Reconciling Science and Faith
\r\nWilliam Phillips: Yeah. Well first of all, I should say that I’m \r\nnot particularly comfortable with being described as a religious person \r\nbecause somehow I have this image in my mind of somebody who’s very \r\nproper and prim and follows all sorts of rituals and stuff. And I like \r\nrather to describe myself as a person of faith. And clearly I don’t \r\nbelieve that science has made belief in god obsolete, or else I wouldn’t\r\n describe myself as a person of faith.
\r\nI believe that certain ways of interpreting certain scriptures have been\r\n made obsolete by science, but that in no way makes religious faith or \r\nbelief in God obsolete, it just requires what I would consider to be a \r\ndifferent outlook, a maturation of religious faith. But if we look at \r\nthe history of religious faith as told in the scriptures and as seen \r\nthrough history, I think the entire history of faith has been one of a \r\nmaturation of that faith.
\r\nI see it as not so much as people becoming more mature in their faith, \r\nbut God challenging people to become more mature, to get a clearer \r\nunderstanding of what god wants for human-kind and I think God is always\r\n pushing us to be better than what we are.
\r\nQuestion: Have your religious beliefs contributed to your work as a \r\nscientist?
\r\nWilliam Phillips: Well, okay, so there’s two ways of answering that \r\nquestion. By and large, science and religion deal with different kinds \r\nof questions. Science deals with questions about how do things come to \r\nbe the way they are, how should I think about the way things are? How \r\nshall I organize my understanding of the way things behave?
\r\nWhereas, religion deals with questions like, how should I behave toward \r\nmy fellow human creatures? What should my relationship be to God? How \r\nshould I understand the ultimate origins of this world and this universe\r\n in which we live? These are different kinds of questions. But \r\nsometimes the areas that science addresses and the areas that religion \r\naddress can overlap. So, I don’t ascribe to the idea of science and \r\nreligion as being non-overlapping magisterial, as they’ve sometimes been\r\n described. But I also will say that, by and large, they deal with \r\ndifferent kinds of questions. But they are ethical questions that might\r\n involve things like medial ethics, or environmental questions where you\r\n have to understand the science in order to be able to make good ethical\r\n decisions that are guided by your religious principles.
\r\nSo, there’s always going to be places where science and religion are \r\ngoing to come to bear on the same kinds of problems.
Recorded June 4, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman
Certain ways of interpreting certain scriptures have been made obsolete by science—but that in no way makes religious faith or belief in God obsolete
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