Science and Nonbelief

Book Description

Can science and religious belief coexist?

Many people–including many practicing scientists–insist that one can simultaneously follow the principles of the scientific method and believe in a particular spiritual tradition. But throughout history there have been people for whom science challenges the very validity of religious belief. Whether called atheists, agnostics, skeptics, or “infidels,” these individuals use the naturalism of modern science to deny the existence of any supernatural power. Science and Nonbelief chronicles, in a balanced and accessible way, the long history of the battle between adherents of religious doctrines and the nonbelievers who adhere to the naturalism of modern science.
Science and Nonbelief provides a nontechnical introduction to the leading questions that concern science and religion today:

  • What place does evolution hold in the arguments of nonbelievers?
  • What does modern physics tell us about the place of humanity in the natural world?
  • How do modern neurosciences challenge traditional beliefs about mind and matter?
  • What can scientific research about religion tell us about the nature of belief?
  • How do skeptics react to claims at the fringes of science, such as UFOs and psychics?

The volume also addresses the political context of debates over science and nonbelief, and questions about the nature of morality. It includes a selection of provocative primary source documents that illustrate the complexity and varieties of nonbelief.

Table of Contents

1. Science, Philosophy and Religious Doubt

        Philosophers, Doubting and Devout

        The Old Science and the Old Faith

        The European Enlightenment

        Nonbelief Comes of Age

        Science and Nonbelief Today

        Scientific Naturalism

2. An Accidental World

        Why Physics is Hard

        The Nature of Modern Physics

        The Burden of Proof

        God in the Cracks of Causality

        Quantum Mysticism

        Cosmic Harmonies

        Fine-Tuning the Universe

        A Moment of Creation?

        Physics and Naturalism

3. Darwinian Creativity

        Achieving Complexity

        The Physics of Evolution

        Evolution and Religion

        Old Fashioned Creationism

        Intelligent Design

        Creation Through Evolution

        Universal Darwinism

4. Minds Without Souls

        Mind and Matter

        Cartesian Dualism

        Machines Who Think

        Genes and Memes

        The Conscious Brain

        Qualia and Subjectivity

        Mind Over Matter

        The God Module

        Parts and Wholes

        Nonbelief Adapts to Brain Science

5. The Fringes of Science

        Ultimate Explanations

        Miracles and Rejected Knowledge

        Scripture as Miracle

        From Spiritualism to New Age

        Skeptics vs. Psychics

        Miracles in the Laboratory

        UFOs and Aliens

        Direct Experience of the Paranormal?

        Paranormal Skepticism and Nonbelief

6. Explaining Religion

        Too Many Religions

        Religious Studies

        Rational Choice Theory

        The Secularization Thesis

        Religion and Group Selection

        A Virus of the Mind

        The Religious Mind

        Explaining Theology and Nonbelief

7. Morality and Politics

        More Than the Facts

        The State of Science

        The State of Nonbelief

        A Morality of Reason

        The Science of Morality

        Separate Spheres

        An Uneasy Alliance