Gould’s position was that both science and religion have are non-overlapping domains of subject matter or disciplines that deal with answering different questions. The magisterium of science is concerned with the factual conclusions and theories that explain the natural world and universe. The magisterium of religion is concerned with questions of moral meanings, ethical values, and spiritual meaning of our lives. Gould believed that although science and religion answer different types of questions, both are equally valid ways of understanding the universe. Gould felt that science and religion could harmoniously coexist only if each domain did not overlap and respected the other’s disciplines.
Although NOMA is an excellent way to advocate religion and science to coexist, I have to argue that NOMA does not work all of the time. Over-compartmentalization of the two domains places too restrictive of definitions for each domain. NOMA, while certainly helpful, is too limiting and overlap is inevitible. For example, according to Gould, science and God are inherently separated but can easily co-exist in the human belief system. Yet, humans who subscribe to both faith in God and science show that even with overlap the two domains can coexist.
There is a point at which it NOMA breaks down and science and religion overlap. Many of the deepest questions, such as mankind’s evolutionary processes and outcomes and our ties and relations to other species, involve both domains. Science is not the only source of producing factual statements. In fact, many important statements made by science are not purely factual in any simple sense. For example, cosmologists speak in meaningful ways about the existence of other universes, crossing theoretical boundaries. In the same way, religion reaches beyond values and morals. So what kind of statements are they? The inability of NOMA to address unclear claims like these highlights its limitations as a universally applicable model. NOMA’s definition of science breaks down at the theoretical boundaries where observation becomes impossible, like the claims about other universes. Likewise, religion is more than just a collection of values and moral directives. Religion often makes claims about “the way things are.”