Playback speed
Share post
Share post at current time

Religion vs. Science: The War That Never Was

How Columbus, Galileo, and Scopes were never persecuted by religious authorities and other popular myths.

Dr. Joshua M. Moritz has been a professor and scholar at the interface of science and faith for over two decades. He has authored numerous books and articles, including Science and Religion: Beyond Warfare and Toward Understanding.

Please take a moment to let us know what you think of our work here at Beyond Belief.

Take Our Survey


Adam Jacobs: Well, I want to officially welcome you to Beyond Belief. You have been a great writer for us for—it seems like a long time already, and we'd never met in person. I guess we still haven't met in person, but it's good to talk like this.

And I know that you are a teacher of science and philosophy. If I had to give you a label, which you didn't ask for, I would describe you as like a myth buster of science and the history of science and its place alongside religions. And I've really enjoyed the work that you've done for us and also reading through your book most recently and being very familiar with some of the information from the Beyond Belief work that you've done for us.

But I think for the benefit of our audience, let's go through a couple of examples, classical examples of how it's just not true, what people think of when they think of the war between science and religion that they think has raged from time immemorial. And your book and a lot of your work is demonstrating that it's not exactly the case. Some of these things are just folk tales. And so for instance, could you talk a little bit about Christopher Columbus and the notion of they already knew that the earth was round, so maybe he wasn't at war with the religious authorities, but can you give us that story?

Joshua Moritz: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you've pushed the right button to get me excited here. The idea that Columbus proved the world was round, that there was this huge debate in Salamanca with religious authorities. The whole idea that he was a man of science trying to prove all these dogmatic flat-earthers wrong. It's pretty much as complete a myth as you can imagine. It was a story that was invented, invented in the Victorian age, specifically with an anti-religious agenda. Everyone in Western Europe thought the world was a sphere at the time in the 1400s.

Adam Jacobs: How do we know that?

Joshua Moritz: Yeah, you could see, if you go through anyone writing at the time, it's assumed. If you think about the role of Aristotle, there were a lot of Catholics who were very Aristotelian at the time, and Aristotle's Cosmos has the earth as a sphere in the center.

And so when Galileo was asking questions about Aristotle, there was no debate over the sphericity of the earth. The question was really, does the Earth move or not? Galileo, of course, (not to go into too much of a tangent), but Galileo's argument was from the tides that it did move, which was sort of a movement that he used the analogy of if you had a container of water and you move it over here, it sloshes and you move it over here, it sloshes. And that caused the ocean's tides.

Johannes Kepler argued that it was some sort of mysterious force from the moon that was an inverse square law, what we now call gravity. But Kepler was using someone else's work on magnets to say, well, there are these interesting forces between, and maybe the earth is a big magnet, and the moon's like a big magnet, and it pulls the tides and Kepler is actually right.

So I mean, that's another myth. Galileo was actually incorrect with his main proof for the movement of the earth, but that's for another story. But with the earth being round, a sphere, there's Martin Beheim's Globe, which was started before Columbus's journey. That's kind of a fun historical artifact. It shows us our knowledge of the earth at the time before Columbus. And you have this really huge Atlantic ocean on that sphere.

And I think the real challenge is to find anyone who said it wasn't a sphere at the time. There's not one literary reference that I'm aware of, rather, historians of science refer to the earth as flat. Part of it is the books that promoted this. There's a guy named John William Draper who wrote a book on the warfare between essentially Religion and Science, and Andrew Dixon White were the two folks.

And there's also Thomas Henry Huxley too. But Draper White introduced the idea of the Flat Earth, and their only footnote was a fictional work about Columbus. I've often heard they were compared to Dan Brown. If you go to Dan Brown for history as opposed to entertainment. But their idea entered into the Encyclopedia Britannica until the 1980s, and it really wasn't until the late nineties that historians of science started to poke at this.

There's a historian of science, Jeffrey Burton Russell's his name at UC, Santa Barbara, or at least he was at UC, Santa Barbara. He might be retired now, but he wrote a book on Inventing the Flat Earth, which tried to put this to rest. A number of folks have tried to put this idea to rest, but it's very difficult to get beyond these myths. They serve a sort of a…

Adam Jacobs: Purpose.

