The Principle of Non-Overlapping Food Groups

By Sean Carroll | June 22, 2009 11:16 am

A friend of mine, who is severely allergic to pork products, recently asked whether it would be okay for him to order a Western Omelet (ingredients: eggs, cheese, ham, onions, peppers). Superficially, this might seem like a fairly easy question: the incompatibilities between Western omelets and pork allergies seem pretty obvious. But I was able to use a sophisticated philosophical argument to convince him that everything would be okay.

My inspiration was Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of NOMA, or Non-Overlapping Magisteria. This principle establishes the fundamental compatibility of science with religion, arguing that the two simply don’t address similar questions, and therefore cannot come into conflict. Science deals with the workings of the world (“is” questions), while religion deals with ethical behavior (“ought” questions), so there is way they can be incompatible.

In this spirit, I have developed what I like to call the principle of Non-Overlapping Food Groups, or NOFOG for short. The basic argument is as follows: throughout history, humans have divided our culinary products into a set of grand groupings. Among these are the Egg Group and the Pork Group. Clearly these are non-overlapping: eggs come from chickens, while pork comes from pigs. Q.E.D.

Now, I don’t know about you, but a Western Omelet falls squarely within the Egg Group where I am from. Growing up in our small house in the Pennsylvania suburbs, I would look forward to eggs every Sunday morning, most often in the form of a yummy Western Omelet. While the identification is not perfect, we won’t go far wrong by recognizing the Western Omelet as a crucial component of the Egg Group on which we all depend.

Clearly, since the Egg Group is non-overlapping with the Pork Group, and my friend’s allergies are only to pork, the NOFOG principle justified encouraging his interest in ordering the omelet. I’ll be visiting him in the hospital tomorrow, hopefully he’s feeling better.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Religion
  • Pete

    This brings to mind the joke about the pig and the chicken and the ham&eggs breakfast:

    The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

  • Tom

    I have no idea what you’re talking about, so I’ll go with the ever popular WTH?

  • http://www.sonic.net/~rknop/blog Rob Knop

    This is a straw man.

    There are realms that science addresses and that religion does not. There are also realms that religion addresses and that science does not. Taken by themselves, those two realms are non-overlapping.

    Of course, there are also lots of cases where people use religion to address a science question (and get it wrong). And, you can find cases where people assert that science addresses a religious question (and get it wrong). And, certainly, there are lots of cases where it’s not obvious whether it’s scientific or a religious question, and, certainly, over time our understanding of science has moved things that were previously thought to be pure religious questions into the domain of science.

    An example of something that many think is a religious question, but is in fact a scientific question : the healing power of anonymous third-party prayer. If lots of people pray for a sick third person to get better, and that sick third person doesn’t know about the people praying for him, does it help? The experiment has been done; I fear I don’t have a reference, but it has been done, and it’s been shown not to work.

    An example of something that many think is a scientific question, but is in fact a religious question: the non-existence of God. There is a whole school of atheists out there who think that the success of science is convincing proof that God does not exist. More honest atheists will assert that there is no scientific proof that God does exist. The ultimate question, though, really, is a religious question, not a scientific question. Whether or not God has certain systematic effects on the natural world can be addressed by science, but “what is God” is not a scientific question.

    Claiming that your Western Omelet example is analogous to saying that there are no NOMA for science and religion is about as reasonable as saying that it’s an analogy to saying there’s no difference in the intellectual questions addressed by the sciences and by the humanities, given that after all science textbooks are *on the printed page*.

  • http://lighthouseinthesky.blogspot.com/ Anne

    Along superficially similar lines, can a vegan (who can’t eat any animal product) drink a McDonald’s milkshake? Are they entirely a product of oil refining or does any milk product enter into their production at any point?

  • Sili

    Frankly, I think that anyone suffering the misfortune of being allergic to pork, would rightly want to kill themselves by eating bacon. That sorta thing is a fate worse than death.

  • Neal J. King

    Sean,

    Your analogy is pretty poor. I’ll discard it, and just go for the throat:

    A typical area in religious matters is one of moral ethics. So let’s consider an ethical dilemma: A young child and an 80-year-old man are trapped in a fire; you have time to save only one of them. What should you do?

    Now, how is your understanding of this question changed by finding out that Einstein’s theory of gravity is better than Newton’s? Or that superstrings explain everything? Or any other scientific insight?

