The discussion continues (3)

“How does being a scientist affect your religious belief?”

At the end of Thursday’s discussion, Bob Pelfrey asked this question of John Horsley and Rob Ross.

Rob responds,

I think that the universe, our world, and humankind’s place in it are miraculously wonderful. Surely there is a loving God behind all this.

That God works through a Big Bang and Darwinian evolution is no problem for me, and if, say, we come to understand that major parts of the Big Bang theory are wrong, that’s no problem either.

Scientists don’t have any more or less cause to see God in this miracle than anyone who accepts the validity of modern science. Scientists may have had more opportunity to see some parts of the miracle, but others will have had more opportunity to see the miracle elsewhere.

John responds,

For me, my faith provides what science can never provide, namely meaning.

Although I don’t normally subscribe to the “Independent Domains” view of the relationship between science and religion, I do think it applies with regard to meaning. Science cannot provide meaning and in fact it seems to remove meaning from the universe. The physicist Steven Weinberg has written: “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless”. Many well-known scientists (including Weinberg) have gone a step further and stated that the universe not only seems pointless, it really is pointless (molecular biologists are especially guilty of this). For me the purpose of the dialogue (or integration) between science and religion is mainly to infuse science with the meaning that by itself it lacks.

Where do I get this meaning? Ultimately, meaning for me is not an intellectual problem to be solved but a mystery that I participate in by lived experience, in particular my experience of my family and my faith community. For the dialogue with science we have to attempt to articulate this, and this is where theologians like Elizabeth Johnson can be helpful. I’m looking forward to the second half of our discussion when we can use her insights (and ours) to bring meaning to the fascinating science in the first half.

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