Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible

Book web site:

Coyne, Jerry A.
Viking 2015
ISBN 978-0-670-02653-1
Date finished: 2016-08-15

For a long time I read Coyne's web site postings on a daily basis. One recurring theme of his was that religion and science are deeply incompatible, and arguments for their compatibility are papering over a deep division. These arguments are collected and organized in this book.

One frequently-used approach is to suggest that religions are about intangible things like morality and ethics while science is about the tangible or at least the measurable. But just about all religions make assertions about reality: about human history, about the origin of the universe, about the afterlife. And they're generally wrong. Religion uses revelation, tradition, and assertion, and has no way to confirm any of its statements. Science relies upon criticism and verification, and is quick to discard things that turn out to be false.

Another approach is to dilute religion, by turning everything into a metaphor or weakening an omnipotent god who takes actions into an abstraction that doesn't do anything (and hence can't be disproven). You end up with something so abstract that you're 90% of the way to atheism, and at that point what's the use of keeping the concept of "god" around? It's also psychologically unsatisfying because most people want a father figure who will punish and reward.

Coyne's book is a worthwhile addition to the freethought literature and I thoroughly agree with everything he says, but it isn't noteworthy for its prose quality, which is solid and competent, but never dazzling or exciting; I kept hoping to find an excellent quotation or amusing aphorism, but there aren't any. I still enjoyed reading it, and kept noting good points and examples to use in explaining this irreconciliable divide.

Tagged: atheism


%T Faith Versus Fact
%S Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible
%A Coyne, Jerry A.
%K atheism
%G ISBN 978-0-670-02653-1
%I Viking
%P 296pp
%D 2015
%@ 2016-08-15

Contact me