Re: The Universe in a Single Atom

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Wed Sep 21 2005 - 03:36:28 EDT

Randy Isaac wrote:

"... Can any of you really cite an example where faith and revelation affected science?"

Faith affects all scientists' work. Scientists are people, people have biases. Faith will manifest itself in those biases, and the biases will influence the scientists' research directions and data interpretations. Many scientists eagerly hope for a certain result, and they often get what they hope for, whether it's valid or not. Science succeeds because other scientists with different biases must be able to repeat the experiments or observations and get the same results. In this way results that originated in a flawed bias are weeded out.

I think once again of Einstein's description of his own approach to theory: He felt a given direction would be fruitful, so without fully articulated justification he went in that direction. Intuition guided his thinking, and faith guides intuition. Hence creating theories requires faith. Overall, one can say that faith at many levels drives scientists and their science.

When you say "science," are you perhaps referring to the finished product and not the process? One would hope that the body of knowledge we accept as established science has been tested enough to eliminate artifacts from any individual scientist's faith (biases). Still, this hope is likely vain in some cases.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Randy Isaac<>
  Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2005 6:00 PM
  Subject: The Universe in a Single Atom

  The NYTimes Sunday book review carried an article about the Dalai Lama's recent book, "The Universe in a Single Atom: Reason and Faith"<>

  George Johnson writes in his review that
  "....Spirituality is about the ineffable and unprovable, science about the physical world of demonstrable fact. Faced with two such contradictory enterprises, divergence would be a better goal. The last thing anyone needs is another attempt to contort biology to fit a particular religion or to use cosmology to prove the existence of God.

  But this book offers something wiser: a compassionate and clearheaded account by a religious leader who not only respects science but, for the most part, embraces it. "If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims," he writes. No one who wants to understand the world "can ignore the basic insights of theories as key as evolution, relativity and quantum mechanics."

  That is an extraordinary concession compared with the Christian apologias that dominate conferences devoted to reconciling science and religion. The "dialogues" implicitly begin with nonnegotiables - "Given that Jesus died on the cross and was bodily resurrected into heaven. . " - then seek scientific justification for what is already assumed to be true....."

  This seems to be a rather lopsided type of integration of reason and faith. Science gets to trump faith at every turn. On the other hand, can any of you really cite an example where faith and revelation affected science? (not the metaphysical meaning of science)

Received on Wed Sep 21 03:38:09 2005

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