by Susan Barreto, editor
Should limits on scientific knowledge boost faith?
Okay the religion and science buzz this month has been beyond a shadow of a doubt the “God Particle” that is said to be one step closer to being discovered at the Large Hadron collider in Switzerland.
It has come up in so many news stories, blogs and perhaps even sermons in recent weeks that there can be little doubt that the discovery of this new boson particle will indeed change the very fabric of our lives and beliefs.
Or will it? As many academics in the religion and science arena are already aware, the usage of the term “God Particle” is really an unfortunate accident where an author referred to the Higgs boson as the “God-damn Particle” to illustrate its elusiveness. Publishers shortened the reference to “God Particle” and therefore a controversy was born! While the boson may give us a glimpse of how the universe came to be, the idea that it can make or break one’s faith on its very existence is just the kind of over-the-top idea writers of fiction and non-fiction dream about.
So as atheists may be turned off by this whole “God Particle” business and lay people and people of faith are baffled by it, the discussion surrounding this potential discovery shows the fear of many that somehow science can disprove religion and that if science fails that religion should somehow score some extra points in this long-waged battle of who has the origin story right.
For those at the crossroads of religion and science, nothing could be further from reality as this month’s features illustrate. Bob Kraus, a recently retired research scientist from the Los Alamos National Laboratory ( see Faith & Science: Journeys of Discovery and Understanding), illustrates how God has given us hearts and an intellect that together can test, analyze, measure and reassess a faith-based version of the scientific method. He also shows that pursuit of knowledge can be a journey worth pursuing that can ultimately enable us to act.
Meanwhile, Harold Heie of the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College (see The Wonders and Limitations of Science) gives us another view of the scientific – namely a look at what questions science cannot answer for us. Such as, what should science say about the inhumane use of its discoveries? Also, can science describe all of reality? These are thorny issues that cannot be solved in an essay, but at the same time they are the issues that lie at the heart of the religion and science dialogue.
For scientists who are also people of faith, depiction of the only clear cut answers happening as a result of the scientific method can certainly bring some certainty to their daily work. But they know too that discovery doesn’t happen without asking the right questions even when test results seem to fall in line with hypotheses. The same too can be said of self discovery, where asking questions is a healthy part of growing in faith.
Of interest in the coming months and years will be discoveries large and small by researchers globally who aim to improve the condition of humanity and of the planet. While the Higgs boson can tell us where the universe has been, the prime occupation of people active at the intersection of religion and science is in the search for where humanity is going.
And for those of you interested in a broader discussion of physics and faith, the September issue of Covalence will be looking at how physicists view faith and what this discipline can tell us about the nature of matter.
Covalence, July/August 2012