Joshua Moritz: A purpose, yeah, yeah. Almost a religious purpose in some ways.

Adam Jacobs: Right. Anti-religious purpose.

Joshua Moritz: Yeah. If you very strongly believe that the earth people thought the earth was flat, and the reason you believe that is because you want to be anti-religious and pro-science, sort of like a foundational myth in a different sense of myth as a religious story.

Adam Jacobs: Let's take two more cases. Let's try to see if we can conclude something from that. But the second one that you talk about in the book is Galileo, and I was somewhat surprised, I've heard something about this, but surprised to learn that he was never in jail, that he was personal friends with the Pope, and seemingly it's not the science that they were upset over, but rather his breaking of an agreement. Is that about right?

Joshua Moritz: Yeah. That was the technical issue, was that he broke a binding agreement, which, if you were to translate the language at the time, essentially, to say that something was proven or fact—sort of in the way we say scientific fact versus scientific theory—in a theory is a way to explain the facts. But a fact is something that's observed and something that you can't question. And so to say that he had an absolute proof was the issue he was allowed to teach about hypothetically, and he broke that agreement.

Part of this was because, I dunno what phrase to use here, but he broke the Pope's heart, and this is a Pope who had written poems in honor of Galileo. In my teaching context, I always say he was the president of the Galileo fan club. He really loved Copernicus's work, was very pro-science, and actually suggested Kepler that Galileo should put Kepler into his book because he was aware of Kepler's argument from that, the gravity of the moon caused the tides, and the way Galileo did that was essentially to mock him because he thought his intelligence was being insulted in that sense.

And Galileo had a good degree of ambition and pride, and he was extremely bright, but he didn't like people to tell him what he should do with his own work. So then the Pope, what's interesting is the text was approved, and so the Inquisition was perfectly fine with Galileo's texts, approved it for printing, didn't see anything wrong with it, but they had not been there for the personal conversation with the Pope.

So when the Pope got it he was very upset, and because his own words were put in the mouth of Simplicio, which is sort of the comic relief, the dunce of the dialogue, and felt very personally wounded, humiliated, and this was a tricky political time for the Pope. There was a rival pope. People had pronounced him dead. There were armies at the point of entering Italy. So it was the worst time to question his authority and his political life, but also he was more personally hurt.

So he didn't want Galileo off the hook and requested that Galileo come to explain himself. Galileo said I can't leave my house. My arthritis is too bad. I'm homebound, which ironically comes up with his house arrest because the essence of the house arrest was, well, you said you can't leave your home, so why don't you just stay there and stay out of trouble? But he produces his most important work after his house arrest, really questioning Aristotle's physics.

Draper and White use the Galileo case. They thought, oh, there's a little bit of tension here. Let's exaggerate it to make it look like a lot of tension. Other religious rivals of the Catholics, like the Protestants did the same thing. And so they highlighted these points of tension. But yeah, I think I often wonder if we would know Galileo as well as we do today if it wasn't for Draper and White exaggerating his case. I think we would scientifically, we'd give a lot more credit to Johannes Kepler because Kepler actually had the right explanation and the right understanding of the cosmos. So Kepler I think doesn't get the credit that he should. Galileo gets too much credit, but largely because of this myth.

Adam Jacobs: And speaking of myths and trials, there's the famous Scopes Monkey Trial. And without going into the whole, it's a big story. The one point that I'd like to highlight, and then maybe we could wrap up this section in a little bow, is I was surprised to discover that the trial was a marketing ploy to promote a particular town. Can you just give me the bare sketch of what was going on there? And then we'll sum up these three cases.

Joshua Moritz: So the movers and shakers of Dayton, Tennessee, the folks who own shops on the main street and such, saw an advertisement that wanted to, was looking for a town to contest the Butler Act, which was related in the context. There was a lot of question over who could control textbooks in public education. So they thought this would be a good way to promote the town, the business interest of the town. So at that meeting, they chose Scopes to be the fall guy, and he volunteered. He was a substitute science teacher, mainly a gym teacher. Scholars argue whether he actually ever taught evolution.

