Soul Made Flesh

One of the requirements for PZ’s neurobiology class is reading Carl Zimmer’s book Soul Made Flesh. While reading this book, I am continually struck by how religion resists change in science. Why? Science and religion don’t even address the same issues in a culture. Robert Boyle seemed to think they should be separated as well. Perhaps that is why he managed to make some significant advances in science and the scientific method. Any thoughts?


  1. #1 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 20, 2007

    Science and religion don’t even address the same issues in a culture.

    Besides the direct comparison of which issues that overlaps, at least in practiced religion, I would add that world views that are based on empiricism typically address more of these cultural issues.

    With regards to Boyle specifically, my impression is that it is hard to analyze and understand isolated historical situations. The context, meaning of terms and the difficulties are different and impossible to grasp fully.

    It is clear that Boyle and his contemporaries grappled with the difficulties of isolating empirical methods from previous philosophical and religious ideas and dogmas. But to separate out the influence of religion seems hard. Alchemy and astrology stems from religious roots, but how much remained at the time these ideas were abandoned, and how much did they contribute or detract from progress?

    It is much easier to assess the current situation. Obviously socio-religious movements such as hardcore creationism tries to counteract scientific progress under the pretext of addressing scientific issues. We can also see that softcore creationism (theistic evolution) or < href="">old dogmas (chain of being) consistently confuse and pervert science or its cultural context.

    That a statement might be unfalsifiable doesn’t change this.

    Moreover, we don’t demand falsifiability of every statement that connects with theory. Of course we would like to see that, but in practice we accept theories on a subset of falsifiable predictions.

    We can also see models (derived within a theoretical frame) based on likelihoods instead of statistical testing, which are provisionally considered even if there are no current complementary tests or tests with enough power. (AFAIK such areas as the concordance cosmology, methods in cladistics, et cetera.)

  2. #2 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 20, 2007