    Conversely, consider a problem in Lagrangian mechanics. How is your approach to the problem changed if you are forced, at sword point, to convert to Islam?

    Now generalize these examples.

  • http://tete-tete-tete.com/ smijer

    A friend of mine, who is severely allergic to pork products, recently asked whether it would be okay for him to order a Western Omelet (ingredients: eggs, cheese, ham, onions, peppers).

    continuing….

    I tell him of course he shouldn’t. I say, “you’ll get sick from the pork”. He responds, “but I had bacon for breakfast this morning, and pork chops for dinner last night, and I didn’t get sick!”

    No, no, no. You just don’t understand. You are allergic to pork!

    “How do you know? Really, I eat it all the time, and I never get sick from it.”

    Well, sure… on the trivial level that you can eat it, but not get sick from it maybe your system is compatible with it. But, really, I know your system, and it is definitely allergic to pork. Pork is fine for me, because I am a pig farmer. But you are an accountant, and pork is definitely off limits for accountants.

    Honestly, I don’t understand how some people don’t understand that pork is poison to anyone who doesn’t raise swine.

  • Tevin

    To go with the analogy : when I started reading this story, I thought I would be getting a nice, crispy piece of thick-cut peppercorn bacon.

    Instead, I got Canadian bacon.

    Disappointment abounds.

  • http://realisy.blogspot.com MaxPolun

    A typical area in religious matters is one of moral ethics. So let’s consider an ethical dilemma: A young child and an 80-year-old man are trapped in a fire; you have time to save only one of them. What should you do?

    Now, how is your understanding of this question changed by finding out that Einstein’s theory of gravity is better than Newton’s? Or that superstrings explain everything? Or any other scientific insight?

    And how does Jesus’s death and rebirth help here? Or Buddhas teachings on enlightenment? Or even the semi-moral 10 Commandments? I’ve never gotten why religion is thought to have a hold on morality and ethics, there really isn’t much content related to morality. It’s telling that nearly half of the 10 Commandments are not so much moral instructions of even the most primitive type, but rather instructions for worship.

  • Sam Gralla

    I don’t get it. What is supposed to be analogous to “is” and “ought” in the pork/chicken distinction? This seems pretty vacuous.

  • thales

    It’s a good analogy. NOMA works, at least on a theoretical level, because fact and fiction are, in principle, non-overlapping.

    In practice, however, religion almost always makes both implicit and explicit claims to areas of knowledge that are better answered via a scientific approach. If you doubt that religion makes such claims, feel free to ask your local creationist, flood geologist, or psychic medium.

    This matters because religion has an impact on society. Look at the struggle in Texas over textbooks right now.

    The idea that religion deals with ethics and science does not: I’ll grant that the way we typically define science excludes normative judgments. Fine. In practice, however, people actually do apply what they know to the decisions they make. So, scientific knowledge – for example, findings from biology and psychology – inform our decisions about a wide range of ethical issues.

    Religion, in contrast, is often based on tribalistic ethics and outdated, even barbaric, notions of the value of life.

    So in practice – here in the real world – NOMA is a joke. As Sean’s analogy so aptly demonstrates.

  • http://tete-tete-tete.com/ smijer

    So in practice – here in the real world – NOMA is a joke. As Sean’s analogy so aptly demonstrates.

    1. My definition of religion is the important one.
    1a. I define religion as whatever beliefs any religious person might hold that are contrary to science, plus some other stuff that doesn’t matter.
    2. Science doesn’t make normative judgments, but can inform them. And, some of the normative judgments of religion are historically related to cultures removed in time, space, and experience from the one I live in. So I don’t like the way religion makes normative judgments.

    Therefore it follows that NOMA is a joke and anybody who doesn’t farm pigs for a living really is allergic to pork.

  • http://tete-tete-tete.com/ smijer

    In case anyone doesn’t notice… my point about Sean’s analogy is that it assumes the conclusion… It assumes there is an “allergy” to science created in people by religion, then proceeds to show that such “allergies” cannot be gotten around by philosophical reasoning.

    Of course, the reasoning is there to deny the existence of a necessary “allergy”. We’d need an analogy that does not assume the allergy in order to use it to conclude that NOMA cannot avoid the allergy.

  • http://skulleigh.blogspot.com/ Skulleigh

    I’m really not sure what you’re saying, but I know that I’m hungry now. Crud.
    I blame you!

