Migration — Templeton Continued

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My neighbor is having a tree cut down. I contemplated writing about Fargo but decided I should tackle a less ripping subject. If the logic is a bit off, blame the wood chipper.
The “Big Question” from Templeton (see post of October 21) that most fascinates me is “Does belief in science make God obsolete?” The MD and one physicist say no; another physicist says yes; while the Roman Catholic cardinal says maybe. Many respondents say yes.
Among those answering in the affirmative is Victor Stegner, retired professor of physics and astronomy. He traces the path of scientific discovery from Darwin to Edward Hubble, who provided evidence of an expanding universe that could have begun without divine assistance. Stegner concludes, “Science has not only made belief in God obsolete. It has made it incoherent.”
Psychology Professor Steven Pinker, who defines science as “the entire enterprise of secular reason and knowledge,” also replies in the affirmative. (He doesn’t indicate whether his answer would change if science is defined merely as “people with test tubes and white lab coats.”)
One of those white-coat folks, with a Nobel in physics, William D. Phillips, says “Absolutely Not!” He explains that he can be the physicist who demands proof of every hypothesis while at the same time attending church and believing that a divine spirit was responsible for creating a universe that “gave birth to stars and planets … [as well as] bacteria and people.”
Also falling in the no camp is one of my favorite authors, doctor and Harvard Professor Jerome Groopman, whose book “The Anatomy of Hope” made me reflect again on the power of the mind to heal the body. Of deity vs. science, Groopman says they are mutually exclusive: science has no “moral valence,” while religion does not demand proof. The problem arises, he says, because of intolerance from the extremes – atheists and fundamentalists of all religious stripes.
Obviously the question as no right answer, but I particularly like the response of Professor Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy who posits a science-friendly deity of the female persuasion who operates in the “quantum foam of space-time.”
One person omitted from this list of distinguished thinkers and writers is that philosopher of the profound and insane, Lewis Black. He of the Daily Show and Root of All Evil, has actually given this topic some thought. Just look at the topics in “All Evil”: Disney vs. Scientology, Oprah vs. the Catholic Church. He has also produced Me of Little Faith, which contains as clear and insightful analysis as any great Templeton essay.

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