Stephen Jay Gould Comment
Misunderstood, Misstated

Grant Kemp

From: “Grant Kemp”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Date: November 13, 2006
Subject: Positive Atheism and Stephen Jay Gould

Dear Positive Atheism Magazine,

I was browsing through the internet and I came across your magazine’s website. I am a theist but would like to say that your website impresses me. I have taken several courses in Science and Religion and also on their interaction. I am impresses that a resource like this is available for atheists who otherwise would not have this kind of network available. Although I do not agree with atheism I have no authority to say that it is incorrect and am pleased to see that there are atheists out there that are taking a less caustic approach to theism. The reason I am writing this letter however is to inform you of a gross error that was not detected by your editor, Cliff Walker, made on March 35, 2001. I apoligise for the fact that is is such a dated reply and I also apologise if this issue has already been brought up. Gil Gaudia, PhD, accused Stephan Jay Gould of juxtapositioning the religious ‘heavens’ with physical ‘heavens’ in the quote: “we (scientists) study how the heavens go, and they (theologians) determine how to go to heaven.”

This is not Gould’s quote. Glaudia has not done his homework on this issue. Gould is referring to the famous Cardinal Baronio (friend of Galileo) who actually said that originally. Gould’s principle of NOMA and well as what Galileo was trying to convince the church to see is that science and religion are not in conflict. Astronomers teach the realities of the physical heavens and religion/philosophy teaches us about the metaphysical existence of God. The quote is just a catchy (evidently seeing as how it has been in use for 100s of years and has been miscredited by Glaudia) way of saying this. It frustrates me that people are so uneducated about one side of the argument before the try to make large statements about what the other side thinks. Gil Glaudia, PhD is very misleading. Obviously his PhD has NOTHING to do with this region of knowledge he should not sign his name this way.

Cliff Walker’s response although troubling in that he also does not realize the quote is inaccurate, is very well written. He expresses accurately the stigma surrounding different thinkers and their approaches to the science/religion conflict. Concluding, although I am impressed with the magazine and mostly with it’s editor I am unimpressed that this issue was not brought up. I implore ‘Dr.’ Glaudia to read this: “To cite the arche cliches, we [the scientist] get the age of the rocks, and religion retains the rock of ages; we study how the heavens go and they [theologians] determine how to go to heaven.” Stephen Jay Gould, “Non-overlapping Magisteria,” Natural History 106(1997), pp. 20. It is not easy to confuse ‘age of rocks’ with ‘rock of ages’ so why is Glaudia having trouble with ‘heavens’ being used in two ways. Even if, as an atheist, a heaven is not maintained it cannot be argued to religion does not teach one how to go to this not existent place.

Thank you for your time I look forward to reading more on your site in the future.

Grant Kemp
(final year of undergraduate in honors Biochemistry)