That's what they're talking about in this roundtable discussion by Christopher Hitchens, Steven Pinker, and other notables. Naturally, the answers are all over the map.
Since I'm on quasi-hiatus, I don't have time to delve into this. I want to return to the topic in depth later.
For now, I just want to highlight a couple responses that seem right to me:
Keith Ward says:
It is almost commonplace in physics to speak of many space-times, or of this space-time as a 10- or 11-dimensional reality that dissolves into topological foam below the Planck length. This is a long way from the sensationalism of Hume and Comte, and from the older materialism that insists on locating every possible being within this space-time. Some modern physicists routinely speak of realities beyond space-time (e.g., quantum fluctuations in a vacuum from which this space-time originates). And some physicists, such as Henry Stapp, Eugene Wigner, and John von Neumann, speak of consciousness as an ultimate and irreducible element of reality, the basis of the physical as we know it, not its unanticipated by-product.And Mary Midgley says:
It is simply untrue that modern physics rules out the possibility of non-physical entities. And it is untrue that science has established a set of inflexible laws so tightly constraining and universally dominating that they exclude the possibility of other forms, including perhaps non-physical forms, of causal influence that we may not be able to measure or predict. It is more accurate to say that fundamental laws of nature are seen by many physicists as approximations to an open, holistic and flexible reality, as we encounter it in relatively isolated and controlled conditions. ...
It is not science that renders belief in God obsolete. It is a strictly materialist interpretation of the world that renders belief in God obsolete, and which science is taken by some people to support. But science is more ambiguous than that, and modern scientific belief in the intelligibility and mathematical beauty of nature, and in the ultimately "veiled" nature of objective reality, can reasonably be taken as suggestive of an underlying cosmic intelligence. To that extent, science may make a certain sort of belief in God highly plausible.
What is now seen as a universal cold war between science and religion is, I think, really a more local clash between a particular scientistic worldview, much favored recently in the West, and most other people's worldviews at most other times.The point about scientific imperialism has applications beyond theology, particularly the problem of free will, which I'll get back to. If I feel like it.
Of course, those other views differ hugely among themselves. Some center on Godhead; some, such as Buddhism and Taoism, don't use that idea at all. But what they all do is to set human life in a context. They don't see our species as sealed in a private box that contains everything of value, but as playing its part in a much wider theatre of spiritual activity—activity that gives meaning to our own. Scientism by contrast (following suggestions from the Enlightenment), cuts that context off altogether and looks for the meaning of life in Science itself. It is this claim to a monopoly of meaning, rather than any special scientific doctrine, that makes science and religion look like competitors today. ...
Scientism ... emerged not as the conclusion of scientific argument but as a chosen element in a worldview -- a vision that attracted people by its contrast with what went before -- which is, of course, how people very often do make such decisions, even ones that they afterwards call scientific.
Needless to say, I'd be happy to see any counterarguments to the above quotes -- feel free to suggest some in the comments.
UPDATE: I was expecting this post to be controversial, but I'm surprised that some of the commenters are taking issue with the very premise that this is a real debate. For example:
You say that a lot of people think that science is incompatible with God. I'm not so sure about that; it depends on what you mean by incompatible. I am an atheist, and all the atheists I know are very careful not to say that "science disproves God." (Again, the title of your post.)Well, I'd have to do some more searching through the books of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and John Allen Paulos to see if they have explicitly made that specific assertion.
But here's one: there's a book by Victor Stenger, a philosophy and physics professor, called God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.
Another example, though not as explicit: Richard Dawkins's recent best-seller The God Delusion has a chapter entitled, "Why God Almost Certainly Does Not Exist." Directly under that chapter heading is a quote from Thomas Jefferson beginning, "The priests of the different religious sects dread the advance of science as witches do the advance of daylight...." Now, aside from the qualifier "almost certainly," I think it's pretty clear what he's getting at.
I've also been in numerous classroom discussions and everyday conversations in which people have expressed this view.
More broadly, there's been a recent spate of popular books attacking religious views and the belief in God. These books tend to pit God against science. I haven't sorted through all the details of which authors positively state that science entails that God does not exist, rather than coming close to saying so but hedging it a little. But the idea that science is incompatible with the existence of God is clearly out there, and it's taken seriously by a lot of people. Whatever your position is on whether God exists, I don't see the point in denying that this debate exists!