Adam Jacobs: Right. That was surprising also.

Joshua Moritz: They said essentially to the American Civil Liberties Union. They said, you have your man, we'll contest it. So then the lawyers came in. Clarence Darrow took a personal interest in the case because William, and there's this rivalry between Darrow and Brian, William Jennings Bryan who ran for Congress. So he was a major politician, one of the great orators of the age, and the point of his political stance was standing up for the poor, for the small guy. He was very progressive. I would see him as an extremely progressive politician, but he was very anti-eugenics, which if you look at, I don't recommend looking at the book Civic Biology if you don't want to lose your lunch, but if you read the sections, there's a whole section on, oh goodness, I think it's the title of the chapter is Human Parasites, and it's deeply disturbing.

It's sort of what can we do with these people who are just sucking the life out of society? And it lists a bunch of people with physical ailments and other things, and it's really, it's a eugenic text. This is a dark period in American history where Americans actually were developing stuff that would later be used by the Nazis. And so this is deeply disturbing stuff. That was really the context for the trial. And this is the stuff that Brian really did not like the teaching of what we call social Darwinism. We have him on record in multiple places saying that personally, he believed in evolution. He believed that the human soul didn't evolve, but he believed in evolution up to the point where God gave humans a soul.

He believed that the Earth was billions of years old. He says this actually in the transcript of the trial, which is public record. It's really difficult. I mean, anyone who's doing the research, it's almost impossible to get wrong. Brian says, no one cares how old the earth is. There's not even what we call Young Earth creationism. It doesn't even exist at that point. And so no one held that position, but the real context was eugenics. That's why Darrow got involved. Darrow loved Draper and White, so they were Darrow's heroes. Interestingly enough, the folks who started the myth, and he kind of lived his life making the myth of science versus religion true. To serve a poetic irony in the Scopes Monkey trial, Darrow saw this as a great opportunity to demonstrate the argument between religion and science, and then Brian wouldn't have it, and the rest is history.

Adam Jacobs: So it seems to me, if I had to summarize all that you've written about this, and you have written a lot about it, is it's not so simple. It's not so simple that first of all, that side, the scientific method was birthed out of religiosity and a religious desire, and all these cases that the received wisdom is that there's been this warfare that's been going on for centuries and continues to rage is just not so simple, not simple at all. And there's a lot of background that needs to be brought to bear to understand the individual cases. And so you've done yeoman's work in highlighting that. So I want to thank you for that, and I've learned a lot from it. And now I would like to ask you a couple of even deeper questions. Yeah, great. If that's okay.

Let's talk about the laws of nature, which is also featured in your book. I want to read a couple of quotes. The first one's from the mathematician, Eugene Wigner, who says, “The existence of mathematically describable laws of nature is something bordering on the mysterious, and there is no rational explanation for it.” The second one's from Richard Feynman famous physicist who says, “The fact that there are laws of nature at all is a kind of miracle.” So this is something that I've spent some time trying to understand. It seems to me as a total layperson, totally counterintuitive that there should be some set of principles somewhere. I don't know where they are. I don't know how they influence matter. I know that they do.

We can describe what they are, but where are they written? Where do they exist these laws, and how does the matter know how to follow them? So to me, that smacks of spirituality, and the last quote I'll give you from the book is from Nancy Cartwright, a philosopher of science, and she basically articulates what I was thinking, which is “I think that in the concept of law, there is a little too much God in the end, the concept of a law does not make sense without the supposition of a lawgiver. This difficulty is why I've been combating the laws of nature all these years since we cannot understand natural law without resorting to God.”

Okay. All that's wild to me is that you have three people at least who have identified this as being a problem or a thing. It's a thing to think about, but Nancy Cartwright's approach to it, to me is absolutely fascinating. Could you talk a little bit about what that means, where she's coming from? She seems so transparent about it. Why wouldn't she say like, well, Feynman and Wigner think there's something miraculous about it. Why can't I just go there? Why has she been doing battle with the laws of nature?

