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Why Our World Needs To Learn To Have A Conversation About Science

The first step to curing cancer is to understand why it occurs, so that we can start making better medicine.

It seems a bit odd to me that the greatest scientific minds in history, like Einstein, Newton, Pasteur, Gauss, and Pasteur were ridiculed and shunned instead of praised for their scientific discoveries. You’d think it would be better to understand the basic science of your subject, even if a whole generation was put off from pursuing it by people with vested interests.

This is particularly true for me. I grew up in a Catholic school and learned as little about the physical world as possible, so that my parents would have more opportunities to talk to me about God. They could have told me the basic details of physics, even if I understood every equation or every word, but they didn’t, and they knew my intellectual limitations well, so they didn’t. It didn’t matter, because my parents didn’t believe in a higher power — they didn’t have to.

I spent a whole lot of time in my young adult life reading about the history of science, as well as the history of science books. I read lots and lots of works by scientists and philosophers, with a clear scientific slant, and I learned plenty of history. I studied the scientific revolution of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-centuries which was, by turns, an intellectual revival, an anti-rationalist reaction to the Enlightenment intellectual style, and a new wave of scientific inquiry and discovery that was in fact motivated both by rationalist and religious concerns. I learned how many different scientists were involved, as well as how the most famous physicists of all time — such as Newton, Galilei, and Babbage, from the seventeenth century — operated independently of one another. I learned, as well, about how religious philosophers, scientists, and scientists themselves came to accept the concept of a Creator, or at least a Designer, in response to the challenge of science. (I don’t believe the question is even that simple; some religious thinkers have been pretty hostile to modern science).

I learned that evolution was a widely accepted, scientific and even religious idea, that there are many reasons why evolution was not universally accepted at the time — one of which was that it was perceived as being dangerous to faith — and that both Christianity and Islam are both strongly anti-evolution, though not as strongly as, say, Mormonism.

I learned that many of the first experiments in quantum physics were made by scientists who were not religious, and that quantum mechanics is a theory that requires and supports a form of theism, for it is based on the fact that particles act as if they exist in a superposition of different states, all simultaneously simultaneously. All physical explanations of reality require that the properties of things, and indeed what we know of everything, are somehow indivisible, that they must be described by a mathematical and logical structure — and that mathematical and logical structures can only be known and understood through God.

I learned that Einstein didn’t know about any of this stuff — or did he?

When I was in university in the 1990’s I made the mistake of thinking that it would be really cool to become a physicist who focused on questions relating to the existence of God or supernatural forces.