It seems like a better hypothesis than that religion is epistemically incompatible with science. (Trying to replace political science with CNN? Really?)
Consider. Roughly half of scientists are religious, but fewer than 10% are conservatives. John McCain, the leader of the Republican party, denigrated astronomy education by calling a star-projector for a planetarium “foolishness” and “an overhead projector.” His hand-picked successor suggested that fruit fly research should be defunded, and suggested that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth together. By contrast, the Catholic church’s leader said that evolution is “more than an hypothesis,” adding “The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.” Over 12,000 Christian clergy have made clear “the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as ‘one theory among others’ is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.”
Republicans and Democrats differ by 9 points in their outright rejection of evolution (R: 39%, D: 30%). They differ by 34 points in acceptance that humans are causing global warming (R: 30%, D: 64%). Religious groups show no such split. Neither is there such a split on embryonic stem cell research: a 33 point divide between political parties, but only 14-15 points between Catholics or white mainline Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated. Seems like religion is more compatible with science than conservatism.
Is this a bit silly? Sure. Do correlations speak to epistemic compatibility? Perhaps not (but note).
But bear this in mind. On a range of issues involving science, politics matter a lot more than religion. Before dismissing concerns about the political effects of attacking religion, let’s bear in mind that politics makes a real difference to the world we all live in. Philosophical disagreements about what is or isn’t compatible on some metaphysical level don’t, though they might, might, point to some underlying fact about the world we have to contend with.
My beef with the idea that religion qua religion is the main threat facing society boils down to one principled position and to observations. The principle is classical liberalism: Don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you, the marketplace of ideas benefits from many voices and must be policed to avoid gross abuses but not to eliminate disagreement. The observations: First, that there are religious people who play well in the marketplace, who don’t mess with anyone else’s rights, and their rights deserve my protection. Second, that there are ideologies other than religion which are just as bad, if not worse than the most egregious abuses of religion. Thus, if we want to identify an enemy, let’s identify an enemy that is universally harmful, not one that’s sometimes harmful and sometimes helpful.
This is one level on which the Conservative Bible Project is so informative. Here you have people who have always read the Bible within the idiosyncratic and anachronistic framework of the fundamentalists. But, as slacktivist observes, they caught a glimpse of what a plain reading of the Bible actually says. They saw that Jesus was probably to the left of most , and was deeply concerned with the way the poorest in society were treated. Perhaps while looking for a Levitical code justifying their homophobia, they stumbled on the many laws Jews were given requiring charity and a concern for their poor neighbors.
The CBP authors freaked out upon realizing that their politics and their religion conflicted.
Now let’s make a hypothesis: people will side with the stronger force when an incompatibility seems to surface. Thus, if people confronted with the Beatitudes become more liberal, we’d know that religion had the greater hold. If they tried to cut the Beatitudes from the Bible, you’d know that politics is the stronger force.
Which side of that conflict won? Was it religion, which supposedly destroys the capacity for independent reasoning, or was it conservative politics? If conservatism (or politics, if you prefer) is incompatible with science, where does that leave us as a society? Must scientists ignore politics? Is it accommodationism to reach across to pro-evolution conservatives like the generally execrable George Will, the odious Charles Krauthammer, or the occasionally tolerable John Derbyshire?