"The idea of Non-overlapping Magisteria proposes to separate science from religion, with each to govern independently in their respective domains. Science gets the what and why, while religion gets meaning and value. (See also fact-value distinction.) The idea is opposed by those who see God as the Author of science (see Creationism).
It is an apologetic put forward by liberal evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould.  Gould described NOMA as "a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to ... the supposed conflict between science and religion."
Magisterium is defined as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution" and the NOMA principle is "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."
This theory is demonstrably faulty because it is obvious that the intelligent design of the universe would leave behind perceptible evidence allowing the existence of God to be inferred without reference to faith.
Furthermore the NOMA principle would directly contradict Biblical evidence of miracles which if observable by scientists would be demonstrably true.
To embrace NOMA would be to consign the entirety of scripture to metaphor and storytelling.
That SJG got tired of eating plum jam on his breakfast rolls and had a lot of conversations with both priests and scientists back at a 1984 "Nuclear Winter" conference introduces the reader to his presentation of Nonoverlapping aka Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) which was printed up in Natural History in March of 1997 and also viewable on his blog/archive. Gould was a proponent of the concept that Christianity and Evolution are concepts that can go together like, er, jam on a biscuit, whereas most devoted Darwinists would completely reject Christianity and any Christians who accept Darwinism haven't looked closely at either Christianity or Darwinism, one. Naturally, he remembered concerned priests wondering if they should worry about the creationist movement that was growing in popularity in the States. But he assured them that creationism was no worry to their Catholic faith nor to science and then proceeded to completely mis-characterize what creationism actually is by a narrow and inaccurate definition.
Gould's article did allow him to candidly admit that Darwinism has not been proved to be true even as he weighed in on the official Catholic position as presented by John Paul that grudgingly allowed for an acceptance of evolution. I did have some empathy for him, as he remembered recalled his reaction to the news that fellow conference and good friend Carl Sagan had passed away:
"The days I spent with Carl in Rome were the best of our friendship. We delighted in walking around the Eternal City, feasting on its history and architecture--and its food! Carl took special delight in the anonymity that he still enjoyed in a nation that had not yet aired Cosmos, the greatest media work in popular science of all time. I dedicate this essay to his memory. Carl also shared my personal suspicion about the nonexistence of souls--but I cannot think of a better reason for hoping we are wrong than the prospect of spending eternity roaming the cosmos in friendship and conversation with this wonderful soul."
I would have like to have extended my faith to both Sagan and Gould. The sad-but-truth is that once someone has died he has lost his ability to make decisions. It is also true that those who harden their hearts continually and decidedly (Proverbs 29:1) will most definitely be destroyed. Unfortunately for such people destruction is not an extinction but instead is a perpetual punishment and separation from God. No languid journeys through the cosmos for Carl Sagan, sadly or for Gould. But Gould did leave us with a fantastic quote which I do truly wish he would have applied to himself more carefully:
"Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny — and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do)." — Stephen Jay Gould
SJG did occasionally disagree with the herd but was basically a Darwinist. Here is a Darwinist who is saying that science and religion exist in entirely different realms? The irony is that Darwinism consists primarily of a belief system unsupported by tests or concrete evidence. How is it that Gould didn't test the concept of macroevolution and find it lacking? Didn't he understand his own worldview? He was certainly a brilliant man and so there is no lack of capacity to reason. Yet his concept of NOMA is terribly flawed.
Science is one thing and Faith is another? Is there a dividing line between the two? If there is, which one is based in reality and which in fantasy? I mean, if you do not exist in the same sphere then there must needs be another sphere. Right? If we all are part of one reality, then it is not possible for science to say one thing and faith to say a different thing and both of them to be right. There is only one right answer to a math problem, for instance. You can say the same thing several ways but 2 and 8 fourths are both two. You cannot have a scientist say that 1 + 1 = 3 while a pastor says 1 + 1 = 2 and be satisfied with the result. One of them must be wrong.
