image via RationalWiki
Stephen Jay Gould famously proposed to place science and religion as “Non-overlapping Magisteria.” Gould defined magisterium as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution.” His NOMA principle states that "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry." In Gould’s view, "Science and religion do not glower at each other...but interdigitate in patterns of complex fingering, and at every fractal scale of self-similarity." This is where the modern notion that science describes how the universe works and religion describes why it is here and what our place in it comes from. This is accommodationist nonsense.
Science defined is “the systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms.” It is a method of describing the material universe through these means in order to increase and organize objective knowledge. It is a tool in the toolkit of human curiosity and reason. It is not perfect, nor does anyone claim it to be; but it provides humanity with the means to understand more and more of the universe. Anyone willing to put forth the effort can participate and reap tangible results and rewards. Scientific inquiry operates on facts and evidence and requires no faith. In fact, science cannot operate on faith either in whole or in part. Despite that infamous canard of theists to make the claim over and over again; it is not in any way, shape, or form based on faith. While there is conjecture in science it is clearly not the same operation as the faith of the religious. Scientific conjecture has its foundations in previously proven or likely theories that have been constructed via careful examination and analysis. Unproven scientific hypotheses can be and are discarded when they found to be incorrect or insufficient.
Gould’s concept that these two magesteria are equal and do not overlap has already begun to erode. Indeed, it has been criticized by others for quite a long time now. Religion makes claims about not only the supernatural universe, but the natural universe as well. Many of these claims regarding the supernatural universe and its effect on the natural universe should have physical manifestations that science could be able to detect. This has never happened. In fact, throughout history the gaps in our knowledge that have been previously attributed to a deity have slowly but surely been filled in as knowledge and understanding of the universe grows. By no means do we know everything and in fact we still, on the grand stage of the universe, know next to nothing. At no point, however, does this lack of human knowledge automatically require a deity to fill the gap. These little “gods of the gaps” have repeatedly been pushed aside. To assign the premise of a deity to various phenomena is a larger leap in logic based on ignorance and faith.
RationalWiki nicely sums up NOMA as “a method of being deliberately stupid by compartmentalising one's thinking.” Quite true.