Are faith and reason incompatible?
Peter Gomes is an American Baptist minister who has served in The Memorial Church at Harvard University since 1970. Gomes is also the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and is the Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church. Gomes is commonly regarded as one of the most distinguished preachers in America. He was named Clergy of the Year in 1998 by Religion in American Life and offered prayers in the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Educated at Bates College and the Harvard Divinity School, Revered Gomes alsoholds thirty-six honorary degrees. He is the author of numerous books on the Bible, including the national best-sellers TheGood Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart and Sermons:Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living.
Question: Are faith and reason incompatible?
Peter Gomes: I haven’t found any scientific advance that explains joy, or happiness, or genuine peace. Or that has achieved perfect satisfaction in mind, body or state. I haven’t found any scientific discovery that’s done that. There was the great cynical observation that when we started exploring outer space, that we might actually find where heaven was. And the Russian cosmonauts were supposed to report back as to whether God existed. Did they find him up there? And nobody did. Or medical science, when it … operating on the brain, or the very interior of the human body, could never quite find the soul. They keep looking and they never managed to do it. It seems to me that science could never explain such things as joy, or happiness, or sorrow, even though they try to find the little nodes in the brain in which these emotions are alleged to reside. And thus it seems to me science is able to describe certain realities, but it has it limits. And religion goes beyond those limits. That’s why they call it faith. That’s why it’s exciting. It seems much more exciting to me to be a pioneer on the frontiers of faith, than working out my salvation in some laboratory hoping that I’ll discover something in a jar of chemical unknowns. I think that’s very unlikely.
Recorded on: 6/12/07
The Russian cosmonauts did not find God up there.
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