GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 285-6
Presentation Time: 9:35 AM


FOSTER, G David, retired geologist, Jackson, MI 49202,

In a 1997 essay Stephen Jay Gould argued that there should be no conflict between church dogma and scientific conclusions because each represents a separate "magisterium" or domain of teaching authority. Yet conflict remains, and public doubt of scientific findings is increasing. The objective of this paper is to investigate the differences between the domains of science and religion and reach a conclusion concerning their effect upon communication between the two groups.

The investigation draws on seemingly divergent concepts elucidated by well-known 20th century thinkers. These include psychologist Erik Fromm's general definition of religion as including both social and individual components, theologian Paul Tillich's concept of the "ground of our being" as a representation of the essence of the Judeo-Christian God, and Attorney General Edward H. Levi's synopsis of the law which defines truth as "whatever a lawyer can convince a judge and/or jury it is" (rough paraphrase).

These borrowed ideas are then evaluated in the context of science. Science is characterized as a cohesive body of related knowledge which possesses internal logical consistency, is advanced using the scientific method, and seeks independence from human mores.

Science seeks to employ observation and objective reasoning to obtain a coherent view of physical reality independent of human values. It seeks to understand the cosmos, its components and inter-relationships. Science uses its understanding to create predictive models.

Religion - from most primitive to most sophisticated - employs subjective reasoning (with parallels to courtroom logic) to develop a coherent belief system whose goal is to relate the individual to the cosmic through a collective tradition of shared spiritual experience. Religion can be viewed as one of the stabilizing influences in society; it is centered on human values.

Problems inevitably arise when a group whose central foundation is objectivity seeks to employ subjectivity to advance its own goals, and vice versa.

Conclusion: in addition to representing separate magisteria, science and religion stand at opposing ends of the subjective-objective continuum and employ separate logic structures. These differences are an impediment to meaningful communication unless they are first understood and acknowledged.

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