'there' or 'here'?
Yes. A great start to fostering lively debate...

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 02:04:00 UTC | #225615

jaydon64's Avatar Comment 24 by jaydon64

a very impressive rebuttal, short and straight to the point, 'do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few'- Pythagoras

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 02:05:00 UTC | #225616

Jay Cee's Avatar Comment 25 by Jay Cee

16. Comment #238325 by Dhamma

Anyway, the article was spot-on. They made it quite clear religion and science can never co-exist peacefully.

I took the opposite reading Dhamma. I think the article is clearly NOMA.

But critics' total opposition to the Templeton Foundation's unusual mix of science and spirituality is unwarranted.

I am disapponited in Nature.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 02:10:00 UTC | #225619

Jay Cee's Avatar Comment 26 by Jay Cee

22. Comment #238347 by Angels On a Pin Head on August 28, 2008 at 3:00 am

I'm rather fond of NOMA myself. But then the question we have to ask is then "what are the magisteria of science and of religion?". I tentatively propose the following:

Science: REALITY.
Religion: Everything else

I assume you are joking. There isn't an "everything else" I'm afraid.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 02:13:00 UTC | #225620

Jay Cee's Avatar Comment 27 by Jay Cee

"Atheism could be science's contribution to religion"

This doesn't make any sense. Does it mean atheism is damaging religion? Like a negative contribution? Or does it mean that science is creating the religion of atheism ? What a terrible sentence.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 02:16:00 UTC | #225622

Mark Till's Avatar Comment 28 by Mark Till

Great letter.

There is a fundamental conflict here, one that can never be reconciled until all religions cease making claims about the nature of reality.

Direct hit. Give those men a coconut!

NOMA would only work if religions were the equivalent of The Lord of the Rings - stories about another hypothetical universe, far, far away...

But as soon as you make claims about this universe (that it was the work of an intelligent designer, that God intervenes in material affairs, that such-and-such a miracle happened in such-and-such year) then I'm afraid we have a big overlap.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 02:29:00 UTC | #225627

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 29 by Dhamma

Never seen a thread with such a magnitude of confusion.

Jamcam87: I don't want to be offensive, but if it's not me being very confused right now, I'm pretty certain you were wrong in all three of your posts.

When it comes to my post, I apparently need to make it clear I was referring to the rebuttal at the top of the page, and not the editorial in Nature. The rebuttal is not NOMA, at all.

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 02:31:00 UTC | #225629

Wosret's Avatar Comment 30 by Wosret

11. Comment #238307 by Diacanu

No, I used to be, Mitchell Gilks, I'm currently, Mitchell Gilks, and if all goes well, in the future I will continue to be, Mitchell Gilks. (Though technically I've actually only been "Mitchell Gilks" for about four years. I changed my name when I was twenty.) I did use that same picture as an avatar, minus the animation, at one point though. It was ages ago however, and I believe it was before Raiko was even a member. Personally I think she is crazy to cut out the rest of the picture. It is a beautiful picture. Natsuki and Shizuru, one of my favorite couples.

23. Comment #238349 by Peacebeuponme

Lol...dude, you can't answer a multiple choice question with "yes"...

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 02:32:00 UTC | #225630