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Desert Diary


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Periodically, religiously inspired groups attempt to require the introduction of the supernatural into science. It offends these groups that science will not acknowledge the possibility of intervention by their Deity in natural phenomena. Unfortunately, this is a profound misunderstanding of the role of science, a confusion between science on the one hand and philosophy and religion on the other. Science's role is strictly the attempt to explain the material universe on the basis of natural law, in terms not invoking the supernatural. Asking it to integrate the supernatural is like asking a penknife to do the work of a computer, whereas asking religion to explain the universe entirely in naturalistic terms is like asking a computer to do the work of a penknife. These are tools designed for different purposes, and attempting to infuse one with the other pretty much destroys the functions of both.

The roles of science and religion are different. Science's sole job is to attempt to explain the material universe: what is. Religion's job is very different: to attempt to explain right and wrong.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.