One way to distinguish between science and religion is that science has a naturalistic outlook, whereas religion routinely appeals to the supernatural.
The first step towards understanding the difference between science and religion is to understand the difference between science and metaphysics. The crowning achievement of metaphysics is the cosmological argument for God’s existence. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a lengthy entry with this title that ignores the real cosmological argument of Thomas Aquinas as explained by Etienne Gilson: Finite beings exist and need a cause, hence, an infinite being exists. This argument gives rise to the possibility that there are two kinds of knowledge: faith and reason. In reason, we know a theory is true because it is supported by evidence. In faith, we know something is true because the infinite being is telling us.
For instance, in the United Kingdom, scientists, clergy, and popular writers, sought to reconcile science and religion during the 19th and early 20th century, whereas the US saw the rise of a fundamentalist opposition to evolutionary thinking, exemplified by the Scopes trial in 1925 (Bowler 2001, 2009).
According to “Evolution Revolution: Evolution is True. Darwin is Wrong. This Changes Everything,” there were only laws against teaching that human beings evolved from apes. Darwin and other advocates of natural selection were trying to promote eugenics and racism, which offended the moral sensibilities of religious people. The evolution of animals was taught in schools in the United States.
One way to distinguish between science and religion is that science has a naturalistic outlook, whereas religion routinely appeals to the supernatural. In everyday life, people frequently combine naturalistic explanations with supernatural ones.
The human mind is structured like the scientific method. At the lowest level are observations, which requires paying attention. At the level of inquiry, we ask questions about what we observe. This requires intelligence, and very intelligent individuals invent theories to answer the questions. At the level of reflective judgment, we marshal the evidence and decide whether a theory is true or just probable. This requires being rational. The fourth level is deciding what to do with one’s body. This requires being responsible. There is no such thing as a “supernatural” explanation. An explanation is either good or bad depending on whether or not it is supported by the evidence.
For example, neuroscientists believe that our thoughts are ultimately caused and constituted by brain states, which are the result of physical processes.
I had an email exchange with an atheistic professor of philosophy at the U. of Central Arkansas (Jim Shelton). He wrote a short article critical of Thomas Nagel’s condemnation of materialism, which I mostly agreed with. I endeavored to nail down exactly where Felton and me disagreed. We agreed that there was no evidence for dualism and life after death. I said that there is zero probability that a human being is a collection of molecules and it is one hundred percent certain that human beings are embodied spirits. I asked him what his percentages were. He refused to answer. I consider this proof that atheists suffer from cognitive dissonance. They don’t want to think about the mind-body problem and are disingenuous when they discuss it. In Nagel’s case, he called dualism a “traditional” solution. It is just a bright idea from Descartes.
Atheism and agnosticism are prevalent among academics, especially among those working in elite institutions
In addition to the cosmological argument, there is the argument based on the assumption that moral laws are true. It is perfectly reasonable to say these arguments have no content and are contradictory. So-called atheists and agnostics don’t say this because they don’t know the arguments and don’t want to think about them. As I explained in # 4, you can prove that humans are embodied spirits and that the human soul (form) is spiritual.