In his 2015 book Faith versus Fact, the biologist and polemicist Jerry Coyne launched one of his many attacks on religion in the name of science: science and religion, he wrote, are “incompatible in precisely the same way and in the same sense that rationality is incompatible with irrationality”. These sorts of generalities have been quite common down the years, often reinforced by references to the condemnation of Galileo by the Roman Catholic Church in 1633 or the altercation in Oxford in 1860 between T H Huxley and bishop Samuel Wilberforce over evolution.

These sorts of statement can also have repercussions in public life. On September 16 2008, Professor Michael Reiss, an evolutionary biologist, resigned as director of education for the Royal Society. What brought about his removal were observations he’d made about how science teachers should treat questions about origins in schools. He is reported to have said: “Creationism is best seen by scientists not as a misconception, but as a world view.”

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(Image: Linsly-Chittenden Hall, Yale University)
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