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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Should Scientists Stop Sharing Their Beliefs?

"The key to achieving science literacy in this country, and to calming the ongoing hysteria of the religion-science debates, surely isn’t to dress science in faith and send our staunchest believers—and unbelievers—to the frontlines," Barbara King, an anthropologist at the College of William and Mary, writes in the "On God" column in the current issue of Search magazine. "The answer, instead, is communicating with the public. While I reject the notion that this process requires coming out of the closet (as person of faith, as agnostic, as atheist), I do believe scientists who want to offer insights about religion need to listen to the questions, the protests, the misgivings, the characterizations and mischaracterizations, and all the while, continue with the business of science."
In King's view, personal disclosures—or "revelations"—about religion, whether it's the expression of a personal faith that God does exist or that God doesn't, have become an "overpowering presence in terms of high profile scientists and their impact on public life." These scientists, she says, "write knowledgeably about the method and process of their work, but what they have to say about God often does no favors for the credibility of science."


Lee said...

Thank you for the reference to, and summary of, Barbara King's recent column. I'm clicking over to read it first-hand. Meanwhile, I don't think scientists should stop sharing their beliefs or opinions about religion, and certainly becoming good listeners can better serve us all. But I doubt the "overpowering presence" of high profile scientists and "their impact on public life" is nearly as significant as King suggests, though some publishers, booksellers, and readerships might disagree.