Is it a bad thing that the scientific community is supposedly intolerant of religion?
Matt Nisbet recently implied that it was a bad thing that the scientific community can be as intolerant of religion as religious people can be of science. Is this really a bad thing? Would Nisbet imply that it is a bad thing for the scientific community to be intolerant of contemporary belief in phrenology, astrology, alchemy, psychics, or witchcraft? Shouldn’t we be “respecting” these believers’ beliefs? Don’t we have any compassion? Any civility? Aren’t we for equality and fairness? How dare the scientific community not respect the beliefs of Sasquatchians!
I understand that religious people can invest a lot of their identity and sense of meaning and purpose in their religious beliefs. But is that the scientist’s problem? Should that make it uncivil to criticize certain beliefs while leaving other forms of irrationality smack-dab in the middle of open-season? This is the sort of thing that happens when a bunch of people link their personal and community identities and their sense of meaning to a particular belief. They can become dogmatic and intolerant of people giving their beliefs fair treatment, and because of their numbers they can propagate and create an illusion of justice for their intolerance of free inquiry when it applies to their beliefs.