Monday, March 7, 2016

Emerson in the WSJ on faith and reason in science and religion

From Matt Emerson's article in the WSJ, an excerpt from a related book...

He starts with the 2/11 announcement of the detection of gravitational waves in deep space, after decades of work, confirming Einstein's theory about the ripple effect of space-time. Emerson: Such persistence nicely invokes the spirit of the biblical epistle to the Hebrews: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Italian physicist Rovelli wrote about this and also added the term "faith" to the discussion: the scientists were pursuing a “dream based on faith in reason: that the logical deductions of Einstein and his mathematics would be reliable.”

He cites ASU physicist Paul Davies on the dependence of the work of science on beliefs: “Just because the sun has risen every day of your life, there is no guarantee that it will therefore rise tomorrow. The belief that it will—that there are indeed dependable regularities of nature—is an act of faith, but one which is indispensable to the progress of science.”

Emerson: "The fundamental choice is not whether humans will have faith, but rather what the objects of their faith will be, and how far and into what dimensions this faith will extend....But just as faith is indispensable to science, so is reason essential to religion. Many find themselves relating to God in a way analogous to the scientists searching for gravitational waves. These seekers of religious truth are persuaded by preliminary evidence and compelled by the testimony of those who have previously studied the matter...In such a context, it isn’t blind belief that fuels the search, any more than scientists blindly pursued the implications of Einstein’s theory. Rather, it’s a belief informed by credible reasons, nurtured by patient trust, open to revision..."


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