NOMA, for non-overlapping magisteria, represented Stephen Jay Gould's now unpopular suggestion, in Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, of assuming an inextricable separation between science and religion.

Gould proposed that science, which dealt solely with the physical or empirical magisterium, was totally distinct from religion, which was confined to questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. In essence, NOMA incorporated the harmony seeking suggestion that never the twain should meet.

The term magisterium describes a domain of understanding in which only one form of investigation or teaching possesses the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution. The notion of NOMA protects religion from scientific scrutiny even though 'scientific' claims including genesis, floods, and miracles are described in the Bible.

Gould's suggestion has been criticized by evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and by philosopher of science as applied to evolutionary biology, Michael Ruse.

Obviously, things cannot be quite this simple. Even if one ignores what Ian Barbour has shown us in a helpful taxonomy, namely that Gould's NOMA is not the only possible stance on the science/religion relationship, the Gouldian separation ploy requires some further work. Prima facie, Genesis does tell us things which conflict with science - six days of creation, humans last, world-wide flood, tower of Babel, and so forth. If you are to insist that there is no conflict - and, in respects, I am happy to go along with Gould on this - then you have got to work to show that Genesis properly understood and science properly understood do not conflict. Prima facie conflict is no more than that -- prima facie -- and not definitive. ¬ Michael Ruse, Review of Stephen Jay Gould's "Rocks of Ages"

More from Ruse : Stephen Jay Gould: An Appreciation . Being Mean to Stephen Jay Gould :

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