Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thoughts about NOMA and the Culture War

NOMA stands for "Non-Overlapping_Magisteria". Please go to the Wikipedia link, it is a good summary.

I believe NOMA is a fundamental aspect of the Culture War and an ever-present irritant in the ID/Darwinist debate. Stephen Jay Gould coined the term and felt science and religion were two of many independent “magisterium” (another coined term). Magisteria, by Gould’s definition, use independent tool sets “for meaningful discourse and resolution” of a domain. By Gould’s logic, it is silly to even consider using the science tool-set to explore the ultimate meaning to existence. By the same logic, it is silly to attempt to use religious tools to explore scientific issues. Silly, or not, the Culture War exists.

I have created the above chart in an effort to explore why the Culture War exists regardless of Gould’s logic. The simple deduction is that not everyone accepts Gould’s NOMA. I label this rejection Overlapping Magisteria, OMA for short. The OMA/NOMA distinction is the y-axis and the atheist/religious distinction is the x-axis.

This created the standard 2x2 quadrant map and identified some examples. Ken Miller is a prominent religious scientist. Whether or not he ascribes to NOMA by name, he keeps religion and science separate as do most other theistic evolutionary biologists. Richard Dawkins has made it quite clear that he does not accept NOMA in word and deed. It is also safe to say he is an atheist (although he indicates that he is agnostic on God, fairies and orbiting tea pots).

Putting Creationists in an OMA quadrant is a little more controversial since is could be used to their detriment in court. This is not for legal purposes so I put them there anyway.

The last features on the chart are the double-headed arrows signifying interactions between members of each quadrant. The colors show the level of conflict. The strongest conflict (red) is between atheist-OMA and religious-OMA. The weakest conflict (green) is between the two NOMA quadrants (per Gould’s logic). Other interactions are in between with orange being stronger than yellow.

“Everyone loves to hate Richard Dawkins” is my tongue-in-cheek observations that claiming there is no God, period, isn’t something the people in other quadrants can tolerate. Even the Atheist-NOMA population has heartburn because of unnecessary boat-rocking. Likewise, claiming that God can be scientifically proven to exist (religious-OMA) makes more enemies than friends, even among the Religious-NOMA population.

Of course nothing in real life is as simple as a 2x2 quadrant map. One-size-fits-all labels don’t exist. Even Dawkin’s “atheist” label is forced. There is also the lure of being with the “in crowd”. Claiming a belief in God and not forcing your belief on others is a very popular position and easy to maintain. While I probably couldn't pass a polygraph test, I could say with a straight face “I believe in God” if needed for a social occasion.

Why would anyone want to deny NOMA?

I have more to say, but this is getting too long so I will stop. Besides, it is better to let others finish this rather than for me to do all the thinking.

Please tell me your thoughts. How would you finish this post?

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