  • gopher65

    Neal J. King Says:
    A typical area in religious matters is one of moral ethics. So let’s consider an ethical dilemma: A young child and an 80-year-old man are trapped in a fire; you have time to save only one of them. What should you do?

    Now, how is your understanding of this question changed by finding out that Einstein’s theory of gravity is better than Newton’s? Or that superstrings explain everything? Or any other scientific insight?

    That’s clearly an evolutionary question. You save the young child, because that way the species as a whole won’t suffer as much damage. The old man is of lesser value.

    Now a question to you? How is this a religious or a moral question? The reason why you have a desire to save the young child is strictly down to evolutionary instinct. This particular example has been programmed into you by hundreds of millions of years of parents saving their offspring, or the offspring of genetically similar adults (members of their own species), and thus passing on their own genes (or genes very similar to their own).

    How is that in any way a moral decision? Morals have nothing to do with it: it’s base instinct all the way. In fact, all of the things that you think of as “right” or “wrong” fall into one of 2 categories: “base instinct” and “random cultural phenomenon”. To put it another way, “universal” morals (saving a kid in a fire), and “regional eccentricities” (tossing acid in women’s faces).

  • http://tete-tete-tete.com/ smijer

    That’s clearly an evolutionary question. You save the young child, because that way the species as a whole won’t suffer as much damage. The old man is of lesser value.

    You walked right in to that one… Next stop eugenics?

    If the question had been phrased, “to advance the genes of the population from which these two individuals are drawn, assuming the child can survive without the assistance of the old man, and assuming that the contribution of the child’s reproductive potential outweighs the potential contribution of the old man’s – i.e. the old man isn’t the population’s only doctor, which individual would be saved?” – then your answer would have been scientifically correct, but not necessarily morally correct.

    How is it a religious question? Well… shit… maybe 9 out of 10 religions will give an answer I would disapprove of, but at least religion has rules for answering questions of that nature. I prefer answers from secular ethics myself… but when I make my case for my answers, I’ll be appealing to something very much other than science.

  • OOTB

    NOFOG doesn’t work in this case because the omelet must be some larger unifying principle that encompasses both egg and ham….

    Still – Your religion tells you that the Earth was created over a 6 day period some 6,000 years ago. Science tells you otherwise. You want to accept and accommodate both. What do you teach your children?

    That seems so obvious – I don’t remember how Gould argued around it.

  • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon

    Even on its own merits the analogy leads to the opposite conclusion Sean suggests; if Egg group and Pork group are rationally to be treated as distinct and non-overlapping, Western omelettes are an incoherent attempt to mingle them as if they could overlap and therefore doomed to fail: the non-overlapping food groups stay non-overlapping. The conclusion that the friend should eat it is based not on the analogy but on ignoring the fact that on the basis of the non-overlapping thesis itself, ham can’t be anything other than part of the Pork group, even if you try to mix it with another group. The argument results in the absurd conclusion not due to the non-overlapping thesis itself but by involving an inference that’s inconsistent with that thesis.

  • Neal J. King

    9, MaxPolun:

    What is relevant to the moral question is the moral training that is part of religious education (and by education I mean a thinking through of concepts, not necessarily a set curriculum). Conversely, no amount of education in the physical sciences alone is sufficient to give any preparation for moral questions.

    11, thales:

    The examples that you bring up are problems precisely because it was the religionists, in those cases, that did not respect the NOMA. And that was essentially Galileo’s argument with the Catholic church: His position was that the question of planetary motions was not properly a matter of religious study anyway, and so the Church should take no interest in the matter. I believe Galileo was right.

    15, gopher65:

    To attempt to explain moral principles on the basis of evolutionary principles is a category error: Moral issues have been discussed, justified and resolved without reference to ideas in evolution for thousands of years. In cases that do not relate specifically to the use of new technologies, they have not been affected by the rise of science, evolutionary or not, because they have a logic of their own. It is not necessary or particularly helpful to discuss the immorality of tossing acid into someone’s face in terms of evolutionary theory. Spiritual teachings on “golden rule” and karma are more to the point, even if not to your taste.

    Dawkins’ idea of trying to explain morality in terms of benefit to the gene I also don’t find persuasive, because it ignores the logic of morality in itself. It’s like trying to explain esthetics in terms of evolutionary forces: You get the “explanation” but miss out on what is being “explained”: It’s like passing up the cake and gobbling down the recipe.

