The other day, my husband and I watched an old Charlie Rose interview with Stephen Jay Gould, which prompted me to pull out a few of his books. The one that grabbed my attention most this time is Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life.
For those who don’t know, Gould proposed that science and religion are separate, “non-overlapping magesteria.” That is, they are separate endeavors that have nothing to do with one another. They are, in essence, mutually exclusive in purpose and content and therefore there can be no inherent conflict between the two. When such a conflict appears, it is because either science or (more commonly, in my opinion) religion, is overstepping its boundaries.
For the past couple of years, this idea has been dissed by so many authors, I can’t even list them. The most popular, of course, is Richard Dawkins. I thoroughly enjoy Dawkins’s writings about religion and his talks on the same topic, but I don’t always agree with him. To be honest, when Gould was alive and the two had disagreements on various topics, I almost always found myself agreeing with Gould. It’s a shame that he’s not around to defend his ideas about science & religion, when so many people are criticizing them and we so desprately need intelligent dialog on the subject.
I wonder what he’d have to say about religion and science today, in the wake of 9/11 and the encroachment of Christian fundamentalism into American politics and government. I wouldn’t presume to guess. But even though I never met Gould in person, I still miss him. A lot.
P.S. I just read on PZ’s blog that SJG has a new book coming out from beyond the grave! Halleluja. OK,it’s not new â€” it’s simply chapter 9 of The Structure of Evolutionary Theory published as a separate paperback book called Punctuated Equilibrium. Which is good, because I haven’t been able to get myself to read that other giant tome, even though I bought it as soon as it came out. Why not? It’s too fat to stay open on my lap.