Here Gould threatens a ‘knuckle-rapping’ to both theists and atheists who would try to use science (in general) or the theory of evolution by natural selection (in particular) to butress their worldview.
People familiar with Gould will detect the scent of N.O.M.A. (Nonoverlapping Magesteria – don’t ask me why it’s not N.M. or N.O.M.) in this, but it still seems to make some good points…
“To say it for all my colleagues and for the umpteenth million time (from college bull sessions to learned treatises): science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists. If some of our crowd have made untoward statements claiming that Darwinism disproves God, then I will find Mrs. McInerney and have their knuckles rapped for it (as long as she can equally treat those members of our crowd who have argued that Darwinism must be God’s method of action). Science can work only with naturalistic explanations; it can neither affirm nor deny other types of actors (like God) in other spheres (the moral realm, for example).
Forget philosophy for a moment; the simple empirics of the past hundred years should suffice. Darwin himself was agnostic (having lost his religious beliefs upon the tragic death of his favorite daughter), but the great American botanist Asa Gray, who favored natural selection and wrote a book entitled Darwiniana, was a devout Christian. Move forward 50 years: Charles D. Walcott, discoverer of the Burgess Shale fossils, was a convinced Darwinian and an equally firm Christian, who believed that God had ordained natural selection to construct a history of life according to His plans and purposes. Move on another 50 years to the two greatest evolutionists of our generation: G. G. Simpson was a humanist agnostic. Theodosius Dobzhansky a believing Russian Orthodox. Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefsâ€”and equally compatible with atheism… (emphasis mine)“
-S.J. Gould, “Impeaching a Self-Appointed Judge” (review of Phillip Johnson’s ‘Darwin on Trial’) found here.