Some people think that science and religion operate in two different spheres, with never the twain meeting.
This often is called NOMA, non-overlapping magisteria -- a term coined by biologist Stephen Jay Gould, who said:
The magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty).
I disagree, unless "religion" is defined so broadly as to include philosophy in both the scholarly and commonsense meanings of this word. People can ponder the ultimate meaning of the cosmos, and what is right or wrong within it, without being traditionally religious.
Also, science seems to have a role to play in evaluating certain religious claims. If God or some other supernatural power produces effects in the physical universe, these should be observable. And thus testable.
However, movie critic Roger Ebert disagreed in his essay, "Darwin survives as the fittest," written in commemoration of Darwin's two hundredth birthday last February. Even though Ebert is strongly pro-science, he said:
Science has no opinion on the supernatural. It cannot. Science deals with that which can be studied or inferred by observation, measurement, and experiment. Supernatural belief is outside its purview, except in such social sciences as sociology, anthropology, and psychology, where even then not the validity of the beliefs but their effects are studied.
Ebert's piece is interesting for what he says about evolution and the varieties of responses to the Theory (better termed Fact) of Evolution. These include "species" such as the True Believers, Reasonables, Metaphysicians, and New Agers.
But what got science blogger P.Z. Myer's attention was Ebert's contention that science can't invade religion's supernatural turf. Otherwise he mostly approved of what Ebert had to say.
In "Effectively non-existent" Myers wrote:
The premise that science can't have a stance on the validity of a religion is like the tranquilizer dart of the debates with religion; someone is thinking and questioning, and suddenly, swooosh, thock, ouch…they hear this argument that you can't question the premises of religion, they get all sleepy and soporified, nod a few times, and piously agree. Gould succumbed to this, too, and here's Roger Ebert, hit by the same dart.
Think about it. Why can't science address the existence of gods? Why should we simply sit back and accept the claim of apologists that what they believe in is not subject to "observation, measurement, and experiment"?
Myers correctly points out that religious believers make all sorts of statements about who or what God is, how God acts in the world, what God approves of, and so on. Many of these claims have implications that are amenable to observation (such as whether prayer produces the outcomes asked for).
Yet when scientists ask for demonstrable evidence of religious claims, suddenly this God that was so well understood is said to "work in mysterious ways" and is beyond knowledge as we know it.
Well, which is it? Either a religion can say something true about God and the supernatural, or it can't. If nothing can be said, then why do all the saying? Just shut up.
However, if some truths can be spoken, then they should be able to be tested. Myers gets it right:
So where did these confident promoters of god-business get their information? Shouldn't they be admitting that their knowledge of this elusive cosmic beast is nonexistent? It seems to me that if you're going to declare scientists helpless before the absence and irrelevance of the gods, you ought to declare likewise for all of god's translators and interpreters. Be consistent when you announce who has purview over all religious belief, because making god unobservable and immeasurable makes everyone incapable of saying anything at all about it.
...This is where the "Science has no opinion on religion" argument leads us: to an atheist's world, where there are no activities by a god that matter, where at best people can claim that their god is aloof and unknowable, admitting in their own premises that they have no knowledge at all of him.
I can accept that, as long as these people are aware of the import of what they are actually saying.