Let's ignore the question of whether or not both of those are possible. After all, I have friends who maintain that the two flavors that religion come in are not 'bad and good', but 'bad and worse.' No, the question I'm interested in is whether or not there is any necessary linkage between good science and good religion, and whether this linkage flows in both directions, but just one.
With that in mind, I'd like to reference this article by Malcolm Brown, who is the Director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Church of England (COE). The article is part of a general outreach/education effort on the part of COE as to how it regards Darwin and his legacy (much of which can be found on the sidebars of the web page with Brown's article). In general, Brown's conclusions are uncontroversial to the informed: there is no necessary conflict between faith and the practice of science, some Christians past and present don't give Darwin or evolution a fair shake, some people have misapplied Darwin's theory, et cetera.
However, many (including the mathematician Jason Rosenhouse) take no small exception to what seems to be part of the implied thesis, that good science needs good religion, as when Brown writes:
There is no integrity to be found either in rejecting Darwin's ideas wholesale or in elevating them into the kind of grand theory which reduces humanity to the sum of our evolutionary urges. For the sake of human integrity -- and thus for the sake of good Christian living -- some rapprochement between Darwin and Christian faith is essential.
To which Jason retorts:
No, it is not essential. The cause of human integrity is not furthered in the slightest by Christianity. Nor is there integrity in trying desperately to preserve outdated ways of thinking in the face of scientific advances that show them to be entirely without merit.
Brown refers to his sort of thinking as “Good religion.” It is good in the following sense: the world would be a better place if fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity disappeared off the face of the Earth and were replaced with Brown's way of thinking.
But in another sense it is not good religion. Brown has not squarely faced the problems evolution poses for Christianity. He does not even seem to recognize them. The fundamentalists do recognize the problem, and they have made their choice as to which side they are on. He is free, of course, to believe whatever he wants. I object, however, to the suggestion that somehow he is doing it right, and those Christians less sanguine about reconciling Christianity and evolution are doing it wrong. Picking and choosing the parts of Christianity you like while ignoring the parts that conflict with science is not an act of integirty. It is an act of intellectual desperation.Now, as a theist I'm inclined to give Brown the benefit of the doubt, and I suggested to Jason that perhaps Brown was not saying that "human integrity is furthered by, much less dependent upon Christianity":
[Brown] is saying 'good Christian living' must be in accord with 'human integrity.' It is a poor faith that denies the existence of facts simply because they seem to be at odds with traditional beliefs. I don't doubt that a believer like Brown sees Christianity as making a world a better place, and as a skeptic you are more inclined to see it as a plague, but that's not the claim that's being made. You clearly misread the claim because you are provoked by any association with Christianity.
Jason favored me with a lengthy response, and on the above point he replied:
I did not misread Brown's statement, “For the sake of human integrity -- and thus for the sake of good Christian living -- some rapprochement between Darwin and Christian faith is essential.” The sentence couldn't be clearer that a rapprochement between Darwin and Christian faith is essential for the sake of human integrity. That statement is nonsense, for the reason I gave in the post. The dashed clause does nothing to change that fact.
At this point, I wondered if there was some possibility that Jason was correct, and that I was wrong. As a Christian, I had read Brown's article as an address to his fellow Christians, specifically communicants of the COE. But Jason is not a believer, and from his point of view this wasn't about Christians needing a faith that doesn't deny facts of nature---this was more along the lines of claiming that scientists need to make nice-nice with Christianity in order to have integrity. Which of these interpretations was correct? It would matter to me not just because I like to know when I am wrong, but also because as a personal matter I don't think any belief system should be priviliged outside its domain, and certainly not within science.
Obviously, the best way of answering this question is to go to the source, and so I wrote the Rev. Brown a little note, which read (in part) as follows:
I'm a high school science teacher in the United States and a member of the National Center for Science Education, which is the leading organization in the US committed to the teaching of evolution. I am also a sincere Christian (Methodist) who by virtue of my occupation is often asked to answer questions about the intersection of science and faith.
