Friday, June 26, 2009

Lawrence Krauss on Science vs Religion

Lawrence Krauss was recently asked to participate in a debate about science and religion. Ken Miller and another Roman Catholic scientist were there. Miller argued the case for compatibility and Krauss defended the atheist position. Here's how Krauss describes some of the debate in an article entitled God and Science Don't Mix.
Faced with the remarkable success of science to explain the workings of the physical world, many, indeed probably most, scientists understandably react as Haldane did. Namely, they extrapolate the atheism of science to a more general atheism.

While such a leap may not be unimpeachable it is certainly rational, as Mr. McGinn pointed out at the World Science Festival. Though the scientific process may be compatible with the vague idea of some relaxed deity who merely established the universe and let it proceed from there, it is in fact rationally incompatible with the detailed tenets of most of the world's organized religions. As Sam Harris recently wrote in a letter responding to the Nature editorial that called him an "atheist absolutist," a "reconciliation between science and Christianity would mean squaring physics, chemistry, biology, and a basic understanding of probabilistic reasoning with a raft of patently ridiculous, Iron Age convictions."

When I confronted my two Catholic colleagues on the panel with the apparent miracle of the virgin birth and asked how they could reconcile this with basic biology, I was ultimately told that perhaps this biblical claim merely meant to emphasize what an important event the birth was. Neither came to the explicit defense of what is undeniably one of the central tenets of Catholic theology.
This is the problem. Whenever you encounter a religious person who claims that there's no conflict between their religious beliefs and science, you have every right to engage in a discussion about the specific beliefs that they hold.

Do they believe in miracles? In my experience, religious scientists tend to avoid answering such direct questions just like they avoid answering questions about the efficacy of prayer, the existence of a soul, and life after death. I wonder why they won't answer these questions?

1 comment:

  1. 1. Of course, Prof. Morans' favorite sparring partner, Chris Mooney has a different spin on the Krauss Op-Ed.

    2. I have been saying for some time now that Prof. Miller sounds more and more like a Deist with every passing day, especially when he is pinned down by questioners like Prof. Krauss.