“The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries. Wherever we go exploring in the world around us, we find mysteries. Our planet is covered by continents and oceans whose origin we cannot explain.... The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence of human consciousness. We have no clear idea how the electrical discharges occurring in nerve cells in our brains are connected with our feelings and desires and actions.”
— Freeman Dyson, “How We Know,” New York Review of Books, March 10, 2011.(hat tip cre-evo)
Some people look at the world and see all the questions. Frankly becoming a Christian doesn't put an end to questions but rather changes the questions themselves. If you know the Bible, then you know why and when (from our perspective anyway) and in what order God created the Universe...but how is another matter. Most of the great scientists pre-Darwin believed that God created the Universe and in fact Darwinism, while born in the 19th Century did not really become popular with the majority of academics and scientists and philosophers until part-way through the 20th Century. It took a great deal of propagandizing to convince the majority that Darwin was right.
All manner of questions about how the Universe works have driven scientists to test and study and observe and suppose for many centuries and Christians have been at the forefront of science since before the printing press was invented. Yet some will tell me that there is a reality in which my faith belongs but there is an entirely separate reality in which science rules and, for instance, the idea that God created is simply not considered at all?
How is it that Darwinists (my general term for naturalistic materialistic evolutionists) can be so dogmatic about science in general and Neo-Darwinist Evolution in particular when there is frankly no proof that it has ever happened, but rather a collection of suppositions and just-so stories told over and over again like a meditative chant? How is it, then, that so many of them blithely comment that "Christianity and Evolution do not conflict" when asked by the average Christian and yet gleefully savage the concept of God in the insular world of Darwinist blogs?
Any number of critical comments could be made, but frankly it would appear that Darwinists seek to keep the masses chanting their propaganda and turn their heads from time to time to mollify the odd Christian who shows up just to see if it makes him join the chant. If not, then the cordial tone turns quickly adversarial and even vicious and hateful...ask any professor denied tenure or professional relieved of duties for the "crime" of being a "Christian" or an "ID Proponent." Consider the case of David Coppedge, or Martin Gaskell...well, actually, some of those who have been attacked and demoted and/or fired have come out on top in the end:
Breaking, breaking: University of Kentucky Pays “potentially evangelical” astronomer $100, 000 settlement
University of Kentucky Pays $100,000+ to Settle Gaskell Discrimination LawsuitFor more, go here.
According to news articles, the University of Kentucky (UK) has settled the discrimination lawsuit filed against it by Martin Gaskell, an astronomer who was denied a job due to his perceived doubts about neo-Darwinian evolution. The case was scheduled to go to trial on February 8th, but today counsel for both sides filed a joint motion to dismiss the case pursuant to the settlement. According to the Associated Press:
The university has agreed to pay $125,000 to Martin Gaskell in exchange for Gaskell dropping a federal religious discrimination suit. Gaskell claimed he was passed over to be director of UK's MacAdam Student Observatory in 2007 because of his religion and statements that were perceived to be critical of evolution.
Court exhibits showed Gaskell was a top candidate, but some professors called him "something close to a creationist" and "potentially evangelical" in e-mails.
Gaskell was represented by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which said:
"The standard of suspicion -- rightly described as a 'McCarthyism of the Left' by one UK professor -- applied by some to Gaskell because of his religious writings and statements should have no place in universities of all places," Manion added. "The ease with which some of the people involved in this process were willing to tar Gaskell with the labels of 'scientific creationist,' 'evolution-basher,' and other pejoratives based on half-remembered hearsay and extremely selective reading of his non-professional writings was truly disturbing to witness. We can only hope that this case will send a message throughout academia that religious intolerance is just as unlawful as other forms of prejudice and bias."
Interesting: In general, the astronomers haven’t done too badly out of the Darwin troll attacks. Guillermo Gonzalez got a new observatory and Martin Gaskell got a nice (unintended) sendoff.
Will the University of Kentucky be adding the cost of Darwin troll maintenance to their budget soon?
Frankly I am delighted that Guillermo Gonzalez has come out okay after the brutal treatment he received at the hands of Iowa State University. The work he did with Jay Richards to produce The Privileged Planet alone is one of those must-see DVD experiences and he has been quoted by Lee Strobel and made an appearance in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that detailed his mistreatment at ISU.
