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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 101 to a 1998 poll published in the journal Nature, when queried about belief in a “personal god,” 7 percent of the mem- bers of the National Academy of Science responded in the affirmative, while 72 percent expressed “personal disbelief ” and 21 percent expressed “doubt or ag- nosticism.” Harris misrepresents the findings of this poll by stating that 97 percent of those polled reject a belief in God. In fact, the poll reports that only 72 percent declared their disbelief in a personal god and said nothing about other kinds of belief in a supreme being or other transcendent realities. Accord- ing to a poll published in the Scientific American in 1914, 40 percent of scien- tists stated they believed in God. A poll with the same set of questions was again conducted in 1997 and it also indicated that 40 percent of scientists believed in God. A more recent survey indicated that 60 percent of scientists claim to believe in God. The National Academy of Sci- ence formally declares, “Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.” Harris misrepresents the poll reported in Nature, doesn’t re- port the two polls presented in Scientific American, and denounces the statement by the National Academy of Science. In so doing, he fails to abide by the scien- tific principle of accuracy and rejects the conclusion of the premier scientific organization in the United States. The nonexistence of God is obvious to him, but not to a great number of scientists in the past and the present. To anyone who has carefully studied the European cultural history of the sev- enteenth and eighteenth centuries, it is clear that from its beginnings, modern science was profoundly influenced by both Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian beliefs. Virtually all the great pioneers of the scientific revolution—including Co- pernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton—were devout Christians who acknowledged that their religious be- liefs strongly influenced their scientific thinking. During the nineteenth century, science continued to develop under the guidance of pious Christians such as Michael Faraday and James Clerk Max- well, as well as deists who believed in a God who breathed the first life into the universe, which He constructed according to His intelligent design. Well into the twentieth century, Ein- stein expressed his “firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a supe- rior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience.” He added that “you will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a religious feeling of his own” and that “in this mate- rialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.” Harris makes no reference to this ongoing historical relation between sci- ence and religion. The many great discoveries of the natu- ral sciences—including the physical, life, and cognitive sciences—are based upon objective, physical, quantifiable evidence that can be measured with the instru- ments of technology and analyzed with the tools of mathematics. Four hundred years of rigorous inquiry have provided humanity with a rich and majestic view of the objective dimension of the universe. This scientific focus stems from the early and persistent aspiration of generations of scientists to achieve a “God’s-eye” view of reality, interpreted in terms of “God’s own language” of mathematics. Such an approach, they believed, revealed those aspects of nature that exist independently of subjective human awareness and lan- guage. The pursuit of this same ideal of objectivity dominates science today, de- spite the fact that most scientists are athe- ists or agnostics and no longer believe in a God’s-eye view. But what does science tell us about the rest of the natural world, let alone super- natural realities, which its empirical and analytical tools are incapable of detecting? One of the most common philosophical fallacies is to “mistake absence of evidence for evidence of absence.” One prominent example of this ideological bias is the physicalist assertion that the universe con- sists only of configurations of space, time, and matter and their emergent properties that can be measured objectively. Subjec- From the author of the best-selling When Things Fall Apart Practicing Peace in times oF War Pema chödrön With violence flaring all over the world, many of us feel vulnerable and utterly helpless. in this new book, Pema chödrön explores the origins of aggression, hatred, and war. she explains how we as individuals can respond to these challenges in our everyday lives and make the choice between perpetuating a culture of violence or creating a new culture of compassion. Also Available This 2-CD set gathers together the four public talks that inspired Practicing Peace in Times of War. Shambhala Publications $12.95 hardcover l 1-59030 - 401- 2 Visit www.shambhala.com to receive a 20% discount on this and over 600 other great books! 8 $19.95