The German mathematician Professor Hans Rohrbach tells of the following conversation between Cardinal Faulhaber, Archbishop of Munich, and Professor Albert Einstein.
“I respect religion, but believe in mathematics;” said Einstein, “doubtless for your Eminence the reverse is true.”
“You are mistaken;” replied Faulhaber, “religion and mathematics are for me only different ways of expressing the same Divine exactness.”
Einstein was astonished. “But what if one day mathematical research should show that certain verdicts of science contradict those of religion?”
“I have such a high regard for mathematics,” replied Faulhaber, “that in such a case you, Professor, would be under the obligation to never stop looking for the error in calculation.”
…Experience shows that faith in God’s Word has nothing at all to fear from serious thought. It would be useless to reject faith for the sake of natural science, or to abandon thought for the sake of faith. Faith does not need to prune the assertions of science nor does science need to blend the confessions of faith into shape. A sacrifice of one’s reason is not demanded. On the contrary, it is just the Bible which sees both together: creation and Creator, nature and revelation, the visible and the invisible…
It is necessary to look at both together and to see the harmony of both Divine revelations, the book of nature and the book of the written word.
Sometimes people in the faith community are accused of attacking science. To do so would be the height of foolishness. No person of reasonable intelligence would question the value of science. Problems arise, however, when science overreaches itself. What should be requested is for science to remain scientific.
Would it not go against all logic to ask a plumber to check our cholesterol level, or to request that the gardener tune the piano? These people are skilled in a particular field, and they would do well to operate within that field. Likewise, science functions best when it stays within its prescribed domain. Science is equipped to analyze natural phenomenon but is not in a position to address any others, or to pontificate that other causes could not possibly exist.
Science is capable of telling us how things can be done, but it cannot tell us what ought to be done. To expect science to answer philosophical questions is to go to the wrong place for answers. To mix science with philosophy is to confuse them both.
“It is our mistake to ask science to do something it can’t,” admitted Iain McGilchrist. “It’s like expecting your iPod to tell you whether you are in love.”
Christianity is not at odds with science. It has trouble with science that has become religious and has ceased to be aware of its limitations. Science answers a lot of questions, but to expect it to answer them all is not only an impossibility, it is also an absurdity.
In both religion and science, some people are dishonest, exploitative, incompetent and exhibit other human failings. My concern here is with the bigger picture.
I have been a scientist for more than 40 years, having studied at Cambridge and Harvard. I researched and taught at Cambridge University, was a research fellow of the Royal Society, and have more than 80 publications in peer-reviewed journals. I am strongly pro-science. But I am more and more convinced that the spirit of free inquiry is being repressed within the scientific community by fear-based conformity. Institutional science is being crippled by dogmas and taboos. Increasingly expensive research is yielding diminishing returns.
Bad religion is arrogant, self-righteous, dogmatic and intolerant. And so is bad science. But unlike religious fundamentalists, scientific fundamentalists do not realize that their opinions are based on faith. They think they know the truth. They believe that science has already solved the fundamental questions. The details still need working out, but in principle, the answers are known.
Science at its best is an open-minded method of inquiry, not a belief system….
Since the beginning of the 21st century, it has become apparent that known kinds of matter and energy make up only about 4 percent of the universe. The rest consists of “dark matter” and “dark energy.” The nature of 96 percent of physical reality is literally obscure….
Good science, like good religion, is a journey of discovery, a quest. It builds on traditions from the past. But it is most effective when it recognizes how much we do not know, when it is not arrogant but humble.
Science has been the iron wedge by which the secular has penetrated the realm of the sacred. Science has been the sharp scalpel with which our most cherished ideas about humanity have been subjected to dissection and doubt. Those who suggest that religion is the primary source of human conflict and bloodshed are not looking closely enough. If we examine the history of violence in modern times we will often find rationales rooted in science.
The idea that all human lives are sacred and of equal value is not a product of science. The sanctity of human life cannot be proven in a laboratory. When it comes to this most profound and foundational moral insight, we in the West have only one source: the Judeo-Christian tradition. This idea was first expressed in the Bible and it has survived throughout the centuries because of the ongoing authority of the Jewish and Christian faiths. If some of the Enlightenment thinkers later embraced and reiterated the concept, they cannot be credited with an immaculate intellectual conception. It was right there in the Bible most of them read.
The Judeo-Christian tradition has built a wall between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. It has placed man on a pedestal and put a crown on his head. Modern science, on the other hand, has consistently sought to tear down this wall and treat man as just another species of animal. Science has sought to take that crown off our heads—and measure the size of our skulls.
We are frequently warned these days about the great danger of religion expanding into fields where it does not belong. This concern is not without justification. There are areas of expertise, especially in the realm of science, where religion can contribute little. Religion cannot help us split the atom or map out our DNA. The Bible provides no clues that can help us cure cancer…
But we must also recognize that there exists an equal and possibly greater threat of science exceeding its proper boundaries. Especially when it comes to morality, science can confuse, but it rarely enlightens. Science can enable us to split the atom, but it cannot help us decide whether we are justified in using an atom bomb. Science can help us map out our DNA, but it cannot help us determine whether it is moral to clone humans. Science can help us cure cancer, but it cannot help us cope with cancer.
When science ventures beyond its core areas of competence into the area of morality, it often leaves corpses in its wake… With an air of authority to which they have no claim, scientists have called into question the key principles which protect humanity—especially the weakest among us—from annihilation. Before even grasping the danger, they could bring our whole ethical edifice crashing down. If religion does not belong in the science classroom, then it is equally true that science has no place in the ethics classroom. We need a wall of separation between science and morality every bit as much as we need on between church and state.
I think the important thing to realize is how little we know about anything — how flowers unfold, how butterflies migrate. We have to avoid the arrogance of persons on either side of the science-religion divide who feel that they have all the answers. We have to try to use our intellect with humility. –Dr. Joseph Murray, Noble Prize winning transplant surgeon