    (Plus what do you do if the 80-year-old were a Richard Feynman and the child were autistic?)

    17, OOTB:

    Very simple: The age of the Earth is not a matter of real interest to spiritual issues. What does the age of the Earth have to do with the meaning of life, how you arrange your relationships, whom you marry, etc. ? Nothing.

    So Gould would exclude it from the magisterium of religion: It belongs to the magisterium of science. It was 4.5 Billion years if it was a day!

  • http://www.sonic.net/~rknop/blog Rob Knop

    If you doubt that religion makes such claims, feel free to ask your local creationist, flood geologist, or psychic medium.

    See, this is the kind of BS that folks trying to make your argument always pull. Take the most objectionable and extreme forms of the religious, and equate them with all of religion.

    That makes no more sense than equating enviroterrorists who spike trees and bomb cars with the entire movement to address global warming.

  • Brian

    Anne@#4:

    Actually, I believe they do contain milk. I vaguely remember from my childhood that the government ruled it was false advertising to sell a milkshake if it was made without milk. I think some fast food chains chose to relabel their offering as a “shake”, but most took the other route and started using milk again.

  • bob

    @Rob:

    You don’t need to equate all of religion with certain extreme forms to show that NOMA is not valid in general. These are simply counter examples. It may be possible in principle to construct a religion that doesn’t overlap with science in any way, but very few people believe that kind of religion.

  • http://oftherealm.blogspot.com/ Lord

    Silly to confuse ‘need not’, ‘should not’, with ‘cannot’.

  • http://tete-tete-tete.com/ smijer

    You don’t need to equate all of religion with certain extreme forms to show that NOMA is not valid in general.

    But that seems to be the MO. I’m still waiting for someone to show that NOMA is generally invalid, by any means, since I think everyone knows that it doesn’t apply to these extreme forms.

  • bigjohn756

    Religion is silly, just like this article.

  • Bacon is go(o)d

    Sean, don’t feel bad.

    I have discovered in my travels a surprisingly large number of people who don’t recognized bacon as a pork product. What is even more staggering is that you occasionally bump into a vegetarian that is oblivious that bacon is a meat product.

  • ground

    @Sean

    “a crucial component of the Egg Group on which we all depend”

    LOL! :-)

    @rob knok

    “cases where people use religion to address a science question (and get it wrong). And, you can find cases where people assert that science addresses a religious question (and get it wrong)”

    Any sentient animal, whatever how stupid it is, should feel in his heart the correctness of your view. But be carefull! You made a typo at the end of your sentence!

    “cases where people use religion to address a science question (and get it wrong). And, you can find cases where people assert that science addresses a religious question (and get it right)”

  • andy.s

    jesus sean, let it go.

    you’re not religious.
    you think religion is idiotic.

    we get it, we get it.

  • http://www.pobox.com/~rknop/blog Rob Knop

    Heh. I think andy s. has said it best.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Remarkably, after years of trying, no blog commenters have yet convinced me to stop being interested in questions I’m interested in, and therefore stop blogging about them. But, it’s a free country!

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    @ Neil J. King #6
    I feel you have missed the point of the analogy. The point is that though science and religion might not overlap most of the time, there do exist examples where they do. Of course there are plenty of examples where religious questions and scientific questions have nothing to do with each other. But is this always the case, considering the wide diversity of both religion and science?

    A trivial counterexample: Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I believed that science is fully compatible with religion, and is in fact one of the kinds of religious inquiry. This belief is not too outlandish; I was taught that sort of thing in high school. Now, “science” may have a mostly prescriptivist definition which I have no control over. But “religion” is nothing more than my beliefs and practices. So by believing that my religion overlaps with science, I have made it so!

    A more unfortunate counterexample: Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I am a Young Earth Creationist. This belief is far from unheard of (have you seen the polls?). Then, it is my religious belief that the Earth is 6000 years old. But that’s a scientifically testable statement, don’t you think?

    It is all too easy to pretend religion is made up of no more than rituals, moral guidelines, and beliefs in the scientifically untestable. But then we would have to ignore all these real-world examples of religion.

  • http://www.fundy.com Fundie

    Where I live, the word “ham” means “any kind of meat-like substance cut into very thin slices.” Thus it is perfectly reasonable to ask to have “chicken ham” on your sandwich [as an alternative to "turkey ham"].