Joshua Moritz: Yeah. Yeah. Nancy Cartwright, who at the time of writing was at Stanford, I think she still is at Stanford. She's coming from an atheistic perspective, and she doesn't like presuppositions that you have to go to faith. She wants to find new language that will serve the purpose of laws of nature. She goes to Aristotle, we'll talk about potentialities because she wants to get rid of the theistic presuppositions behind science. And this is not just in laws of nature, but things like unity. Why do we assume the same periodic table in Andromeda as on Earth? We haven't been there. We haven't tested it. Why the same speed of light? Why can't there be? She calls it a dappled universe where you have some laws over here, but they're different than the laws over here. And one reason I like Cartwright is because I think she has it right.

She sees where faith plays a role in science, though she wants to get rid of that faith in science. But my question is, would science work without these principles of unity as a presupposition? Because if you take away these presuppositions of science, things like the rationality of science, the unity of science, the uniformity of the cosmos, or the laws of nature, then if you go through the history of science, you have all these folks who are, think about Isaac Newton or Johannes Kepler, or Galileo or anyone pretty much in the first few hundred years of science, are looking for these laws of nature because they assume there's an intelligent creator behind the laws of nature. And if you look at the history of laws of nature, the first use I found of laws of nature is actually the early Jewish book of Enoch. First Enoch explicitly uses the phrase laws of nature to talk about the regularity of the stars and the sun.

And it's really, I guess what could be called a mythologized view of the cosmos, because, it's a creation. And I guess in the sense that it's not mythologized in the pagan sense, in the sense that you don't have all these personalities who are the stars are not individual gods and goddesses and things like that. But there's one lawgiver, and the unity of the cosmos emerges from that, which is just, it's deeply theistic. God is really at the foundation of all those presuppositions. I would argue if I've never put this argument in print, but maybe this is sort of the larger context of a lot of my work, is that if there's a philosopher of science by the name of Nicholas Rescher who says, if you have a presupposition and it's fruitful, then it can be justified as a true presupposition.

So I think you can make a case using Rescher’s philosophy of science, that theism has been fruitful in science. The presuppositions of theism have been fruitful, therefore, the presuppositions have truth to them. The idea of laws of nature, unity, and uniformity, which would be a larger argument for sort of a different tradition, a different take on the existence of God. Well, all of science essentially insofar as theistic presuppositions have been fruitful. All of science works retro-justifies these presuppositions, thus proving the existence of a God behind these presuppositions because that's the context of these presuppositions.

Adam Jacobs: Would you say proving or evidencing?

Joshua Moritz: Evidencing, yeah. It wouldn't be a formal proof. It would certainly be the sort of evidence that Rescher would talk about. So it wouldn't be a formal proof, but it would be certainly evidence for the truth of the presuppositions, which would be evidence for the context of the presuppositions.

Adam Jacobs: So I've noticed that whenever, not whenever, but oftentimes when modern scientists are bothered by a scientific principle that they disagree with, and I don't think Nancy Cartwright does this, but there's a desire to label it as pseudoscience. So I've seen many thinkers who seem just as accomplished as other thinkers, but those other thinkers label them as pseudo-scientists, and it gives them permission to sort of distance themselves from their work and their research, and they question their motivations and everything.

And so I was interested to learn in your book that even the whole concept of pseudoscience, (also known as the demarcation problem), is also not so simple. And there's a quote from Thomas Nichols that you give, which is “The conclusion of the last two generations of philosophers of science studies, is that there is no one simple distinction that marks off science and its potential technological applications from pseudoscience or good science from bad.” So why is it, I mean, I think I know the answer, but I just want to draw it out. Why this charge of pseudoscience that's so applied nowadays, and especially considering if there are thinkers who say, listen, we don't even really know what science is a hundred percent. Yeah, there's this methodology, but there's all kinds of science and more than one way of doing it. Why is it so hard to accept for so many thinkers?

Joshua Moritz: Yeah. Yeah, that's a good question. I think because there's, interestingly, I think the answer is a very unscientific answer, I think because folks will have commitments that go well beyond science. I think there's values that come into what pseudoscience is and is not. I think I will hear people call something pseudoscience. On the one hand, something like intelligent design theory, they always get it and then be perfectly happy with multiverse theory, which I think they're kind of in the same camp. They both go outside of testability. I'm certainly not alone in this idea. George Ellis, who's a…

Adam Jacobs: I interviewed him.

