In a 2007 debate with John Lennox (viewable here), Richard Dawkins vocalises his frustration that religion (in his view) ‘stuntifies’ true scientific understanding:
“The scientific enterprise is an active, seeking… an active seeking out of gaps in our knowledge… [a] seeking out of ignorance, so that we can work to plug that ignorance. But religion teaches us to be satisfied with not really understanding. Every time one of these difficult questions comes up, science says, ‘Right, let’s roll up our sleeves and work on it.’ Religion says, ‘Oh, god did it.’ ‘We don’t need to work on it, god did it. It’s as simple of that.’ …Religion stuntifies the impulse to understand, because religion gives a facile, easy, apparent explanation… and it prevents the further work on the problem.
As my post ‘Atheism and explanatory monism‘ points out, this frustration results directly from the assumption that scientific explanations and religious explanations exist on the same (so to speak) explanatory plane/level. In simple diagrammatic form, this is what this imagined explanatory conflict would look like:
(scientific explanations) ———> conflict! <——— (religious explanations)
How then, do/did esteemed scientists such as Ken Miller, Francis Collins, John Polkinghorne, Guy Consolmagno, Michael Faraday, Newton, Galileo, etc. (and the thousands of other scientists who happen to also be ‘religious’) manage to do both?
They do so because there is absolutely no reason to see any conflict (let alone direct, total, irreconcilable conflict!) between explanations of the scientific kind, and explanations of a religious kind. John Haught, in his book Is Nature Enough: Meaning and Truth in the Age of Science“, calls this “layered explanation”. In simple diagrammatic form, this is what this looks like:
<<—(scientific explanations) ——————->>
<<——————– (religious explanations)—>>
So, rather than the religious ‘god did it’ being a ‘science stopper’, we can see that it can instead be more of an “I believe God did this – right, now let’s roll up our sleeves and find out how.”