Thursday, December 17, 2009


I am a research psychologist. I do experiments. I apply the scientific method to studying the mind. Some people see a science and religion as being in conflict. I do not agree, although there is a conflict between science and "fundamentalist" religion. Richard Dawkins (who wrote The God Delusion) likes to refer to the bible as a bunch of bronze age scribblings. Dismissing the bible in this way is only legitimate if you take it as a book that is meant to be factual about history and metaphysical reality. There are a lot of different ways to approach the study of religion, but my focus in is on understanding religion as a method for creating and developing states of mind. However, in the past people often expressed ideas about this metaphorically, through myth and story (google Joseph Campbell on this). The experiences and states of mind resulting from religion are the parts that are real, that we actually experience. Maybe something happens after you die (heaven, reincarnation), maybe not. Jesus said, let the dead bury the dead. In Zen they say, if you meet the Buddha, kill him. In other words, focus on living in the now, not on external philosophical questions.

The Power of MythThe God Delusion


  1. When I think of science and religion being in conflict, I mainly think of their epistemologies. Science tries to minimize faiths, and has a self-correcting mechanism what it suggests you believe. Religious belief has no explicit self-correcting mechanism. Its evolution, rather, is based more on historical happenstance.

    I think what you mean to say is that they should not be conflict. However, concerning many religions as they are actually practiced, I think their conflict is undeniable. To say, for example, that the intelligent design / evolution debate has nothing to do with a conflict between science and religion is whitewashing religion into something you'd rather it be.

    -Jim Davies (

  2. That's a good point, I should be more clear. A lot of religious groups that do not self identify as fundamentalist are in conflict with science. When I see a religious person in conflict with science I think of them as a fundamentalist because they are believing in something despite clear evidence that it is not true (this actually violates a principle in Buddhism whereby doctrine should be abandoned or altered if it directly conflicts with experience). What I want to say is that it is possible to be simultaneously religious and science minded. However, this is relatively rare and requires a particular view of religion (e.g., as described in this blog)