Nonoverlapping magisteria or NOMA is the concept, originally presented by Stephen Jay Gould, that:
- "Science and religion are not in conflict, for their teachings occupy distinctly different domains."
This position is accepted by many modern theists as it allows them to reconcile apparent contradictions. With science and religion in non-competitive domains, one is free to hold supernatural beliefs and still accept scientific explanations of the natural world.
The primary objection to this premise, by both religionists and scientists, is that acceptable boundaries cannot be defined.
- Fundamentalists and Biblical literalists believe that placing limits on religion is tantamount to placing limits on God and that God's transcendent nature dictates that nothing is beyond the scope of religion. For these believers, the answers provided by science are acceptable until they contradict knowledge revealed by God.
- Many scientists argue that an obvious boundary exists (natural/supernatural) but that religion generally refuses to remain within its domain, while religionists argue that science is continually encroaching into its territory by examining the questions of human origins, consciousness and even morality. Materialists respond that religion overstepped its boundaries long ago, by filling gaps in our knowledge with dogmatic assertions that, as our understanding has grown, have been replaced with naturalistic explanations.
- This observation is historically supported, and the conflict between science and religion is well documented. If something is initially considered supernatural (magnetism, for example) and science later provides a naturalistic explanation, how can anything be considered beyond the scope of scientific investigation?
- Indeed, scientific investigation rooted in rational, naturalistic materialism has proven to be the most consistent and reliable method of explaining reality.