a brief note on the public debate on science and religion

sciences and religion

1) Required readings

* Neil deGrasse Tyson (2016, August 7), “Reflections on Rationalia,” Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/notes/neil-degrasse-tyson/reflections-on-rationalia/10154399608556613

* Jeffrey Guhin (2016, July 5), “A Nation Ruled by Science Is a Terrible Idea,” Retrieved from:


* Stephen Jay Gould (1997), “Nonoverlapping Magisteria,” Natural History 106: 16-22 (reproduced here: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.html)

2) Reflection essay (minimum of 400 words)

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famous astrophysicist and science communicator (perhaps best known for the 2014 science documentary ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’ he presented), has recently suggested on Twitter that “Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidences.” The Tyson article is a further elaboration on the idea of Rationalia, and the Guhin piece is a sociologist’s response. This debate brings up some questions relevant to our course: What role should science play in our societies? How do we define science or religion? Does each have their own “legitimate magisterium” that does not (or should not) overlap? If we are worried about preventing religious ideas and beliefs from intervening in scientific activities and public policies, how should we draw boundaries between science and religion?

Imagine yourself writing a short opinion piece for a newspaper about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Rationalia’ proposal. In your piece, please (1) begin by briefly summarizing what the ‘Rationalia’ proposal is about, (2) move to a discussion of 2-3 aspects of the ‘Rationalia’ proposal that you find valuable, interesting, unjustified, or problematic, and (3) end with a brief note on the public debate on science and religion (by using insights from Stephen Jay Gould’s article on ‘nonoverlapping magisteria’).

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