In the endless back and forth about whether science and religion are compatible, sometimes I feel like I'm hearing the same thing on both sides.
"There may be plenty of respectable scientists who are also religious, but a lot of religion is impossible to reconcile with science!"
"There may be a lot of religion that is impossible to reconcile with science, but there are plenty of respectable scientists who are also religious!"
Chad Orzel suggested that the difference between the two views is a different definition of compatibility. One side defines compatibility in some sort of logical, philosophical, or rhetorical sense. That is, you can use science to argue against religion, and vice versa. The other side defines compatibility more empirically. That is, they are compatible if there exist people who are fully in favor of both science and religion.
But a difference in definitions does not constitute a real disagreement. To demonstrate, let's split one word into two, each with a different definition (this tactic should be in every analytic thinker's toolbox).
Compatible(1): There is no reasonable conflict between the two ideas.
Compatible(2): People can hold both ideas without conflict.
I think we can all agree that science and religion are compatible(2), but not compatible(1). Of course there are respectable religious scientists. Of course science has reasonable conflict with at least some of religion. Where is the disagreement?
I think it could be simply a disagreement of degree. Clearly, there is some conflict with science and religion, but the two sides probably disagree with how much conflict there is. This is a difficult question to analyze in a small space, because you really have to determine which beliefs conflict with science on a case by case basis, and then determine how much weight to give each case. This is the sort of thing you could write an entire blog about. So I won't go into it just now.
The other disagreement seems to be on which definition is most relevant. Except, I think they're both relevant in different situations. If someone asks me whether you can fully support science, even if they're deeply religious, I say you would have company if you did that. If someone asks me whether there is any conflict between religion and science, I say yes, though some people who are not me feel they have resolved that conflict.
And what definition should the National Center for Science Education use? Clearly, they should use compatible(2), which is ascertainable fact, and avoid a stance on compatible(1). To assert compatible(1) to any particular degree is to assert an opinion. It's not necessarily completely horrible for a national organization to offer an opinion, but it can cause problems. For instance, friends who disagree with that particular opinion (ie Sean Carroll) may start criticizing you.
Okay, so maybe you don't care what a bunch of bloggers think. That's understandable.
Speaking of bloggers, what definition of compatible is relevant to a blogger like me? I think that compatible(1) is most relevant, because a blog like this is all about offering opinions based on reasoning. If I start talking about compatible(2), there would be little to disagree about, because it is ascertainable fact. Furthermore, it would be logically irrelevant, a logical fallacy. It doesn't matter how many people favor both science and religion, it doesn't make them right. Logical fallacies have a certain power over our mind, but none of it is rightfully earned.