Christian Science

May 08, 2012


Do you think being a Christian has made you a better scientist?
Well, if you have all your chips invested in being a successful scientist, it’s much more difficult to admit that you are wrong. Being a Christian allows me to be humble about cases when my views might be wrong, which allows more self-correction. It also allows me to be skeptical and ask questions that an atheist might not think to ask. Like the person from Missouri, I can say “€œshow me”€ in regard to evolutionary theories.

Other than writing a paper with Michael Behe, do your ideas about ID inform any other areas of research?
Certainly; a recent example is an article to be published in Annals of Physics where I and my coworkers derive the second law of thermodynamics from quantum field theory considerations. The genesis of this idea came about from some intelligent-design arguments I was thinking about. I’m also presently working on a numerical project relating to combinatorial optimization, which was originally inspired by some ID ideas.

Do you have problems with other scientists because of your views?
When talking with people in the physics world, there is generally respect for religion. Many physicists are religious; evangelical Christians, Jewish people, Catholics, Muslims. It’s rare to get a push back to the idea of an “€œordering principle.”€ Scientists know that the world is orderly. Some scientists seem to hold deistic beliefs; the idea that there is something more, some ordering principle, but they don’t feel comfortable saying “€œGod”€ or adopting religious beliefs.

Do you know any non-Christian creationists?
By “€œcreationists”€ I assume you mean people who believe we can see the hand of God in nature, that not everything can be explained by undirected random processes. There are quite a few associated with the Discovery Institute. Gerald Schroeder is a well-known Jewish scholar, as is David Berlinski, who has agnostic leanings. Antony Flew is a deist who converted from atheism in part because of intelligent-design arguments. Michael Denton is an agnostic, and I believe a Platonist, who believes that ideas exist independently and instantiate themselves. Most people who are interested in ID have very complex views that are difficult to reduce to a sound bite. Journalists like to comment as if everything were a football game. They seem to see the debate as between two teams, with Dawkins-type evolutionists on one side and Young Earth creationists on the other. The real world is much more complex than this. There are theistic evolutionists like the evangelical Francis Collins, ID-friendly evolutionists like the Catholic Michael Behe, and people who might insert a few miracles at certain times, such as evangelical chemist Fritz Schaefer.

What do you think of “Internet skeptics?”
I don’t go to blog or discussion-group types of things very much; I have a day job and many responsibilities and interests. This sort of activity also seems to appeal to a particular personality type. It seems to be a rule on such things that the guy who writes the most “wins,” which isn’t a very good way at arriving at the truth. There are, of course, many Christians who engage in this sort of thing; the personality type who likes this sort of thing isn’t restricted to Internet skeptics.

How do you react with dumb people try to be condescending toward you because you’re religious?
Well, it doesn’t happen very often. In most circles I travel in, people are aware that I am a physics professor. Occasionally you’ll have to hold your tongue at a party when someone rants about “stupid evangelical Christians.”


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