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Science & Religion

In today’s world, conventional wisdom says science and religion don’t mix and no real scientist can believe in the existence of a higher power. Many take for granted that there must be conflict between religious faith and scientific discovery. In fact, when noted geneticist Francis Collins was nominated as the director of the National Institutes of Health, there were a lot of raised eyebrows, and worse, because of his unapologetic faith. Some claimed an avowed Christian couldn’t be an impartial leader of America’s largest scientific research centers.

Despite the vocal opposition, cooler heads prevailed and Collins was confirmed as director.

Fortunately, a great majority of scientists disagree that science and religion are in conflict.

In a worldwide survey conducted by researchers at Rice University, it was found that just 29 percent of U.S. scientists believe there is any conflict between science and religion, and a separate Pew Research study found that a majority of scientists believe in a higher power. Perhaps it’s because they agree with what the father of the scientific method, Sir Francis Bacon, wrote in an essay called “Of Atheism”:

“Therefore God never wrought miracle to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”

In fact, there are numerous quotes affirming belief from renowned scientists from every stage of scientific discovery. Many contain similar themes of how the more one learns how the world works, the more evidence one sees of a higher power.

“The more thoroughly I conduct scientific research, the more I believe science excludes atheism. If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to the belief in God, which is the foundation of all religion.”

- Lord Kelvin

“God created everything by number, weight and measure.”

- Isaac Newton

“I know not how I seem to others, but to myself I am but a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to content myself with while the vast ocean of undiscovered truth lay before me.”

- Isaac Newton

“There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.”

- Max Planck, 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics

“This sense of wonder leads most scientists to a Superior Being – der Alte, the Old One, as Einstein affectionately called the Deity – a Superior Intelligence, the Lord of all Creation and Natural Law.”

- Abdus Salam, 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics

Notably, over 90 percent of Nobel Prize winners have been religious. Learning about the world around us fills us with wonder and humility. It should come as no surprise that along with this learning comes a belief in a higher power.

Dig Deeper:

Pew Survey: Scientists and Belief

Rice University Survey: Religion and Science

Nobel Prize: Max Planck

Nobel Prize: Abdus Salam

New York Times: For NIH Chief, Issues of Identity and Culture

Francis Bacon Essay: Of Atheism

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