Religion and Politics… and Science


Carlin_ReligionIn my 1999 book How We Believe I outlined a three-tiered taxonomy of the relationship of science and religion: (1) the Conflicting-Worlds Model holds that science and religion are in a struggle to determine the truth, in which one is right and the other wrong; (2) the Same-Worlds Model contends that science and religion are two equally valid ways of examining reality; and (3) the Separate-Worlds Model argues that each tradition inhabits different domains of knowledge—facts and values—and rarely the twain shall meet. For years I held and defended the Separate-Worlds Model while acknowledging that there are some areas of conflicts; if you believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, for example, your belief is in direct conflict with the geologically dated age of 4.6 billion years.

By Michael ShermerCATO Unbound

More and more, however, I see science and religion in conflict, not only in such factual questions about nature (growing by the year as the sphere of science expands into the ether of religious tenets), but in moral matters as well. In my next book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, I argue that morals and values can be established and defended through science and reason. Inspired by Galileo and Newton, Enlightenment thinkers consciously applied the methods of science to solve social, political, economic, and moral problems. The experimental methods and analytical reasoning of science created the modern world of liberal democracies, civil rights and civil liberties, equal justice under the law, free minds and free markets, and prosperity the likes of which no human society in history has ever enjoyed. I claim that we owe this salubrious state of affairs primarily to science and reason—and most emphatically not to religion—and thus I am inclined to join the Classical Liberal position in Kevin Vallier’s instructive four-tiered taxonomy (Libertarian, Religious Conservative, Secular Progressive, and Classical Liberal), albeit for reasons that differ from his.

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