When science answers questions, it does so in rather a messy way. The process begins with a plethora of hypotheses, all with their advantages and disadvantages. These hypotheses give rise to tests, usually laboratory experiments or observations. And one by one, the hypotheses fail, leaving one as the most probable answer.
Perhaps my next point is obvious, but I think it ought to be repeated from time to time: the world of religion has not been able to follow a similar winnowing process. Instead of working together to weed out the bad hypotheses from the good, religions tend to ignore each other grumpily or, even worse, achieve dominance through violence. Happily some religions have, in recent times, taken the alternative approach of embracing their divers companions.
What is interesting to me, though, is that almost no religious folk are aware of the underlying epistemological failure that this history of persistent diversity represents. After many thousands of years, religion has failed to find a process by which consensus on fundamental theological questions can be found. No tests or observations seem able to do the trick.
Why is this not more disturbing to religious folks?
After all, these people happily join the jeering crowd that points its fingers at, say, modern cosmological ideas. String theory? M-theory? A load of unverified postulation, they say.
But we all know that these theories will eventually have their day in the court of scientific judgment. Tests will be (and have been) devised. New observations will be made. And eventually, the slow process of science will grind toward a consensus. (It may even take less than a few thousand years.)
But where is the process that sorts good theology from bad? Where is the method by which, for instance, the contradictions between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism can be resolved to the satisfaction of these traditions’ adherents?
There is no such process. The history of religious diversification tells us so.
And so, while such diversity is undoubtedly a rich and colorful flower garden of human culture, it is also the undirected sprawl of a plant whose roots search in vain for purchase.