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The damage of "moderate" scientists?

Last night Professor Brian Schmidt (Astrophysicist, and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics) appeared on a TV Panel show called "Q and A" on the ABC in Australia.

During the course of the show, an audience question was directed to the panel, specifically to Professor Schmidt, which read: "Brian, what's your opinion on God, creationism and the genesis of the universe? Do you think there will ever be a time when religion & science will meet and be able to co-exist?"

There's no transcript of the show available at the time I'm writing this, so I'm going to paraphrase a little, but I'll put a link to a video of the program at the bottom of this post so you can view for yourselves.

The beginning of his response was largely what I would have expected from a scientist, saying that he didn't have the answers to the creation of the universe, and nor did anyone else, and that he was okay with not knowing the answers. He called himself a "militant agnostic" and emphasized that science was about testing theories.

Then he vaguely commentated that science and religion could co-exist, and that he knew many scientists who were religious. And this is when it started to go downhill. Prof. Schmidt said something to the effect that science and religion both required "faith" in things that "we do not know". It wasn't exactly clear to me what he meant by this, and he didn't explain it further. But in my opinion, this gave the appearance that a Nobel Prize winning Astrophysicist effectively said that science requires "faith", and so is similar to religion, and thus compatible with it.

Then he went on to say "There's no way right now to test what came before the big bang. So at that point, I mean, I can't test God either, so they're really on equal grounds to me."

When he says, "They're really on equal grounds to me", it appears he's essentially saying that religion and theoretical physics are on "equal grounds" to him, a Nobel Prize winning Astrophysicist.

To me, this kind of moderate or perhaps apologist/anti-confrontational stance from a renowned scientist seems just as damaging in the effort for public acceptance of science, if not more so, than the rantings of clearly unreasonable and biased religious representatives.

What do you make of these statements? Am I just over reacting? What kind of effect do you think they have on the scientific/religious debate? Especially in regards to a very common religious argument, that goes something like "Evolution is just a theory", as an argument for intelligent design.

You can watch the program here: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3522732.htm

The question I'm referring to starts at 20:33.

The ABC is a non-commercial station. I'm not sure if there is any region-restriction for the website I linked, if there is you might be able to find it on youtube.

TAGGED: ACCOMMODATIONISM, RELIGION, SCIENCE


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