But back to the discussion. Is there a disconnect between the secular and the sacred? Are we not beings that live in the world and think in the world and also pray or choose to pray not in the same world under the same sun? Am I transported to a different reality when I am reading the Bible than the one in which I read a technical publication? The answer is no. We do not see reality or morality shift into another dimension when we enter into a church. In fact both faith and science belong to the same realm - philosophy. When someone is awarded a doctorate, what is it actually but a PhD?
"Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated PhD, for the Latin philosophiæ doctor, meaning "teacher of philosophy", is an advanced academic degree awarded by universities. ..."
I would say that no, there isn't a natural divide between the sacred and the secular. No matter what field of study you engage in, worldview is at the foundation of that study. Whether you are a Doctor of Divinity or Physics the word "Philosophy" is in the title. Philosophy defined then?
- doctrine: a belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school
- the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics
- any personal belief about how to live or how to deal with a situation; "self-indulgence was his only philosophy"; "my father's philosophy of child-rearing was to let mother do it"
- Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. ...
So frankly all disciplines must be based upon a foundation, a starting point, a worldview. So the question of whether both science and faith/religion share the same reality is incorrect. Every single person has a worldview which is the basis for what they believe and it is integral to all of what they believe about life and science and God or notgod and the origin of the Universe and so on and so forth. A Christian who is actually an adherent to Christianity will reject Darwinism and a Darwinist who carefully considers the matter will reject Christ.
This is not just about preferences. If you are a socialist, then you are not a big fan of free enterprise and capitalism and individual liberties. If you are a fan of liberty and capitalism and free enterprise, you will be against establishing and governing from the point of view of the "collective." If you believe in love and marriage you will likely get married at some point. If you dislike the tradition of marriage you will not do it. But these things are not generally a matter for scientific research.
In science, one starts with a worldview but one must be willing to test and consider that worldview in lieu of the best evidence available. Can you be willing to change your mind if the evidence leads you to places your fundamental beliefs cannot go? That is a fundamental question and that question illustrates how very wrong Gould actually was. In fact science and faith/religion go hand in hand, they cannot be separated. What you believe determines what you discover about the world and what you discover about the world should shape your beliefs. This should be a continual process.
I am not doubting that we should have a belief system to begin with, but when it gets to understanding the relationship between science and religion we need to ask an entirely different question. Is there a disconnect between the natural and the supernatural? Now that is where the rubber meets the road. Darwinists either deny the concept of the supernatural, claim that even if there is a supernatural it is not for science to consider, or accept certain kinds of supernatural that do not include the Creator God. You can find Darwinists who will gladly consider the possibility of space aliens or ghosts or pseudosciences like psycho(tele)kinesis, but gag at the Concept of a Creator God.
I say only the supernatural accounts for the existence of life, information and existence itself. So the supernatural injects itself into the natural, because there is no natural source of information or life or for the creation of any kind of matter whatsoever. If the evidence points to a supernatural source, then the evidence needs to be respected and the default setting should be a supernatural unless or until a better solution is found.
For now, I leave you with another viewpoint...
Lifelong Stephen Jay Gould readers will find in Rocks of Ages much that is delightfully familiar: graceful language flecked with occasional irreverence, wonderful anecdotes about Darwin and his friends and their times, and the side trips—to the Scopes trial, to the Vatican, to the flat-earth controversy—that slowly circle back to the main thread as engaging commentaries are proffered on the passing scenery. As always, Gould shoots some wonderful baskets, often from way outside the circle.
But it is the main thread that must be considered here, for Gould has most emphatically written a book that has a point and one point alone. That point is given the acronym NOMA, which stands for non-overlapping magisteria, where a magisterium is "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution." The two magisteria that fail to overlap are science and religion, and Gould declares the NOMA thesis to be "intellectually sound," "eminently practical" and "laudable."
