non-overlapping magisteria, Rhetoric of

29 March 2007

The quote is old, but I was only recently exposed to it. Steven Weinberg at a 1999 debate about science and religion said “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

Try, try really, really hard not do debate the substance of the quote. Instead, consider our validation (or perhaps reverence would be more accurate) for the expertise here. Why is someone who has absolutely not devoted his life to studying religion qualified to hold forth on it.

Perhaps my question could be framed thusly: what does Desmond Tutu have to say about the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, and how would it be received?

People with strong scientific credentials are allowed to dismiss religion glibly, but anyone without scientific credentials–no matter whether they are otherwise accorded or not–are not allowed to dismiss science. Leaving aside the disciplines themselves, there is an interesting question about how our society determines and values intelligence.

Science doesn’t always recognize good work when it sees it, after all. And religion is now fair game for economists?



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