Posted by: grokscience | November 17, 2010

Science versus Religion

The continued clashes between science and religion over the theory of evolution appears to have no middle ground for agreement. But, can these two worldviews be reconciled? On this program, Ron Frost discussed the debate over evolution.

Better get some Scope… 😉



  1. In many cases, the ‘clash’ between science and religion is way overstated, regarding evolution. When you get people who say ‘religion…and nothing else’, there is a problem, but also, when you have people who say ‘science…and nothing else’, you also have a problem. Most people understand that religion does not claim to tell what science figures out. They tell the same story different ways.

    Did you know that most people who ever thought about evolution, or thought something like it was probable, were Catholics, and that religion came out with the theory of evolution long before Darwin did?

  2. Big fan of your show from 5 years back. Sorry, but this episode was a real trIn wreck. I could tell you were uncomfortable too and seemed to want to get off the line. I couldn’t blame you for that. But you were too nice to Mr. Frost. His main point seem to be that inability to falsify = proof is such an old chestnut fallacy—well I just kep waiting for you to take him to task. That said, I understand he was a guest and you two are awfully nice. I don’t think anybody would have blamed you if you had given Ron a harder time. He didn’t have a clue.

    • Dear David,
      What I think you are saying (it is not entirely clear from the text) is that if you cannot falsify a statement, then it is not science. This is entirely true, but when talking about science and religion we encounter what I call an epistemological dilemma. Both Fundamentalist religion and materialist science are epistemologically safe. In Fundamentalist religion you simply take the Bible’s (or whatever religious text you ascribe to) as being literally true and you don’t have to think for yourself. In materialistic science you assume that only the material world exists and that you can study it by making observations, postulating hypotheses, and trying to falsify those hypotheses. However, if you contend, as I do, that science is a valid way of studying the material world, but that the 3,000 years of mystical literature speaks to a spiritual dimension beyond the material world, you have an epistemological dilemma, because with this view there are aspects of reality that do not lend themselves to study by the scientific method. You can either accept this as the price of living in this complex world or, as you apparently do, deny that a spiritual dimension exists and insist that all knowledge must be derived through the scientific method.


  3. From Dawkins and Harris to… this guy?!?!? This is why the show stands above most. No matter if it’s shrouded in seeming hocus pocus, he made his say. And that gets us closer to knowing, if not the truth, but how some people think. If you only interview people that we mostly agree with, one can never learn.

    His assertions about “just giving up” is way too “buddahist” and has no place in modern society. If it weren’t for such moronic attitude, the Chinese would probably dominate the world today, maybe travel to the moon hundreds of years ago; afterall, they had gun powder and other high tech wizardry for almost a millenia while the rest of the world was in dark ages. The Chinese, with their “let’s go with the flow”, and “if you’re not happy here and now, you will never be” attitude of buddahism buried their heads in the sand and let things stand still. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. Everything in nature is fair game, including death, re-birth, immortality, and all that we can observe. If science can conquer death and dispel the myth of reincarnation, buddhaism would be moot. As a buddahist, one would fight such effort, and that seems to be what the speaker is fighting to protect.

    If one is a truly religious person, especially Christian, there is no room in the universe for anyone else. Their morality is Christian morality, not the morality as defined by Sam Harris or the dictionary. The speaker of this interview doesn’t seem to know about other religions. It would serve him well to go and study Judeo-Christian-Muslim (read the bible) before thinking that we can all live in harmony and agree to disagree. That may work in buddahism, but not for many (most?) others. Fortunately for the world, there are only very few dedicated religious people who tries to follow their religions as specified, and we often label them as extreme lunatics, so we are able to live without being burned at the stake.

    By the way, it seems to me Dr. Covic lost her mojo. If so, I hope she gets it back soon. More her, less he please.

    • Dear Mik,
      I am not sure how to answer you comment since it reads as a rambling diatribe. What I get out of it is the sense that all religion (inclucing Buddhism -not “Buddahism”- is bad and inherently a threat to modern society in general and scientific study in particular. My postulate, and the one I used in my book, is simply that, as humans we inherently divide reality into the objective world and our subjective response to it. I consider science to be our way to study the objective world, the world we can observe, measure, and weigh, whereas religion is our way to study the subjective world. As such, the two are complementary; to be a complete human being one must be conversant in both. Just because Fundamentalist Christians close-mindedly adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible, it does not mean that religious study in inherently incompatible with science.

      • Hello Ron! Whoa. I think you’re the first one to actually follow up. That is great. Thanks. I wish more would do that.

        My point is this. Too often, curiosity and research is given up in the name of divine, whatever that might be. One can say spiritual world is outside the realm of the observable (that includes subjective “feelings”). But that means they have no relevance in the real world. Everything else that’s relevant, including what we perceive as the divine and spiritual, “perceive” being the key word, should be explored. That includes death, reincarnation, “spirits”, and so on.

        From that perspective, nothing is too sacred to pursue with science. Even the subjective world should be open to scientific exploration since they are “felt” and affects the world in some way. Maybe the subjective world is just electro-chemical reactions in our brains, or maybe there is something beyond our current scientific knowledge that we can explore to broaden our scientific knowledge further. We should not stop just because it happens to be subjective for some (eg, the religious and the spiritual).

        Religion is not incompatible with science if one takes the effect of religion on the world out of it. If the religious doctrine states that one can never be effected by the divine, subjectively or objectively or otherwise, that is compatible with science. Otherwise, science should try to investigate what makes it tick and all else that goes with it, hypothesis, theories, experiments, consensus building and so on. I know of no religion today that states their divine does not affect the world, so for all practical purposes, religion is incompatible with science.

        Here’s a thought experiment. If science happen to find that there are such things as spirits in our head, that means the spirits are reproducible and predictable in controlled experiments. If the spirits are just manifestation of brain’s electro-chemical reaction, one can also make controlled experiments to reproduce them. But if we say the spirits are divine and leave it at that, we will never know, despite the fact that they affect the world in some ways.

        My diatribe was trying to say that religious thoughts had prevented human progress in the past and in the present, and we shouldn’t do that. There is no need to stop, and what we learn from the past is that we should always explore all unknowns.

        Respectfully disagreeing with you,


  4. A major flaw in the argument is the belief that the ultimate goal of evolution is man (leading toward the “spiritual realm”). Let’s try to put this into perspective, evolution’s “goal” has nothing to do with consciousness. Consciousness is merely an artifact of an ever-increasing mental capacity. If you want to talk about successes in evolution, then the branch containing hominids is one of the worst – all died out except 1. The real success story in evolution truly belongs to the bacteria and similar simpler organisms – who have no such consciousness. To ignore that fact demonstrates anthropological favoritism.

    Another flaw in the argument has to do with postulating a “spiritual realm” (pardon me, I forget the exact term he used). Occam’s razor requires us to opt for the least complex scenario. By stating that there is no difference between evolution with religion and evolution on a strictly materialistic level completely ignores this fundamental tenet.

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