Science and Theology: Rumble in LaJolla

“The world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief…” So says Steven Weinberg in a very interesting article on Science and Religion in today’s New York Times. In a meeting in LaJolla, CA a group of scientists met for discussion under the banner: “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival.” Richard Dawkins was probably the most famous attendee and spent time promoting his newest book, “The God Delusion.” Yet when he described religious education as “child-abuse” and “brainwashing,” he was somewhat chastised by fellow skeptic Melvin J. Konner as simplistic and uninformed. Dr. Weinberg went so far as to comment, ““Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.” Dr. Konner, an anthropologist, commented against the extremist remarks when he warned speakers such as Hawkins, ““I think that you [Sam Harris, a doctoral student and author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason”] and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side…you generate more fear and hatred of science.”

Before entering full-time Christian ministry, I was a doctoral student in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, earning a master’s degree before leaving the program. As a result, these conversations are of great interest to me. Some studies have shown that the percentage of scientists in the United States who are believers is roughly equal to that of the general population. I believe much of what took place at this conference is motivated by far more than devotion to pure science, because it seems that scientific inquiry is thrown out the window when sweeping statements are made that embrace radical materialism. There are several scientists cum theologians who offer very interesting views that seek to reconcile these two disciplines, and I believe they should at least have a voice in these debates. To be fair, geneticist Francis Collins was invited to this event. However, the voices of folks like John Polkinghorne were nowhere to be found.

This is an area where we need to invest a great deal of work and conversation. Neither blind faith without accounting for scientific data nor scientific materialism without counting for human faith will be a intellectually responsible path. As a person with roots in both camps, I hope I can have a positive impact on these conversations in the communities I serve.

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