Monday 17 September 2012

No more NOMA, no, no, no.

This evening I watched something my faithful telly-watching machine recorded for me last week — Rosh Hashanah: Science vs Religion, a half-hour programme presented by the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks.

Lord Sacks is often on Thought for the Day, speaking with his characteristic measured pace, endowing each word with great meaning and authority. His precise enunciation, however, fails to conceal an embarrassing fact: that the meaning and authority are wholly spurious. It's almost as if he strings words together solely based on their euphony, without consideration of what the words might actually mean.


"For me, science is one of the greatest achievements of humankind — a gift given to us by God."

Well, which is it, Lord Sacks? An achievement of humankind? Or a gift from God? (Is it any wonder he thinks science and religion are compatible when he obviously can't see the blatant incompatibility of what he's saying right at the start of his own TV programme?)

You have a couple of days to catch the whole thing on iPlayer:

Some clips:

The blurb from the BBC website:
Religion and science are frequently set up as polar opposites; incompatible ways of thinking. The Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks begs to differ. For him, science and religion can, and should, work together. To mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, he puts his position to the test. He meets three non-believing scientists, each at the top of their field: neurologist Baroness Susan Greenfield, theoretical physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili, and the person best known for leading the scientific attack on religion, Professor Richard Dawkins. Will the Chief Rabbi succeed in convincing the militant defender of atheism that science and religion need not be at war?
It's clear that all three of the atheist scientists to whom Lord Sacks puts his plea are willing to concede that there are limits to science — and that's where the Chief Rabbi jumps in to claim the ground for himself, while simultaneously decrying "God of the gaps". But he doesn't seem to realise that just because science doesn't have answers to certain questions, he cannot claim that religion does. Because it doesn't. All that religion can do is interpret scripture — which more often than not means making stuff up.