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A Special Issue on Science and Religion

From the Editor

Kendrick Frazier

Volume 23.4, July / August 1999

This special, expanded issue of the Skeptical Inquirer presents ten invited original articles, three book excerpts and one journal article excerpt, three book reviews (plus three “mini-reviews”), two columns, and several miscellaneous short features on a single broad topic: “Science and Religion: Conflict or Conciliation?” It is the first single-subject issue we have ever published.

My introductory essay, “Conflicting or Complementary? Some Introductory Thoughts About Boundaries,” attempts to place the subject in some preliminary context. I hope you will begin with that and then read astronomer Chet Raymo’s poetic and evocative “Celebrating Creation.” The other articles then proceed substantively to explore and round out what to me seems a wonderfully diverse set of examinations.

The authors are distinguished scientists, scholars, educators, and writers. All speak from a commitment to science and scientific skepticism, but they offer an impressively wide spectrum of viewpoints. About half are CSICOP Fellows, half have no SI or CSICOP affiliation. There is no “religion bashing” here. There is steadfast defense of science. There are attempts to define and observe clear-cut boundaries, and also pleas to observe each others’ domains with mutual respect. We strived for thoughtful, informed, forthright considerations of the issues that confront scientists, scholars, teachers, skeptics, religious leaders, and the general public in dealing with often troublesome issues along the borderlands of science and religion.

Why are we doing this? Many reasons. We are both a science magazine and a magazine of ideas. It is true that science restricts itself to explanations that can be inferred from confirmable data. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science.

The Skeptical Inquirer has generally adopted the same position in regard to what we consider our domain. Specific claims that are amenable to empirical examination are fair game to science-based criticism. Science itself has nothing to say about the others. But our subtitle is “The Magazine of Science and Reason,” and reason and philosophical inquiry are also part of our domain. I don't know whether the boundaries between science and religion are any more troubled or awash with controversy than they always have been, but I do know that many scientists and skeptics find these issues both troubling and intriguing. We have had many requests to examine them. I hope and believe that the insights expressed here may help find some common ground for understanding both within the community of scientific skepticism and in working with our friends and neighbors in the wider public.

I expect that these articles will stimulate a variety of fresh discussion of all these issues. We welcome your response. We will publish selected reactions in a future issue. Except for that, we will return to our usual format of diverse examination of the entire gamut of topics and issues of interest to the scientific and skeptical communities.

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Kendrick Frazier is editor of the Skeptical Inquirer and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is editor of several anthologies, including Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience.