Should a Scientific Meeting Attempt to Address Questions of Faith?

Mungerstained_HSDave Munger in Seed:

Scientists were asking three big questions about the Faith and Science panel at the World Science Festival last month. Should the panel be funded by the Templeton Foundation, which some accuse of harboring a pro-religion agenda? Should the panel include a “New Atheist” like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett? And should a festival devoted to “science” discuss matters of faith at all?

The last question might be the easiest to answer. While many scientists believe that science and faith are completely separate, others argue that science shows that faith and religion are unnecessary. Ironically, if this latter argument is true, then it follows that a session on faith and science is essential for proper understanding of science. As Razib Khan, a blogger for Discover magazine, observed last year, over 50 percent of scientists believe in God or some higher power. And as medical writer Tom Rees noted, the phenomenon isn’t going away: younger scientists are more likely to hold religious beliefs than older scientists. While the finding could suggest that religious people are more likely to leave science as they get older, it could also mean that religious beliefs are growing among scientists. If the New Atheists are right and science really does invalidate religion, then it’s essential that these increasingly religious scientists discuss the issue at scientific meetings. If the New Atheists are wrong, then scientists should still be discussing the issue to address this apparent deficiency in the atheists’ scientific reasoning.