Joshua Moritz: Yeah, okay, great, great. I mean, he's published a lot on…

Adam Jacobs: He's anti intelligent design.

Joshua Moritz: Yeah, yeah. He's anti intelligent design and also says the multiverse is pseudoscience. Well, so, but most people would somehow make exceptions for string theory as somehow scientific. But then science is tricky because values are part of science and properly part of science, but there's no quick way values can be argued for and against. It's like Nancy Cartwright is arguing for that. We should have different values than science that are more self-sustaining from an atheistic framework. But then even if you look at the role of mathematics, mathematics doesn't justify itself. And this is Kurt Godel's work, right?

So it becomes a bit philosophically messy, which I don't think there's anything you can do about it. It is what it is. I think the more presuppositions you can have upfront, I think the more objective you are. Maybe ironically, I don't know if it's ironic or not, but if you were to, George Ellis is a theist, and he's a Quaker pacifist theist, and I know George Ellis, we were on some grant projects together. So he's personally a man of much integrity. He's a virtuous person who's done a lot in his life for the good, and this comes into his science and this values, and it should come into a science, I think, someone who's doing science without any values. That's very scary.

Adam Jacobs: So that's a perfect segue into the next question, which is why do values have anything to do with science? I would think that there's data, there's a method, and there is research, testing, hypothesis, and so on and so forth. And it seems to me that science produces these data sets, and it should end there. And then there is interpretation. And it seems to me this is totally subjective, but I'm going to quote you in a second, supporting it, that philosophy and science based on this whole discussion of values and where people are coming from, I think it's another myth that scientists are not highly biased people and that their values are coming into play when doing their research. So it seems to me that science must terminate in philosophy. Either that or that they're just part of, they're two sides of one coin. And you quote Karl Popper in the book, and to me, even the existence of a Karl Popper is fascinating because why should there be a philosopher who is determining what science is?

And he's accepted, this whole falsifiability concept that he came up with. He's a philosopher, he's not a scientist. Why does he get to decide what science is and how you prove whether it is or not? But anyway, he said, what many considered to be extra scientific factors such as imagination, interpretation, and creativity, in reality, play a central role within science and are present in every step of the scientific method, which means to me that there are fundamentally non-scientific aspects of scientific research. Philosophical, I would say. So if that's going to be the case, it's the intensity of some of the pushback of some, the scientists that I've spoken to and read about. As soon as you tread onto metaphysical ground, you are doing pseudoscience, you are doing philosophy, you're doing something. But it seems to me that it's just part and parcel of the endeavor. Am I wrong in thinking that?

Joshua Moritz: Yeah. No, I think theoretical science often, I'm trying to think of exceptions to this before I say it, but every area of theoretical science starts off as highly philosophical. Every area I can think of, whether it's in biology, whether it's in physics, whether it's chemistry, and then when things become more routine, then it becomes more practical. When I was still in Berkeley, I had a number of friends who were, some of them very practical physicists who worked in a lab, others who were theoretical physicists, and they'd argue with each other over interpretations of quantum mechanics.

And the practical physicists would say, well, it doesn't matter how you interpret it, as long as you just can use it correctly, and it doesn't mean anything. The theoretical physicist would accept that. But the whole field started extremely theoretically, and we don't know how to interpret it. And that's an area where metaphysics comes into play in whether consciousness is part of reality at the atomic level, whether there's an observer like God who brings reality into existence.

And it's hard to not get metaphysical when you're talking about quantum physics, but to me, it depends on whether you're willing to ask the question before physics, some big bang cosmology, or even intelligence, there has been a movement towards panpsychism to explain intelligence and nature, which would've been seen as highly metaphysical years ago. I mean, even just 20 years ago, I don't think folks I used to work with then wouldn't have much patience for panpsychism. But now it's in vogue.

