Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Problem with Gould's NOMA

"Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." -- Albert Einstein

Alice C. Linsley

As much as I appreciate Stephen Jay Gould's attempt to view religion as having a legitimate teaching authority separate from that of science, his Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) has the effect of marginalizing findings that are perceived as religious rather than scientific.

In Gould's proposal science and religion are not to conflict or interfere with each other. They address questions from different domains. At the least, NOMA represents wishful thinking on Gould's part. Unfortunately, those who view religion as dealing with myth and speculation dismiss religion as a legitimate approach to truth.

Stephen Hawking was less charitable than Gould when he wrote, “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

An objective look at the two domains reveals that they do overlap and they both work. For example, Genesis and science agree that the primal substance on earth was water, but because Genesis represents a Biblical worldview it is not credited as reliable. This dismissive attitude is an aspect of the Positivist influence on popular writers such as Dawkins and Hawking. These typically claim for science a broader authority than most scientists. They have taken upon themselves the authority to pontificate on subjects beyond their specialties. They have bought into the delusion that science alone is able to constitute the truth.

Then comes the emerging field of Biblical Anthropology. Here science and religion work hand-in-hand and expose the flaws in Gould's NOMA concept and the folly of scientism. While science and religion approach reality from different angles, there is but one reality and it is more fixed than scientism is willing to accept. Science tests reality by reason and hypothesis. True religion tests reality by reason and experience. Contrary to Positivism, the domains are distinct, but not mutually exclusive.

As a Biblical Anthropologist I regularly encounter prejudice from people who have adopted false views of science and religion. They consider Biblical Anthropology a oxymoron. They do not understand that Biblical Anthropology is science. It investigates the Bible through the lens of anthropology and notes important details that are largely ignored by theologians, pastors and Bible commentators.

Anthropology applied to Biblical texts has proven enormously useful in the reconstruction of antecedents. Because of discoveries in Biblical Anthropology we know more about the dispersion of the ancient Kushites than ever before. The spread of the Kushites has been confirmed by DNA studies.

We find evidence in the Bible for climate changes and catastrophic flooding. Noah lived in the region of Lake Chad approximately 2490-2415 BC, when the Sahara experienced a wet period (Karl W. Butzer 1966). Recent geological studies have found that the huge basins and troughs of the Sahara were interconnected so that boats could travel from Niger to the Nile. This was one of the last wet periods and it coincided with cultural and technological achievements in the Old Kingdom.

Using kinship analysis we know that the Genesis 4 and 5 King Lists reveal the marriage and ascendancy pattern of Abraham's Nilotic ancestors. This unique marriage pattern among the ruler-priests is why geneticists can identify the Kohen gene.

Biblical data has led to the discovery of the Nile-Japan Ainu connection. It also has established links between the Kushites and the Kushan.

Most of these discoveries in Biblical Anthropology represent important breakthroughs. Such discoveries are possible because science and religion are companions in the search for truth.

Related reading: The Folly of Scientism by Austin L. Hughes; Why Prejudice Against A Scientific Approach to the Bible?; Genetics Confirms Biblical Migrations; Climate Cycles and Noah's Flood; Newsletter of the American Scientific Affiliation (See The Director's Corner); A Scientific Timeline of Genesis


Margaret said...

The Magician's Twin by John G. West explore's C.S. Lewis' writings and concern that science would have growing authority in our lives. "C. S. Lewis also was a perceptive critic of the growing power of scientism, the misguided effort to apply science to areas outside its proper bounds. In this wide-ranging book of essays, contemporary writers probe Lewis’s prophetic warnings about the dehumanizing impact of scientism on ethics, politics, faith, reason, and science itself. Issues explored include Lewis’s views on bioethics, eugenics, evolution, intelligent design, and what he called “scientocracy.”" This book is a worthy read.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thanks, Margaret. Wonderful comment! My Philosophy students have been reading and discussing Lewis' Mere Christianity. He addresses this in that work also.

If you have a moment, read Hughes' The Folly of Scientism. This "Related Reading" link is below and well worth the time.

Margaret said...

Enjoyed Dr. Hughes' of article. Dr. Hughes hails from the U of So Carolina that has Science and the Orthodox Church website funded by grants and chaired by Dr. Daniel Buxhoeveden. The project is bringing together Eastern Orthodox scholars and scientists from many disciplines for dialogue. Dr. Buxhoeveden was our Three Hierarchs Lecturer at our parish three years ago.

Anonymous said...


Happy New Year. Off-Topic, but I thought you might be interested in this article. It could apply to Orthodoxy today as well.


Alice C. Linsley said...

A blessed 2013 to you, Savvy!

Thanks for the link.