Jerry Coyne on the Odd Couple: Why Science and Religion Shouldn’t Cohabit

Yesterday I watched this lecture by Prof. Jerry Coyne (he has a popular blog on wordpress as well – see and subscribe, if you haven’t already,- He is a biologist by profession and an atheist by heart. Or perhaps is it the other way around? Be it as it may, in this public lecture you will hear about how some religious crackheads and spiritual symphatysants rationalize, market and sell their nonsense as being in accord with the truth-seeking, problem-solving and ever-evolving scientific enterprise.  Jerry vividly examines whether the choir of the religious cats really sings in unison with the wizards of the lab and other craftsmen of the rational jazz. His conclusion is a definite NO. The religious cats sing an entirely different tune and use a peculiar set of musical notes, which no one but themselves can decipher and understand. Perhaps a tune for the hearts, but definitely not for the minds of the listeners. These cats play guitars with no strings, pianos with no keyboards and rock the cross as a saxophone. They even play tennis without a racket and basketball without a ball. In the words of Jerry: “Theology is the biggest waste of time in the history of human intellect. (I’m talking about academic thought here; if you count “all thought”, then replace “theology” with “religion.”) It makes no progress (except to discard the tenets that science disproves) and reaches no conclusions about either the existence or nature of gods.”

Ergo, the theological Disneyland, as good as it sounds and as good as it looks, has no scientific credibility whatsoever.

If you listen carefully to the esteemed Professor, you will also learn about some of the theological tricks of the trade. Jerry, thank God, is not one iota of a theologian, but he knows the devil well enough to recognize his devilish ways and to call his unending bluff. Jerry summarizes the latest, the finest and the most exquisite theological blurb baked by religious culinarists with regards to their new-found need to seek the path of piece, love, acceptance, dialogue, mutual cooperation and toleration, more specifically, the latest theological dream of living side by side with the scientific worldview and the secular framework that comes with it.
I’ve heard, that some evil men from the religious spectrum of our global micky-mouse culture, criticize Jerry’s position as being far too extreme, radical and even dangerous if allowed for mass consumption. Other folks of religious inclination have labeled Jerry as an espouser of the wicked ideology of scientism. This is highly unfair, to say the least. Scientism is the only antidote to the nonsense of believerdom and, if I may add a little controversial twist – the only credible thought-system in town.
As a former sophisticated theologian of some sort myself, I may add that the points raised by Jerry are only the tip of the iceberg. The conflict between religion and science lies at the core of modernity and the whole Enlightenment project. As long as the average guy around the corner and the beautiful girl next door (not to mention the average scientist), believes in ghosts and fairies, prays to the invisible agents and meditates on the Wheel of Life, climbs the ladder of spiritual development, feels guilty about his sins and demons, the Enlightenment project is far from being completed.  However, don’t be discouraged by the innumerable masses of religious fanatics that still surround your isolated cage of glory. Slowly but surely, if you watch the clock of history, we are getting closer to the day when one’s religious affiliation will become a matter of an atavistic comedy. The great religious traditions will have to strangle themselves today or they’ll be strangled by the world tomorrow. In my minds eye I see how the believing sheep abandon their all-knowing shepherds first. They lose their chains of awe, fear and the numinous inspiration. Soon the shepherds (who are these holy shepherds without their sheep?) will follow their lead. And their chains too will be severed. Somewhat paradoxically, as it often happens in the game of life, by attempting to lure the worldly believers back into heaven, the priests will lure themselves into the world. The religious gatekeepers and the spiritual watchmen will join sides with the liberated prisoners. Now, only the sacred monuments and the divine architecture will be left. No priests, no believers. Just the sublime emptiness of a bygone age.
One day, in the not so distant future, we will look back on our time and say, how could we ever have taken this God-talk so seriously. Then we will laugh wholeheartedly. With no tears in our eyes.


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