Evolution in the schools

S L Forsburg forsburg at salk.edu
Sat Aug 31 16:10:45 EST 1996

GREAT thread, group!

> 2) Is it possible to be a scientist and have religious beliefs?  I'd
> like to explore this a bit more, especially because of the recent
> comment I received and posted, to the effect that it was impossible to
> be Christian and a scientist

I also disagree with your correspondent, but from the other side--I'm
a non-believer.  I think there are a lot of people 
who manage to have religious faith and be scientists, and I think you 
can probably do pretty well at both. What I think of as more rational
religions allow their followers to think and arrive at a balance between
science and faith that satisfies their intellect.  But as you point out

> I blame the present political climate, especially the "Force our beliefs
> down their throat" attitude of the religious right, for generating
> hostility among scientists toward those who hold religious beliefs, even
> within science itself.  

You got that right.  Given that agnostics and atheists are routinely
excoriated by the fundamentalists (I read somewhere that George Bush 
commented that atheism was incompatible with being an American, too...),
a number of scientists admit to being agnostics and atheists, 
and that science seeks to explain the world around us without reference 
to a higher authority,  perhaps it isnt surprising that we are so feared
disliked as a profession.  Frankly, I heartily dislike those who think
so in return!  

> I'm glad most
> people don't condemn all scientists because some lie or slant the
> data,and I wish these same people would grant religious colleagues the
> same courtesy.

Your point is well taken.
I respect other people's faith.  I just don't happen to share it.
I don't think less of a scientist who believes in a higher authority;
that's a personal decision as I said. (One might argue that if faith 
 were entirely logical, it wouldnt require faith, now, would it?)

What I object to isnt individuals with beliefs, it's individuals who 
switched off their brains and their capacity for reason and 
understand the world around them because of what seems more like 
superstition than faith.  It's individuals who 
think knowledge is dangerous and ignorance is good enough, 
and religions that seek to control thought. 

Let us also remember that  scientists have always had a
a deep distrust of religion for historical reasons....people 
are still being sued for teaching evolution in this country.

And it took hundreds of years for Galileo to be forgiven by his church.

"....I have been enjoined, by this Holy Office, altogether to 
abandon the false opinion which maintains that the Sun is the 
centre and immovable, and forbidden to hold, defence, or teach, 
the said false doctrine in any manner...I abjure, curse, and 
detest the said errors and heresises, and generally every other 
error and sect contrary to the said holy Church, and I swear that 
I will never more in future say, or assert anything, verbally 
or in writing, which may give rise to a similar suspicion of me..."
                 '(And yet it does move....)'
                                      Galileo Galilei

-- susan

Susan L Forsburg PhD
MBVL, The Salk Institute
forsburg at salk.edu
...and speaking for myself.

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