    This is a mystery, almost comparable to the mystery of how a rabid leftist like SJ Gould could come up with religious crackpottery like non-overlapping blah blah. Come to think of it, that’s not such a mystery: one form of superstition drove out another. OK, then, the mystery is that such an intellectual non-entity got a job at Harvard.

  • xander

    flying spaghetti monster andy, let it go.
    you’re didn’t enjoy the article.
    you don’t enjoy sean’s articles on religion.
    don’t read it, don’t read it.

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    Luckily, people who get hay fever will not become inflamed by this post, since straw and hay are also non-overlapping monocotelydonae (NOMA).

    Fortunately, both are suitable fuels for flame wars.

  • Chris

    It is false to say that religion and science are incompatible. There is nothing in science that excludes the entirety of religion and nothing in religion that excludes science. Extremists aside, I have been able to reconcile my religious beliefs with my scientific knowledge because I am able to modify my religious belief in light of fact. Saying the world is 4 billion years old does not cause me a crisis of faith. Even the Pope has come out against those that would deny scientific fact.

    Some people always point out that there is no evidence of God’s existence. I am not going to debate that because I see evidence of him every day all around me. If you don’t see wonder and awe in the world around and see everything as coincidence and mathematical probability, I truly feel sorry for you.

    I will leave you with a quote, from the program The Universe (which Sean appeared on at least once) from Carl Sagan.
    “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

  • Neal J. King

    31, miller:

    The point of the NOMA approach is that you have to establish limits for the claims of religious and the scientific worldviews. I would not accept the 6000-year claim for the age of the Earth (as I already stated earlier in $19) because it is not within the scope of religious issues.

    Just as I don’t accept any claim that there is “the scientific” view of the meaning of life, justice, or abortion.

    Taking a NOMA position means pushing back on the claims of both many specific religions and of some over-expansive scientists.

  • nota bene

    Where this all starts to get hairy is when we move from acknowledging that (to choose just one example among a great many) “the Earth is X years old” is a scientifically testable statement, to wondering what other religious assertions are scientifically testable. Such as (to choose just one example among a great many) “human beings may be resurrected/reincarnated”. Or “heaven & hell are actual places with a physical location,” etc.

    Even if this NOMA idea is granted, the fact remains that matters within the realm of scientific inquiry only increase with the continued development of science. If we consider earlier and earlier times, eventually we will come to a time when science was not yet able to grapple with questions about the age of the Earth, which celestial bodies orbits which, the origin of species, etc. But as our knowledge increases, so does the scope of our ability to question allegedly divine teachings (which are, of course, reported by human agents).

    Religions, by definition as it were, do not “expand” in this same way. So I fail to see how the NOMA principle resolves anything at all.

  • Pingback: Good Food Spy Blog » The Principle of Non-Overlapping Food Groups | Cosmic Variance …

  • http://www.users.bigpond.com/pmurray Paul Murray

    Well, I think the analogy is pretty good. The NOMA people ignore the fact that religion – whatever else it may be – almost always makes claims of fact about the real world. Religions that don’t tend to have few followers because – lets face it – the whole point of religion is to have someone to pray to when your child is sick or hurt. Christianity is a case in point: Jesus came to destroy the works of the evil one, and to the first century mind that explicitly includes disease whioc, as we know, is caused by evil spirits.

    Anyway. These claims of fact do not become nonscientific simply because they are wrapped in religios language, any more than port becomes nonporky when it’s wrapped in egg.

  • http://www.users.bigpond.com/pmurray Paul Murray

    More succinctly:

    If the sphere of operation of science is fact, and if science and religion are non-overlapping, isn’t this just a sneaky way of pointing out that religion is fiction?

  • Chuck White

    It just goes to show ya …

    Logic: The ideal way to go wrong … with certainty.

  • http://telescoper.wordpress.com Peter Coles

    Two pointless observations:

    1. Omelettes get spelled differently in Britain, for some reason. It appears from the ending that they are feminine whereas your omelets are masculine.

    2. Contrary to popular belief the word “omelette” (or omelet) does not necessarily imply that you’re referring to something with eggs in it. The word originally means “a flat plate” and is actually from the same root as “amulet”.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    The “omelet”/”omellette” controversy is at least as heated as the science/religion fracas. But according to Google, omelet wins. If only other realms of inquiry had recourse to such an impartial judge.

