Thursday, December 30, 1999

The Principle of NOMA

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
--Albert Einstein
From The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
On 11 August 1999, the Kansas Board of Education voted to delete virtually any mention of evolution as well as the Big-Bang theory from the state's science curriculum [1]. This move came as a most unpleasant shock to the science community [2]. I was just reading a book on the relation between science and religion written by Steven Jay Gould [3]. In the book the author explores the contemporary principle he calls NOMA (Non-Overlapping Magisteria; a magisterium represents a domain of authority in teaching). Gould summarizes the principle as follows:
The magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what is the universe made of and why does it work this way. The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap.
This principle seems to me quite self-evident. This is possibly due to my non-Christian background. Anyway, Gould's elaboration of this concept is persuasive, covering the historical and psychological bases extensively. The majority members of the Kansas Board of Education should read this book!

The reason for which I read Gould's book was to aid my thinking about the question posed by a friend of mine on some descriptions of the Bible. It will be another story in this site.
  1. "Kansas Votes to Delete Evolution From State's Science Curriculum," New York Times, Aug. 12 issue (1999).
  2. J. Kumagai, "Scientists View Kansas Board's Decision as a Wake-Up Call," Physics Today Vol. 52, No. 11, pp. 59-60 (1999).
  3. S. J. Gould, "Rocks of Ages" (Ballantine Publishing Group, New York, 1999).
Related Reading
  • S. J. Gould, "Dorothy, It's Really Oz," Time Vol. 154, No. 8 (1999).
(A modified version of this essay is posted as tttabata's review of "Rocks of Ages" on the bying-info page of this book at Amazon.com.)

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