NOMA is a simple, humane, rational, and altogether conventional argument for mutual respect, based on non-overlapping subject matter, between two components of wisdom in a full human life: our drive to understand the factual character of nature (the magisterium of science) and our need to define meaning in our lives and a moral basis for our actions (the magisterium of religion).Moreover, he claims that "most religious and scientific leaders actually do advocate the precepts of NOMA," the exceptions including creationists and militant atheists with a "blinkered concept of religion."
Such a gauntlet obviously invites response.
The first difficulty arises in considering Gould's definition of a magisterium, in which "each domain of inquiry frames its own rules and admissible questions, and sets its own criteria for judgment and resolution." He has no difficulty describing the tools that govern the magisterium of science—they encompass, of course, the scientific method, wherein "conclusions must remain open to empirical test and potential rejection." Indeed, of Thomas the Apostle, Gould writes:
Poor doubting Thomas. At his crucial and eponymous moment, he acted in the most admirable way for one style of inquiry--but in the wrong magisterium. He espoused the key principle of science while operating within the different magisterium of faith.In contrast, Gould fails to describe the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution in the magisterium of religion. We learn that the outcome of religious inquiry is meaning and morals, but it is not at all clear how these are to be discerned, discussed or resolved except that we are assured that the process is "logically distinct" and "fully separate in styles of inquiry" from science. Gould's conclusion that the tools employed by doubting Thomas are out of line in the magisterium of religion is in fact likely to irritate, possibly outrage, some contemporary theologians. Moreover, since he tells us that "dogmatic theology" is "contrary to most people's concept of religion" (news to me) and because "the validity of (ethical) principles can never be inferred from the factual discoveries of science," we emerge with several opinions about how the process should not work but little about how it should.
Given this vacuum, it is useful to look at traditional religions and ask how their systems of ultimate meaning and ethical value have been deduced and consolidated. My sense is that each system is based on some sort of cosmology—God is in covenant with the Jews, Jesus is redeemer, the Buddha shows us the path to enlightenment—cosmologies that are rendered in poetry and art and texts and are thereby infused with meaning and value. Ethical precepts then flow from these cosmologies, whether via the direct revelation of religious visionaries or by subsequent Talmudic-like inquiry: The precepts are invariably embedded in the central account or story.
Gould is apparently not persuaded that these accounts are a valid substrate for the religious quest. In a remarkable section, he announces:
The first commandment for all versions of NOMA might be summarized by stating: "Thou shalt not mix the magisteria by claiming that God directly ordains important events in the history of nature by special interference knowable only through revelation and not accessible to science.So much for most of the cosmology of traditional religions, called into being before scientific inquiry was available. Such a jettisoning of miracle-based cosmologies is of course the agenda of the "militant atheists" that Gould reviles. It is also the agenda of writer Ken Wilber, who states in Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion (1998): "If religion is to survive in a viable form in the modern world, it must be willing to jettison its bogus claims." But what is to replace them? If meaning and ethics are responses to large stories, and if our scientific understanding of nature is disallowed as a source of new stories, then where are the new stories to be found? By what criteria do we validate our moralities if we throw out revelation, authority and scientific inquiry? Wilber responds that these issues melt away once we engage in years of Buddhist meditation and discover "the reality of pure Spirit," a response that I do not find very helpful. But no more helpful is Gould's statement: "I . . . construe as fundamentally religious . . . all moral discourse on principles that might activate the ideal of universal fellowship among people."
Not only does Gould refrain from identifying the tools for meaningful discourse and resolution in the magisterium of religion, but he also tells us that this discourse will generate two outcomes—ultimate meaning and moral value—that he invariably utters in the same breath. From my perspective, these outcomes relate to very different sets of propositions: Quests for ultimate meaning generate answers to "why" questions ("why is there anything at all?") that cannot be answered by science, whereas ethical quests generate answers to "how should we proceed?" questions that cannot be answered by science. Moreover, their consideration would seem to entail quite different tools of inquiry. In the end, a system of ultimate meaning involves personal beliefs and can therefore harbor whatever level of irrationality is needed. In contrast, a system of moral values entails beliefs that are generated by some sort of social discourse, meaning that their "truth" must make some sort of communal sense before it can carry the de facto validation of consensus. To be sure, a community can agree on the validity of "irrational" beliefs, but there is always the possibility that a doubting Thomas will hold them up to question.