And as a way to explain intelligence in nature, and there's a not very sharp line between the metaphysical and the physical and science. I think it's, and the way why people respond so strongly, I think is for metaphysical reasons. So ironically, and I think those are always the questions in my own teaching experience when you get to the point of values that you have no rationality for, and this is a question, I'm trying to decide how controversial, I guess, I suppose you could always edit things, but a couple years ago teaching at the University of San Francisco, among other things, I would teach ethics, and I would ask, okay, so everyone here agrees racism is bad. Why? Good question. And I'd say, try to make the argument to me not using the Judeo-Christian tradition.

And people get very frustrated over that. And it would be, we'd have a mix of folks. I think my classrooms with 40 students, we'd have a ton of students from China, a ton of students, from people from all over the world who did not agree on values. And you realize, huh, rationality and values are not so obvious. You get into questions of history. And the West, someone would say, well, there's such a thing as human rights. And say, okay, let's look at the United Nations document on the Declaration on Human Rights. Who wrote that? Where does it come from? You look at Charles Malick who crafted it.

He's a Lebanese Orthodox Christian who's citing Genesis's view of the image and likeness of God, but he's secularizing it. And at the time, there were certain folks in the world who said, this is Judaism masquerading as a document. You want us all to sign, but this is obviously Genesis we're talking about in the human rights document. And then the representative from Iran said that, so you point to these secular documents we have, and they have this religious tradition, but they infuse our values.

And I can't see any way around that. I think just if you're historically conscious enough, you can own your values. And I think the best example I have of this today is Tom Holland, not Spider-Man, the historian Tom Holland, his book Dominion, where part of his life's project was to trace where these values come from. And he finds there's a very religious tradition that gives him his Western liberal secular values.

And his fear is if those traditions wane, that the values will wane. He says he already sees this in society, that there's a value shift, but he makes a good case in a very readable book of where these values come from. And he tried looking for them and the Greco-Roman world and in other places, and was surprised to not find them there. He thought, well, we're certainly more Greek and Roman than anything else. But they thought, well, these values are scary. I mean, he thought these were sort of like power Mike makes right? Bragging about how many people you kill. This is not a good secular liberal value. Where's the value come that we should care for the victim?

Adam Jacobs: Okay. So this quote again from your book, which I recommend that everybody should go and read, it's from Freeman Dyson, who's also a famous physicist, and he's talking about fideism versus scientism, which I guess I would describe as an over or unreasonable commitment to either religiosity or to science. And he says, “The trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, whether either religious dogma or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive by their arrogance. They bring both science and religion into disrepute.”

Okay. Those are strong words, calling out both sides. And now I want to flip this a little bit, and I want to challenge the religious people—speaking to myself as well. So for instance, what is a religious person supposed to do? And sometimes scientists look at their religious person and they're like, listen, I can always change my science. You cannot change your religion. There's no wiggle room there. So is a Muslim supposed to conclude that Muhammad is not a prophet, for instance, wouldn't that invalidate Islam? And so that's a tenant of the religion, it seems to me. So there isn't all religion in some, or most of it, fideism? Can the two things be ultimately equated? Does religion have the possibility of the latitude that Professor Dyson is criticizing?

Joshua Moritz: Well, not all religions are the same. And religions do change. Yeah. I'm trying to think if I talk about this in the book or not. An example I'd always use in my classes is the Buddhist canon had changed in light of trying to be more scientific in the late 1800s, and early 1900s, and there was an explicit attempt to do this. Islam, and this is Tom Holland, makes the case in his work on Islam, that Islam was deeply impacted by Protestantism. And so this fundamentalist Islam is essentially using Protestant principles that are not found in traditional Islam and the sense of radical purity. And there's this sort of Protestantism that has impacted Islam through the global networks of communication, especially in the present. So he makes this case there. There's a span of perspectives in Christianity and Judaism. I mean, every religion has the Orthodox component and the more progressive component, if that's the right word.

And it's interesting, the different shades of religion will, at least in my estimate, seem to, some will follow culture more quickly than others. So a good example is eugenics and Christianity. More liberal Christians tend to follow eugenics more quickly than more conservative Christians who didn't like what they were doing in terms of birth control and other things. And it's interesting, the sort of GK Chesterton wrote this treatise against eugenics, and many people thought he was reactionary. But I think there's, in religion, there's a sort of cautious balance or metaphysical conservatism that can help science.

