Non-overlapping magisteria

view that science and religion have separate, non-overlapping domains of validity

Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry - fact vs. values - so that there is a difference between the "nets" over which they have "a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority," and these two domains do not overlap.


  • More generally it is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps itself away from science's turf, restricting itself to morals and values. A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims.
    • Richard Dawkins, "When Religion Steps on Science’s Turf", Free Inquiry (1998)
  • One often hears that there is no conflict between science and religion. For instance, in a review of Johnson's book, Stephen Gould remarks that science and religion do not come into conflict, because "science treats factual reality, while religion treats human morality." On most things I tend to agree with Gould, but here I think he goes too far; the meaning of religion is defined by what religious people actually believe, and the great majority of the world's religious people would be surprised to learn that religion has nothing to do with factual reality.
    But Gould's view is widespread today among scientists and religious liberals. This seems to me to represent an important retreat of religion from positions it once occupied. Once nature seemed inexplicable without a nymph in every brook and a dryad in every tree. Even as late as the nineteenth century the design of plants and animals was regarded as visible evidence of a creator. There are still countless things in nature that we cannot explain, but we think we know the principles that govern the way they work. Today for real mystery one has to look to cosmology and elementary particle physics. For those who see no conflict between science and religion, the retreat of religion from the ground occupied by science is nearly complete.

See also

Wikipedia has an article about: