Scientists and religion, part 2

Scientific American has put online a long discourse between Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, about how scientists should approach religion.

I very much like some parts of the discussion that didn't make it into the print version, and they give an impression of the personalities of the two men. Krauss takes on the "good cop" to Dawkins' "bad cop" very ably

Krauss: Indeed, I have argued that questions of purpose in the universe are generally not a part of science, and the best example I know is that of Georges Lematre, the Belgian priest who was also a physicist, and the first person to realize that Einsteins General Relativity implied there was a Big Bang origin to our universe (a claim initially much derided by Einstein). Following this realization Pope Pius XII issued a statement that said science had proved Genesis. Lematre responded appropriately. He wrote to the Pope and urged him to stop saying that. The theory in question was a scientific theory whose predictions could be tested. What religious implications one took from the theory depended upon ones metaphysical leanings. One could take it to validate Genesis, by implying that the Universe had a beginning — a revolutionary scientific claim at the time. But one could equally well take it to imply that there is no need for a God, that the laws of physics are all that are required to understand the universe right back to the beginning. The point is that the science is accurate in describing how the universe works, independent of the metaphysical implications one derives from it. The same is of course true for evolution, which happened and is happening, whether or not one chooses to believe in God.

In another section, Krauss suggests that religion may have arisen as a necessary way for humans to deal with an irrational world. Dawkins' reply:

Dawkins: If [religion] is a central facet of what it means to be human, so much the worse for humans. The world is not irrational. The world may be unfair but it is not irrational. The rational response to an unfair world is to recognize that we have no right to expect it to be fair. If that sounds callous, Im sorry, but it is the business of science to understand the way the world is, not to try to derive comfort from it. All we can do is take political and other human action to make fairer that small part of the world over which we have control. As it happens, I think there is a poetic consolation to be found in science, and I tried to give expression to it in Unweaving the Rainbow.

In the end the two don't really disagree about anything, but their exchange helps to clarify and draw out the major points of their mutual point of view.