I think this is ultimately where the idea of peer review comes from. So I think Galileo and the Pope was the first historical example of peer review in science that I can of. Interesting where you have, yeah, well, have you considered this? We can't publish until you consider this. This has to be in the final edition of your dialogue. You have to mention Kepler and this other idea. There's this other perfectly fine idea out there that you have to consider, and we're not going to publish until you put it in the text. And that comes from a metaphysical caution that both religion and science can become unbalanced. They give you too much metaphysical caution.

I mean, in my estimate, if you pretend that history doesn't exist, and this is something with young Earth creationism, the Scopes Monkey trial, young Earth creationism didn't exist. But then it really comes to flourish in the 1960s in the context of the space race. And more atheistic textbooks are showing up, pushing certain materialistic views of life, which caused a reaction. And that reaction against each other is, I think both scientism and fideism.

I think that's really starting in the 1960s. So it's sort of a recent, I mean, not that it didn't exist before then in certain places, but I think the rule of mass media has certainly not helped things. And the internet has just wreaked havoc on the conspiracy theory is out. I can't even imagine. I have students tell me, space isn't real, and I'm thinking, what? Where's this even from? I thought flat earth was bad enough, but now there's, and the moon landing, which…

Adam Jacobs: Well, would you agree with me and Professor Dyson that some latitude from both camps would be called for, especially in the present day, and that the two arenas could learn from each other, and that if they were willing to, there'd be a lot of societal benefit? Is that a fair way of summing up?

Joshua Moritz: Yes, yes. Certainly. Certainly. Yes. I just realized I got away from your question there. Yeah. Yes. I think mutual understanding and latitude, I think is what's required learning. I think having experiences of each other. There was a grant program I was part of a number of years ago called Scientists and Congregations. I was working as a philosopher of science with a pastor of a Christian Church and bringing speakers in science and philosophy, and then vice versa, scientists who would go into religious communities or scientists who were part of religious communities to talk to other scientists.

And it was interesting from this grant, how many folks were in their scientific context, and no one knew that they had any religious interest or affiliation at all. They were just sort of hiding. And part of the challenge of the grant was to bring them out of hiding and to talk explicitly about their religious commitments and why.

And what's interesting is these dialogues, I used to be part of something called the Garrison Martino Project, where you'd bring theists in to talk to atheists. And whenever you'd have a reasonable theist in the room with an atheist, and this was at UC Berkeley, the response to the atheist was something like, you sound reasonable, but I don't think you're religious, and the person who's religious, because they had already assumed that any religious person would be irrational.

This is something that I think if conversations are helpful, conversations in good faith, I'm not a fan of debates in that way, but conversations in good faith and asking challenging questions, but not, I mean, I would argue ultimately both science and religion are based on faith. So that's something that you can't argue about. You just have to make a decision. And I would summarize it in terms of cosmic optimism versus cosmic pessimism.

Bertrand Russell is a great example of a cosmic pessimist. It's all of our efforts are futile, ultimately, but I'd like to believe that there's something beyond that. Creation isn't just going to be thrown into the trash heap of history, and there is redemption for the whole physical cosmos. So I'm very, I'm resurrection of the physical body person. So my own views, I think, with animals, with all of creation will be redeemed in all of its goodness. And that's, do I have scientific evidence for that? No, but there's also no scientific evidence against it. So it's a deep leap of faith. But in the avenue of optimism, that perspective has informed science. So science is certainly friendly towards that perspective, but ultimately, we'll see. We'll see. Yeah, we'll see.

Adam Jacobs: So let's end on that optimistic note. And I want to thank you for taking the time for being here and talking to me, and also for all the articles that you have written at Beyond Belief Blog, which I encourage everyone to go and check out. So Dr. Joshua Moritz, you should check out his books and all of his writing, and thank you so much for being here today, and I look forward to the next article. Okay, thank you. Thank you. Alright, have a great day. You too. Thank you. Bye.

1 Comment
Feed Your Head
Feed Your Head
Adam Jacobs