Science and religion are not incompatible, according to a physicist who was honored Tuesday with an international award recognizing outstanding work “affirming life’s spiritual dimension.”
The physics and astronomy professor, who teaches at Dartmouth College, said that although he labels himself an agnostic who does not believe in God, he accepts the possibility that God could exist.
“Atheism is a belief in non-belief. So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against. I’ll keep an open mind because I understand that human knowledge is limited,” he said.
He said that the study of creation can illustrate the point.
“The first thing you see in the Bible is a story of creation,” he said. “(E)verybody wants to know how the world came to be.”
He said that religion and science take different paths.
“Science can give answers to certain questions, up to a point,” Gleiser said.
“This has been known for a very long time in philosophy, it’s called the problem of the first cause: We get stuck,” he said.
The Templeton Prize, according to its website, was established in 1972 by investor and philanthropist John Templeton, now deceased. “An annual cash gift exceeding the value of the Nobel Prize, the Templeton Prize honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works,” the website states.
This year, the website states, the prize was worth 1.1 million British pounds, or about $1.45 million.
Glaser said religion and science should not be the antagonists they have become.
Creationists “position science as the enemy … because they have a very antiquated way of thinking about science and religion in which all scientists try to kill God,” he said.
“Science does not kill God,” he said.
He also had harsh words for what he called the “new atheists” of science who attack religion.
Religion, he noted, is not just a belief in God, but a piece of one’s identity and community. Studies have shown that people of faith experience significantly better lives than those without faith.
“At least half of the world population is that way,” he said.
“It’s extremely arrogant from scientists to come down from the ivory towers and make these declarations without understanding the social importance of belief systems,” he said.
“When you hear very famous scientists making pronouncements like … cosmology has explained the origin of the universe and the whole, and we don’t need God anymore. That’s complete nonsense. Because we have not explained the origin of the universe at all,” he said.
“We should have the humility to accept that there’s mystery around us,” he said.
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