The poetic imagination


I have mentioned PZ Myers before as one who often pontificates about a subject about which he knows little--namely, religion--and in a recent screed he continues, unfortunately, to display his lack of knowledge in this matter.

In this case, Myers boldly asserts that "Christian faith is at odds with science". The reason, he asserts, is because science and religion both try to explain the nature of reality, and while science uses the right tools,

Religion, on the other hand, uses a different body of techniques to explain the nature of the universe. It uses tradition and dogma and authority and revelation, and a detailed legalistic analysis of source texts, to dictate what the nature of reality should be.
As I've stated before, I would suggest that there are two fundamental flaws with this sort of argument to start with. First, while some some religions do (incorrectly) step outside of their appropriate magisterium (to borrow a term from Gould) to try to describe the nature of physical reality, not all religions do, and certainly not all forms of religion do. Second, Myers commits the fallacy of assuming that attempts to describe physical reality somehow lie at the core of what religion is all about. In addition, his comments about "dictating" what the nature of reality by means of "tradition and dogma and authority and revelation" show that he gets his understanding of what religion is in terms of a certain kind of Christian orthodoxy. There is a whole world of theology that does not conform to his stereotype, but he simply doesn't seem to care.

Myers comes across as an intolerant and misinformed buffoon, or at least he does so when he steps out side of his area of expertise (biology) and attempts to tackle a subject about which he knows nothing. Unfortunately, he attempts to tackle this subject often, and as such he serves as the poster boy for everything that is annoying about militant atheism.

I understand that a lot of people don't "get" religion. Sometimes I don't get it myself. But there is a difference between not getting something and attacking that which you don't get. I wonder if those who are mired in dogmatic scientism just lack a certain poetic or artistic imagination. Otherwise, there would surely be a better appreciation of the poetic impulse that really lies behind the religious spirit. Religion at its best unleashes a part of our souls and a way of looking at things that, far from "dictating" anything to us, actually liberates us. Scientism just doesn't seem to understand this.