  • Pingback: Science and Religion are Not Compatible | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine

  • http://realisy.blogspot.com MaxPolun

    What is relevant to the moral question is the moral training that is part of religious education (and by education I mean a thinking through of concepts, not necessarily a set curriculum). Conversely, no amount of education in the physical sciences alone is sufficient to give any preparation for moral questions.

    What makes this specifically religious? One could argue that the kinds of critical thinking skills and ethics training that scientists have can be excellent preparation for tackeling moral questions.

    Of course I’m inclined to think that neither religious nor scientific training give any special moral insights. Many theologians have had moral insights, but that’s because that’s what they spent their time thinking about, not because of the concepts of religion. Secular moral philosophers are just as good.

  • http://telescoper.wordpress.com Peter Coles

    But according to Google, omelet wins.

    Sean,

    That would be the frequentist in you speaking. Perhaps elsewhere in the multiverse there are omelettes made of cosmic eggs too.

    Peter

  • jack lecou

    @Neal J. King:

    While I could certainly be convinced that ethics isn’t really a science per se, it doesn’t follow that it’s part of religion either. After all, ethics and religion have hardly always been the best of friends, and it’s clearly possible for ethics to exist outside any religious framework.

    Conflating ethics and religion would seem to be the wont only of certain “over-expansive” religionists, whose claims should be pushed back upon just as hard as those of the other two. (In other words, there are at least three magisteria: science, ethics, and religion.)

  • Juan R

    “Science deals with the workings of the world (”is” questions), while religion deals with ethical behavior (”ought” questions), so there is way they can be incompatible.”

    Within Gould’s argument, isn’t there a typo in the above quote? I think it should read “there is A way they can be COMPATIBLE”. Sorry for the caps, I don’t know how to use HTML markup in this site, and there’s no “preview” option before submitting. I suggest a short and sweet pop-up guide for formatting text, as some sites, for example, require for italics while others prefer [ i ], so it’s hard to keep track of where to apply each.

    Anyway, egg and fish a resounding yes (try some mayo on your next fish taco), but not egg and lamb. Beef and peaches, no, and I’ve never understood pineapple with anything except maybe rum, and only at the hand of experts.

    Finally, fundamentalist zealots pushing for, among other things, their creationist agenda on schools, makes Gould’s gentle and conciliatory viewpoint impractical in the contemporary climate of superstition and literal interpretation of ancient texts. Whenever the backwards idiots act aggressively, they should rightfully get an equal and opposite reaction, a lá Richard Dawkins et alia.

  • http://whenindoubtdo.blogspot.com/ Eugene

    I dunno about the analogy, but this post just make me hunger for an omelet.

    A western omelet.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    Neil J. King #36

    It seems like you are taking NOMA to be prescriptive rather than descriptive. That is, NOMA is how things ought to be, rather than how they are. I can certainly agree with you that NOMA is how things ought to be.

  • Christina Viering

    So, he got what he deserved for believing his friend.

  • blank

    Isn’t ham a pork product? That’s where the problem was ? Not the eggs for making the omelet?
    Take out the ham and maybe you guys can try the experiment again…..

  • spyder

    It would be interesting to see how NOFOG applies to a classic CA (more than a 130 years old) breakfast: the Hangtown Fry? If you haven’t had one, you are missing a really thrilling meal, near divine perhaps (cough cough).

  • ad

    The non-overlapping food groups are, as every teenager knows: box, can, bottle (includes jar), and packet. Anything else is just not food.

  • Jim H

    My religion says that God is a rational being, and that God created the universe with certain laws that are based on the way God thinks. Therefore, the study of science is one way to find out more about the creator. All scientific laws are God’s laws.

    The often-cited “proof” of suppression of science by my (Catholic) religion is the Galileo case. However, if you look at the facts, it was Galileo’s attempt to explain religion using his science that the Church rejected, not the science. In other words, the Church was suppressing a scientist, but it was because he was trying to be a theologian.

    Science, which deals with the physical world, cannot prove anything about the spiritual world. The best it can do is say there is no physical explanation for something, so it must be from the spiritual world, or say that something has a physical explanation, so it must not be from the spiritual world.

    Did you ever wonder why the Galileo incident is the only one ever cited to “prove” the Church’s suppression of science? Could it be that it is the only case that’s anywhere close? The Church’s critics conveniently overlook the fact that our western university system was started by Church leaders, in part to promote the study of science. They wanted to find out more about the creator by studying his work!

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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