The Idea of NOMA
Steven Jay Gould’s theory portrays science and religion as two separate and distinct
domains or “magisterias”. He also claims that because of their unique natures, neither of two
overlap at any given point.
Reconciling Scientific and Theological Perceptions
Non-overlapping magisterias, or NOMAs, are supported by many people on both sides.
The main argument, however, is brought to light when each side is asked to define the both
magisterias’ exact boundaries. Gould draws the boundaries and defines the NOMA concept as
being one where religion and theology govern questions of moral value and “ultimate meaning”.
Science, on the other hand, extends control over the empirical realm. It also governs the universe
and the concept of how things within it work (Albl, 2009).
The concepts of NOMA have come under fire by many opponents. Henry Drummond, a
Scottish evangelist, and Richard Dawkins, a well known atheist, have openly criticized Gould
and the theory of non-overlapping magisteria. Drummond urges Christians to fill gaps in
knowledge with the notion that all things are created and sustained by God. He chastises those
who rely on science to answer their questions.
Dawkins takes a somewhat different stance, claiming Christians would be more than happy to
validate their claims with scientific evidence. With science supporting them and offering proof to
substantiate their beliefs, there would be no use for the NOMA concept.
While both sides have valid points, the concept of non-overlapping magisterias offers
little to reconcile both science and theology if neither side agrees to compromise on where the
boundaries of each lie. Christians and scientists refuse to validate the concepts which govern the
other side’s beliefs. With neither side willing to relinquish any ground in the matter, establishing
valid boundaries cannot occur.
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