Jeff Schloss, the BioLogos Senior Scholar, was recently asked by The Washington Post to write a review of Jerry Coyne’s recent book, Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. That review appeared online a couple of days ago.
Coyne is an engaging science writer, but strays fairly far from that in this book—along the lines of Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion. Schloss knows the science but also has a sophisticated understanding of philosophy—the primary subject matter of Coyne’s book. Coyne claims that he’s going to “avoid the murky waters of epistemology” and then bases his overall argument on getting the distinction right between faith and knowledge. That’s a topic as straightforwardly epistemological as you can get! Coyne appeals to dictionary definitions to settle things; Schloss counters with a nuanced and philosophically informed discussion of the nature of faith as it relates to religious commitments and scientific beliefs, showing that Coyne’s rhetoric reduces away significant parts of our experience, like morality, art, and love.
Of course Schloss is not engaged in the sort of natural theology that aims to prove the existence of God from the data of science. He agrees with Coyne on the futility of this. Coyne’s claim, though, is much stronger, namely that science and religious belief are not even basically compatible. Schloss shows that Coyne reaches this conclusion only by missing the implications of some of the science and by confusing the underlying philosophical principles. Schloss concludes instead:
The one universe we can observe displays laws and conditions that appear fine-tuned for life, along with the progressive elaboration of living complexity and the emergence (however probable or improbable) of creatures capable of moral awareness and altruistic love. These properties do not require God as an explanation. But they are hardly incompatible with belief in God. Indeed, they are suggestive but not demonstrative, and acknowledging this ambiguity has been persistent across many traditions of Christian and other faiths.
Have a look at the review for yourselves. Let’s talk about it in the comments.