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Religious Scientists on Vatican Observatory Faith and Science — 5 Comments

  1. Great observations from an educators view! My impression so far, whether talking to Atheist or Young Earth Creationist, is that they wish to set up boundaries between science and religion (I probably do it too unconsciously!) in order to organize knowledge/ideas in both fields. But then I feel like I am falling into a God of the Gaps faith.
    I hope your classes this year are exciting and enjoyable for you and your students!

  2. Such lists, as wonderful as they are, generally do not impress nonbelievers (at least, not the ones I know personally), because they are primarily composed of people from past centuries. The usual answer I get when bringing up Copernicus or Secchi or Mendel, etc., is “Well, of course they were religious! Everyone was back then.”

    Far more impressive, perhaps, would be a list of contemporary religious scientists, even if their names are not as well known as Galileo’s.

    • Two comments re Bob K’s remark:

      1) From my work, I find that such lists are of value to believers, who fear that science as it is portrayed today excludes them. Seeing that “people like them” made great contributions to science helps in this regard. And it then follows that such lists are also of value to science, because science needs everyone, and cannot afford to have lots of people feeling excluded from it.

      2) The flip side of people “back then” like Copernicus or Secchi or Mendel (or Newton or Maxwell or Planck — bringing us up into modern physics) is that they are the major figures in science. It is not clear that we have a Newton, a Mendel, or a Planck working today. Also, the “everyone was religious” view is too breezy, and hard to support when a scientist (Planck, for example) writes extensively on religion. It is clear that Planck really cared about the subject — he wasn’t just doing what everyone else did. That’s why this is more than just a list. In the first part of the “Religious Scientists” section there are links to all the entries about, for example, Planck, which take you to far more info than just that “he was religious”.

  3. Oh, I am far from defending the objection. Just reporting that I come across it all too often.

    My most effective defense against the idea that you can’t be both interested in science and believe in God is, believe it or not, myself. As an amateur astronomer (I prefer stargazer), I do tons of what my club calls “outreach” – setting my scope up in a public area where random people can see Saturn or the Moon for the first time through a telescope. On rare occasions (maybe one out of a hundred times) the conversation will turn to matters of faith, and people are inevitably impressed when I tell them I am a Catholic AND an amateur astronomer.

    One one notable occasion, I was asked “How does that work out?” and I explained how there was no contradiction between faith and science. Turns out my questioner was a Methodist pastor at a church right down the street from me! He invited me to address his congregation on the subject, and I accepted. So that’s how we got a Catholic layperson preaching from a Methodist pulpit! He told me I had half an hour to talk, but I ended up speaking for 90 minutes. Not only did nobody walk out on me, but I was invited back for a second round. (And last Christmas, I got to be a “Wise Man” in their Christmas pageant!)

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