by Mark Lorch
I’ve been a scientist for as long as I can remember. Children are born scientists; they experiment with everything, are naturally inquisitive and through this exploration they learn about how the world works. And I’ve never grown out of it. Of course, for many people, their modes of thought change as they find or are brought up with faith. Some manage, somehow, to hold religious beliefs alongside a dedication to the rationality of science.
I had a brief flirtation with Christianity in my teens, probably as a form of rebellion against my nuclear physicist father. But ultimately I could never reconcile what I saw as a contradiction between the principles of the scientific method and faith in a supernatural god. And ever since then, it has puzzled me how anyone could be religious whilst also being a scientist. How can one hold what I saw as diametrically opposed belief systems? How, on the one hand, could someone devote themselves to the scientific methods where, through repeated experimentation, one builds up a self-consistent representation of the rules that govern the universe, whilst on the other hand believing in a force that existed outside the rules and that, indeed, could change those rules.
Working in a university, I’m surrounded by scientists, and many of the best of them have religious faith. I’ve discussed these apparent contradictions of faith and science with some of these colleagues. I fully expected to hear arguments such as deism, where a god started the universe off but hasn’t intervened since then. Or maybe theistic evolution, with their god directing the evolution of the Universe and life within it. And indeed some did have these stances. But many of those I spoke to also took a literal interpretation of miracles from their holy texts. Which took me back to square one. If a god can change the rules of life, then how can you believe the rules governing your experiments won’t change from one day to the next? And it always came down to the fact that they just had faith in the scriptures, which left me feeling rather dissatisfied.
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