It is only when a religious text is viewed as a scientific text that serious conflicts arise. Science becomes problematic for those who demand that religious texts be taken absolutely literally -- and this has been a problem since humans began to investigate the world in which they live. As The Clergy Letter says, "Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible -- the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark -- convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation." Indeed, poetry and metaphor are used to advance our understanding about the human condition.
To pretend that a metaphor is the same as a rigorous scientific explanation is to completely misunderstand the main function of human language. Such an error does great damage to science while infantilizing religious rhetoric.
Like the fundamentalists, I think it fair to say that there is a huge and likely unbridgeable chasm but it isn't between religion and science. Rather it separates a minority of religious adherents who hold one particular, narrow view of religion and the overwhelming majority of the faithful who believe that religion is about morality and spirituality rather than science.
Unfortunately, the former are attempting to convince the rest of us that their view is the only one that matters and, unless we stand up to them, they will appropriate religion and recast it in their own image.
Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D. is the founder and director of The Clergy Letter Project, an international organization of religious leaders and scientists created to demonstrate that religion and science need not be in conflict. The Clergy Letter Project sponsors Evolution Weekend annually, an opportunity for congregations of all faiths to discuss the compatibility of religion and science.
Zimmerman has been involved with the evolution/creation controversy for almost three decades. He has conducted research on the public's understanding of evolution and the nature of science. His work has appeared extensively on the op-ed pages of newspapers. He is the author of Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense: Approaching Environmental Literacy (Johns Hopkins University Press). He writes regularly for The Huffington Post.