The Believer's Response
It is in the nature of a believer to find some reason for believing, even when it appears most of the reasons line up on the opponent's side of the issue. Where there is some unexplained phenomenon, there is always room for the religious hypothesis to rear its head. The Greeks could not explain the wind and the rain and said that the Gods must have caused such phenomena. Sir Isaac Newton resorted to a “God of the gaps” to fill in those natural processes he could not account for.
David Nicholls, president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, argues that Dawkins does not contend that religion is the source of all that is wrong in the world, but that it is an “unnecessary part of what is wrong.” In fact, Dawkins contends that his objection to religion is not solely that it causes wars and violence, but also that it gives people an excuse to hold beliefs that are not based on evidence. Dawkins believes that the “existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other,” and as such is subject to the same evaluation and criticism.
Further, Dawkins takes issue with Stephen Jay Gould's idea of “non-overlapping magisterial” (NOMA). In his book Rock of Ages, Gould laid out what he considered to be “a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to the supposed conflict between science and religion.”
The NOMA principle is that “the magesterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory).” On the other hand, “The magesterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magesteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magesterium of art and the meaning of beauty.)”
Commentators have gone after Dawkins. Margaret Somerville, a professor of law and medical ethics at McGill University, has attacked Dawkins for “overstating the case against religion.” Professor Somerville argues that global conflict would continue without religion from factors such as economic pressures or land disputes.
But this will not do on several levels. For one, Dawkins says the “God hypothesis” — namely that there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us — is a scientific hypothesis and is therefore no more exempt from scientific scrutiny than any other hypothesis.
In addition, do we really want to go with Gould when he says that religion extends over questions of “ultimate meaning and moral value”? What moral value is at work in Islam when it claims that women should be stoned for committing adultery?