Introduction: A Sociology of Conflict

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There is no conflict between science and religion. Creationism is only a local movement, prevalent only among the few sectors of American Protestantism that read the Bible as an inerrant, literally true document. Creationism based on biblical literalism makes little sense in either Catholicism or Judaism, for neither religion maintains any extensive tradition for reading the Bible as literal truth. The lack of conflict arises from a lack of overlap between the respective domains of professional expertise of science and religion. No conflict should exist because the magisteria of science and religion do not overlap. According to the principle of NOMA — “nonoverlapping magisteria” — science covers the empirical universe, while religion covers questions of moral meaning and ethical value. This principle was obeyed by both Pius XII and John Paul II. They both saw no conflict between Catholic faith and a theory of evolution. However, there is one important difference between their positions. Pius XII admitted evolution as a legitimate hypothesis, but at the same time he proclaimed that the theory of evolution had not been proven and might well be wrong. On the other hand, John Paul II stated that evolution can no longer be doubted. Now, he stated, evolution must be accepted not merely as a plausible possibility but also as an effectively proven fact. This fact is no threat to religion if one accepts the principle of NOMA. As a consequence of this principle, religion can no longer dictate the factual conclusions that belong to the magisterium of science, nor may scientists decide on moral truths.
First published in 1896, this two-volume history of the conflict between theology and science quickly became a landmark text. It was widely recognised, along with John William Draper's History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, as a defining study of the relationship between religion and science. A distinguished educator, scholar and writer, Andrew Dickson White was the first president of Cornell University. White held the view that religion was historically opposed to progress in the field of science. He argued that any interference on the part of religion in science had always proved disastrous, whereas scientific investigation, no matter how seemingly damaging to religion, had always resulted in the highest good. This book is the culmination of thirty years of White's research, publication and lectures on the subject. Volume one discusses creation, evolution, geography, astronomy, meteorology, ethnology and antiquity.
This book is a long-awaited major statement by a pre-eminent analytic philosopher, on one of our biggest debates-the compatibility of science and religion. The last twenty years has seen a cottage industry of books on this divide, but with little consensus emerging. This book's author, as a top philosopher but also a proponent of the rationality of religious belief, has a unique contribution to make. The theme of this short book is that the conflict between science and theistic religion is actually superficial, and that at a deeper level they are in concord. The book examines where this conflict is supposed to exist-evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion-as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. The book makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science. On the other hand, science can actually offer support to theistic doctrines, and the text uses the notion of biological and cosmological "fine-tuning" in support of this idea. The book argues that we might think about arguments in science and religion in a new way-as different forms of discourse that try to persuade people to look at questions from a perspective such that they can see that something is true. In this way, there is a deep and massive consonance between theism and the scientific enterprise.
Conservation genetics can be seen as the effort to influence the evolutionary process in ways that enhance the persistence of populations. Much published research in the field applies genetic sampling techniques to infer population parameters from the patterns of variation in threatened populations. The limited resolution of these inferences seems to yield limited confidence which results in conservative policy recommendations. As an alternative, I suggest that conservation genetics focus on the relationships between those variables conservationists can control, and the probability of desirable evolutionary outcomes. This research would involve three phases – a greater use of existing evolutionary theory; testing management options using experimental evolution; and ‘field trials’ under an adaptive management framework. It would take a probabilistic approach that recognizes the stochasticity inherent in evolutionary change. This would allow a more nuanced approach to conservation policy than rule of thumb guidelines. Moreover, it would capitalize on the fact that evolution is a unifying theory in biology and draw on the substantial body of evolutionary knowledge that has been built up over the last half a century.
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