Some extracts from the great article in Times Higher Education this week, unsurprisingly written in the same week as a major new series starts on the BBC “The End of God? A Horizon Guide to Science and Religion”
The notion of a ‘war’ between science and religion is a media-friendly but profoundly inaccurate model for scholars’ many-hued and nuanced views of God, faith and doubt. Matthew Reisz reports
“Arik” is a physicist at a US university. Although he is easy-going on most issues, he regards religion as a form of “intellectual terrorism”, a “virus” to which he has now become “immune”, and he is proud that his children have been “thoroughly and successfully indoctrinated that belief in God is a form of mental weakness”.
Far from being worthy of even grudging respect, religion is to “Arik” simply “garbage – the detritus left over from the age of enlightenment and the scientific revolution”. Its fierce and inevitable struggle with science counts as “the only realization of the battle between good and evil that I know of”. …
Science and religion also seem to have rubbed along well during one of the golden ages of scientific discovery. Peter Harrison is Andreas Idreos professor of science and religion at the University of Oxford. Much of his research has focused on the 17th century, when, he says, “virtually all the key natural philosophers (early scientists) were religious believers. Some were clearly motivated by religious considerations – notably Johannes Kepler and Robert Boyle – although different individuals had different motivations. Most, however, thought that religious beliefs were consistent with their scientific findings, and indeed that religious beliefs and science were mutually reinforcing.” …
“Reading the work of the ‘celebrity scientists’, one never has the sense that they know, at a close personal level, a significant number of religious people who are not terrorists, not opposed to gay marriage, not trying to get evolution out of public schools – although there are plenty of us out there.”
This leads to a more important point. Passing remarks such as Weinberg’s claim that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless” are widely quoted and, claims Giberson, “lead the religious to believe that scientists are all atheists, which increases their uneasiness about science.