When public evidence and rational deduction is sufficient to answer a question we must all be swayed by that rationale and must be swayed by the answer.  When public evidence is not sufficient to answer a question, we must promote and encourage the widest range of disagreement and competition among people with different views.  I think those principles underlie healthy democratic societies as well as science.  

When it comes to questions about religion and spirituality I prefer not to disagree, not to contest them publicly.  

So evolution, climate change, many issues of medical science – I think as long as people of faith respect the rational deduction of science in those areas where no reasonable person can disagree, then we scientists have to say we are happy to live in a society with you whatever your religious faith is.

Your religious faith concerns issues that the evidence does not suffice to decide.  So I like the writings of my friend Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett.  I understand what they’re about.  I understand what they’re getting at but I think that it’s not my job and it’s not my fight.  It’s not my job as a scientist to get into that old fight between people of faith and people of science because my understanding of a democratic society is that as long as they respect the facts and the deductions of science we should be respectful of their faith and their search for a faith and their search for answers in these very, very difficult questions that science so far at least does not provide answers to. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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