David P. Barish, the author of this Op-ed gives us an example of "The Talk" he give to his freshman biology class each year to help clear up the distinctions between the two disciplines. He and I agree that you can be a believer in Religion and not fail his biology class. We also agree that believers (in my case a Roman Catholic) need to do more on their part to reconcile the differences and point out the relationship between the two disciplines. Up until now it has been Scientists doing most of the heavy-lifting: pointing to what Science can and can not do at its very best with very poor examples (from my Roman Catholic perspective) coming from those who purport to represent Christian or other religious views. But I disagree with his ultimate conclusion and his basic attitude that as science progresses, religion and religious belief should diminish and disappear.
His second argument which is related to the first is about "centrality." Similar to the Copernican revolution when humans thought that the earth was the center of the universe and therefore humans too were the center, in light of today's modern understandings we know differently. Not only is the earth not the center of the universe, but broadly speaking, there is nothing remarkable about the human being that would objectively in the vast existence of all things in the universe lead us to place such emphasis on the human person.
Certainly from a Roman Catholic point of view, we do feel that we can learn something about the Creator from observing Creation. We also do believe that there is an inherent dignity in the human person who is "made in the image and likeness of God." Thus as Christians, we see revealed in Jesus Christ--true God and true man--something about the Creator and something about Creation.
Essentially, Barish is somewhat content with the detente about how Faith and Reason/Religion & Science are "non-overlapping magesteria." He becomes less comfortable because in fact these separate domains are not exactly non-overlapping. Even for a religious believer (or in fact especially for a religious believer) you cannot really "separate church and state." You really can't have a scientific universe and then try to "fit God in."
But this is precisely the point of difference between true believers who uphold science and those who are operating exclusively within the scientific realm (or exclusively within the religious realm). At no point in the true exercise of the discipline of Science would an Intelligent Designer emerge. This is as absurd as Kurt Vonnegut's joke that he firmly believed with the advances in science that one day there would be a photograph of God published in Popular Mechanics. Similarly, from a scientific point of view, there would be no objective proof that humanity had any central place in creation. We are ultimately atomic and subatomic parts. Stars and cosmic dust...yet ultimately on the level of physics no different than a beam of light or a mud puddle.
But as a Roman Catholic, I would also point out that it is just as easy and true to say that a baby came from sexual reproduction and the forces of natural selection, DNA, etc. (or more colloquially "the baby came from his/her parents") as it is to say that the baby was created by God. The materialist/objective view of the universe similarly may suppress a central value of human life, but it doesn't blot out the creative force of God who brings forth and sustains Creation from nothing. Both The Big Bang and evolution are quite sufficient for explaining a practical and empirical manifestation of the universe, but they do not supplant an existential, ontological, foundational premise upon which the the basics of faith, the general belief in the supernatural and transcendent, and ultimately the Good News revealed in what God the Father accomplishes through Christ in the Spirit.
As Dan Horan, OFM author and colleague of mine put in his own blog on Barish's piece:
I would love for him to sit down with Ilia Delio or Alister McGrath or John Polkinghorne or any other scholar who holds doctorates in both scientific fields and theology. Even those who haven’t earned advance degrees in both areas, those like John Haught or Elizabeth Johnson, have gone far out of their ways to not only take the natural sciences seriously, but to engage in complex and rigorous research that correlates the depth of the Christian theological tradition with the scientific discoveries Barash thinks “demolish” religious belief...
Likewise, just because one is learned in one field of research and scholarship (biology) does not mean that she or he is qualified to so definitively proclaim apodictic truths in another field (theology). If the theologians I named above, including myself, take seriously the work of biologists like Barash in his field, he should do likewise and take seriously our work. He might actually learn something.