Saturday, October 07, 2006

God Delusion # 6 - A False Dichotomy

Dawkins sets up a false dichotomy between Stephen Jay Gould's "NOMA" and "science."

"NOMA" means "non-overlapping magisteria." Gould writes: "The magisterium of science covers the empirical realm... The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. Thes two magisteria do not overlap." (In GD, 55) Gould's view is a form of methodological naturalism.

Dawkins believes in only one "magisterium"; viz., empirical reality. The empirical realm is the only realm there is. By definition. Or, by faith, or by something. Dawkins' view is known as metaphysical naturalism.

Why accept these two choices Dawkins forces on us? NOMA states that the magisterium of science has nothing to do with religion; Dawkinsian science says religion is nothing. Of course Dawkins rejects NOMA. Therefore, religion studies nothing real.

But there is a third alternative, which is: overlapping magisteria. One current example is Francis Collins, a geneticist who directs the Human Genome Project. In his book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Collins desribes his conversion from atheism to theism and his discovery that there is "a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews." This is neither NOMA, nor metaphysical naturalism, but rather OMA.

Scientists like Collins genuinely puzzle Dawkins, who is so ensconced in his metaphysical naturalism that such a third alternative does not even compute.

NOTE: For a critique of methodological naturalism see U. of Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga.