Science and God

The Templeton Foundation sponsored a conversation among leading scholars and scientists to address the question: “Does science make belief in God obsolete?“

“Yes, if by..

“science” we mean the entire enterprise of secular reason and knowledge (including history and philosophy), not just people with test tubes and white lab coats.Traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins. Where did the world come from? What is the basis of life? How can the mind arise from the body? Why should anyone be moral?Yet over the millennia, there has been an inexorable trend: the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God.” – Steven Pinker

“No, and yes.

No, as a matter of reason and truth. The knowledge we have gained through modern science makes belief in an Intelligence behind the cosmos more reasonable than ever.Yes, as a matter of mood, sensibility, and sentiment. Not science itself but a reductive “scientific mentality” that often accompanies it, along with the power, control, comfort, and convenience provided by modern technology, has helped to push the concept of God into the hazy twilight of agnosticism.” – Christoph Cardinal Schönborn

“Absolutely not!

Now that we have scientific explanations for the natural phenomena that mystified our ancestors, many scientists and non-scientists believe that we no longer need to appeal to a supernatural God for explanations of anything, thereby making God obsolete. As for people of faith, many of them believe that science, by offering such explanations, opposes their understanding that the universe is the loving and purposeful creation of God. Because science denies this fundamental belief, they conclude that science is mistaken. These very different points of view share a common conviction: that science and religion are irreconcilable enemies. They are not.” – William D. Phillips

“Not necessarily.

But you must find a science-friendly, science-compatible God. First, try the pantheon of available Creators. Inspect thoroughly. If none fits the bill, invent one.” – Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

“Of course not.

Belief – or disbelief – in God is not a scientific opinion, a judgment about physical facts in the world. It is an element in something larger and more puzzling – our wider worldview, the set of background assumptions by which we make sense of our world as a whole.” – Mary Midgley


Despite the fact that I’m an atheist, I recognize that belief offers something that science does not.Science isn’t remotely about a scientist announcing truths or The Truth. It’s about stating things with a certain degree of certainty. A scientist will say, “In this experiment, I observed that A causes B; it didn’t happen every single time, and my statistical analyses show that I can be X percent certain that this A/B connection didn’t happen by chance.” The convention in most scientific papers is that you don’t report something until you’re more than 95 percent certain. It is impossible with statistics to state something with 100 percent certainty.” – Robert Sapolsky

“No, but it should.

Until about 1832, when it first seems to have become established as a noun and a concept, the term “scientist” had no really independent meaning. “Science” meant “knowledge” in much the same way as “physic” meant medicine, and those who conducted experiments or organized field expeditions or managed laboratories were known as “natural philosophers.” To these gentlemen (for they were mainly gentlemen) the belief in a divine presence or inspiration was often merely assumed to be a part of the natural order, in rather the same way as it was assumed – or actually insisted upon-that a teacher at Cambridge University swear an oath to be an ordained Christian minister. …
And thus it could be argued – though if I were a believer in god I would not myself attempt to argue it – that a commitment to science by no means contradicts a belief in the supernatural. The best known statement of this opinion in our own time comes from the late Stephen Jay Gould, who tactfully proposed that the worlds of science and religion commanded “non-overlapping magisteria.” How true is this on a second look, or even on a first glance?” – Christopher Hitchens


Far from making belief in God obsolete, some interpretations of modern science provide positive reinforcement for belief in God.The methodology of the natural sciences requires the formulation of fruitful questions about the nature of the world that can be answered by careful and repeatable observations. The use of controlled experiments aids the construction of illuminating schemes of classification or of causal hypotheses that explain why things are as they are. The development of mathematical techniques for describing and predicting observable regularities is usually an important part of a scientific approach to the world.There are many different sorts of natural science, from the patient observations of botany and ethology to the more theory-laden hypotheses of quantum cosmology. What is their relation to belief in God? The answer depends on how one defines God. I shall adopt the rather minimal view that God is a non-physical being of consciousness and intelligence or wisdom, who creates the universe for the sake of distinctive values that the universe generates.” – Keith Ward“Yes.The universe visible to us contains a hundred billion galaxies, each with a hundred billion stars. But by far the greatest portion of the universe that expanded exponentially from the original chaos, at least fifty orders of magnitude more, lies far beyond our horizon. The universe we see with our most powerful telescopes is but a grain of sand in the Sahara. Yet we are supposed to think that a supreme being exists who follows the path of every particle, while listening to every human thought and guiding his favorite football teams to victory. Science has not only made belief in God obsolete. It has made it incoherent.” – Victor J. Stenger

“No, not at all.

As a physician and researcher, I employ science to decipher human biology and treat disease. As a person of faith, I look to my religious tradition for the touchstones of a moral life. Neither science nor faith need contradict the other; in fact, if one appreciates the essence of each, they can enrich each other in a person’s life.” – Jerome Groopman

“It depends.

The answer turns on whether one emphasizes belief or God. Science does not make belief in God obsolete, but it may make obsolete the reality of God, depending on how far we are able to push the science.” – Michael Shermer

“Of course not.

Science itself does not contradict the hypothesis of God. Rather, it gives us a window on a dynamic and creative universe that expands our appreciation of the Divine in ways that could not have been imagined in ages past.” – Kenneth R. Miller

“No, but only if…

we continue to develop new notions of God, such as a fully natural God that is the creativity in the cosmos.Humans have been worshipping gods for thousands of years. Our sense of God in the Western world has evolved from Abraham’s jealous God Yahweh to the God of love of the New Testament. Science and faith have split modern societies just as some form of global civilization is emerging. One result is a retreat into religious fundamentalisms, often bitterly hostile. The schism between science and religion can be healed, but it will require a slow evolution from a supernatural, theistic God to a new sense of a fully natural God as our chosen symbol for the ceaseless creativity in the natural universe. This healing may also require a transformation of science to a new scientific worldview with a place for the ceaseless creativity in the universe that we can call God.” – Stuart Kauffman


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