As such, I take no small interest in claims made by fellow Christians regarding that nexus, and how we should attempt to bridge the gap between the natural world of the scientist and the realm of faith. Your recent article "Good religion needs good science" naturally prompts some to wonder if the inverse is true: does good science, in effect, need good religion, or at least some kind of understanding, some quid pro quo with some sort of religion?.....I certainly agree that a Christian who denies the overwhelming evidence in favor of Darwinian evolution is at best misguided, at worst lacking integrity. We need a faith that is big enough to grapple with the world as it is, not as how some might wish it to be. But does it follow, then, that a non-Christian can not affirm a purely naturalistic account with integrity? If so, why?
I realize you are very busy in service to the Church, but if you could take the time when you can find it to venture a reply, I would greatly appreciate an elaboration of your views on these points.
To his credit, Brown replied as follows:
At this point, I despaired. Did I fail to read the article carefully? Is Jason correct? But Rev. Brown, in his reply, continues:
One of the anxieties which I was trying to address is the absence of integrity in lives which compartmentalise religious belief whilst continuing to relate to the material world as if those beliefs are suspended. I am more perplexed by your question about whether a non-Christian can affirm a purely naturalistic account with integrity. I would say that the naturalistic account is available to both the believer and the non believer but that, without some perception of what the religious imagination is seeking to uncover (I don't just mean adherence to a belief system or faith) the naturalistic account is distinctly "thin".
What I mean here is that reaching out to the transcendent - to God, however God is conceived - inevitably takes us beyond the limits of human language and categories. That's why it is so important to understand that great truths are conveyed in poetry as well as in formulae and that the positivist assumption that nothing is meaningful if it can't be falsified (a view which is now, of course, rather discredited amongst philosophers) is seriously deficient. This is where the militant secularists, and the fundamentalists who reject Darwin and all his works, are two sides of the same coin - both are applying an essentially modernist epistemology to matters that can't be reached that way. So the Biblical literalist is treating scripture as if it were conveying evidential meaning in the same verifyable, and falsifiable, way as a chemical formula. Indeed, religious fundamentalisms are essentially creatures of modernity - as I say in the essay, Thomas Aquinas would have been unable to understand the "science vs. religion" divide - for him they were all part of an integral human endeavour.
In general, I agree that the scientific community as a whole should strive to interact in a constructive way with other human communities, including those of a religious nature. Certainly, as a theist I have at times felt the anxiety that attends compartmentalizing faith and the practice of science. I think Brown's point that the present version of Biblical literalism practiced by many fundamentalists is a relatively recent innovation is sound, and I would add that the position of inerrancy taught in many churches in the States is heterodox. Certainly I agree that there are aspects of the human experience that are not amenable to scientific investigation, that there is more to life than chemical formula.
Having said that, I think Brown's conclusion is under-sourced in the facts department, and I would like a little more context. One could easily read his article's conclusion as implying that one can not practice science with integrity without, in a sense, priviliging some version of religion. In reality, as Jason and many others have pointed out, there is an overlap between the realm of testable claims and the alleged consequences of various sorts of supernatural claims. Science, in order to retain its integrity, needs to have the freedom to investigate (and attempt to falsify!) the latter, and that includes claims that might put the nose of the religious out-of-joint.
One could also read Brown's conclusion as implying that good scientists are going to adopt a conciliatory attitude toward religion. If so, I disagree. E.O. Wilson (who is not a believer) strikes a conciliatory note in The Creation, for example, but does it follow because Steven Weinberg gently but firmly rejects any role for religion that the latter is a poor scientist? Certainly not. Scientific integrity doesn't require priviliging another's beliefs; in fact, the opposite is likely to be truth. In order to accept Brown's conclusion, I would have to believe that the brief 'constructive' does not preclude a healthy skepticism.
On the other hand, I do believe that, in order to have integrity, believers should pursue a rapprochement with good science. They may not achieve this goal, but they should certainly be engaged with the facts available to them, and not attempt to suppress or dismiss things simply because they present difficulties for their faith. On the other hand, I don't mean that religious people must accept the provisional claims of science as Gospel---good scientists certainly don't! Nor do I believe that creationists lack integrity because they do not accept widely-accepted scientific theories. Rather, I think that believers must have the integrity to look at the evidence honestly, and not use bad arguments, misinformation or outright falsehoods in support of their beliefs. There are creationists who do grapple with the evidence available to them, and who attempt to promote their beliefs without chicanery. I don't share their views, but I won't assume that in order to have integrity they should.
I invite comments.