Stephen Jay Gould's ROCKS OF AGES
Scientist Gould in this short book attempts to demonstrate both (a) how Science and Religion can learn to co-exist and (b) how efforts to control Science through Religion-imposed limits are prime examples of the two “magisteria,” as he refers to Science and Religion, transgressing on each other’s territory.
It’s an interesting approach that makes for fun and thought provoking reading. His premise is that the two belief systems are based on such different premises that it is unnecessary and unproductive to reconcile the two. In fact, he goes out of his way to describe instances where both Science and Religion have erred by attempting to impose themselves on each other’s territory.
If there is a failing to this book it is that, as an attempt at readily-graspable philosophy, it does not really address at any length why the two Magisteriahave attempted to control the other, with Religion, according to Gould, more frequently and flagrantly being the transgressor.
Even assuming that is true, Gould does not address in enough detail the role that politics and the desire for power play in promoting religion, especially in modern day America.
Without paying enough attention to that angle, Gould misses pointing out the underlying political nature of how Religion and Science battle it out on a daily basis. Instead he is forced to fall back on the posited separateness of the two “magisteria” while downgrading attempts to unify the two.
I must admit I enjoyed this book. I’m one of those people who tends to think that there really isn’t that much incompatibility between Science and Religion, given that Science tells us more each day about the wonders of Creation.
If I had to sum up the meaning of this book for those who feel a natural tension between Science and Religion, it seems to be saying, “Live and let live” to people on both sides of the fence. And that’s not a bad message.