Again the real difficulty is that both sets of questions must be asked and responded to in the context of an overarching cosmology. We seek the meaning of—what? The universe, life, human self-awareness, time—topics that our scientifically derived understanding has much to tell us about. Similarly, as we seek ways to generate ethical consensus, we bring to the table our concepts of human nature and the dynamics of social systems, topics about which our scientifically derived understanding also has much to report. So whereas religion may not have much of "factual" relevance to say to science, science has plenty of interesting things to say to religion: It provides much of the "what" for the "why" and "how" questions that confront us. There are, to be sure, other important inputs on offer as well, notably in the art and insights inherent in our wisdom/religious systems. But if there is a membrane separating the magisteria of science and religion, it is decidedly semipermeable. Gould is curiously self-contradictory on this point. He can write, "Science and religion must ask different, and logically distinct, questions—but their subjects of inquiry are often both identical and maximally meaningful," and can acknowledge that nature is "bursting with relevant information to spice our moral debates." But then he claims that ethical questions "cannot be answered, or even much illuminated, by factual data of any kind."
So why does Gould flip and flop here? As near as I can tell, much of the problem derives from the fact that the book attempts to make a second point, namely, that scientists are prone to commit the naturalistic fallacy—to derive "oughts" from "ises"—on a grand, overbearing scale. This point is often made with startling acrimony in an otherwise gentle text:
Scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution.Who are these "many scientists"? Given the recent spate of locker-room towel-snapping published in The New York Review of Books, I looked for such imperialistic aims in recent books by scientists and science-popularizers— Daniel Dennett, E. O. Wilson and Robert Wright—but came up short. To my reading, these books show great respect for the magisterium of religion as Gould defines it. No question about it: Our scientific understandings of nature have on occasion been accorded the status of ultimate truth and ethical certainty by scientists and nonscientists alike, and Gould has served as an important watchdog in calling these aberrations to our attention. But to caricature "many scientists" as having "imperialist" agendas smells of "I have a list." At the least, one would have hoped that Gould would have documented these claims with the same care that he documents the statements of 19th-century theologians so that we are able to evaluate them. It would seem that much of his reluctance to celebrate the role that scientific understandings can play in informing our quest for meaning and ethics flows from his fear—unjustified among the "many scientists" I know—that scientists will somehow abuse this process.
Why shouldn't readers view me as just another arrogant scientist . . . attempting to demote religion to impotence and inconsequentiality?
NOMA places equally strong restrictions upon the imperialistic aims of many scientists (particularly in suppressing claims for possession of moral truth based on superior understanding of factual truth in any subject).
NOMA does forbid a scientific entry into fields where many arrogant scientists love to walk, and yearn to control.
I do get discouraged when some of my colleagues tout their private atheism (their right, of course, and in many ways my own suspicion as well) as a panacea for human progress against an absurd caricature of "religion" erected as a straw man for rhetorical purposes.
To close on the positive note that this book deserves, I (and, I would venture, most scientists) am in full-throated agreement with the concept at the heart of his message, that "the causes of life's history (cannot) resolve the riddles of life's meaning" and that nature
greets us with sublime indifference and no preference for accommodating our yearnings. We are therefore left with no alternative. We must undertake the hardest of all journeys by ourselves: the search for meaning in a place both maximally impenetrable and closest to home--within our own frail being.Gould's vision of the project before us is equally rich.
To anyone who feels cosmically discouraged at the prospect of life as a detail in a vast universe not evidently designed for our presence . . . consider the much greater fascination and intellectual challenge of such a mysterious but knowable universe, compared with a "friendlier" and more familiar cosmos that only mirrors our hopes and needs.And then, the eloquent passage that first appeared in Wonderful Life (1989):
We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way.