Question to Weinberg: What About Scientific 'Inspiration'?
Gingerich: Steve Weinberg, what meaning if any do you see in the fact
that many scientists see their own work, solutions to problems, as coming from
outside themselves even having a religious dimension, perhaps?
Weinberg: I dont think thats true. In my experience, just talking
to my fellow physicists at lunch, I think most of them have not only no
religious faith but no interest in the issue. I am a little unusual in being
interested in the question. I think again there is a selection effect.
Scientists who do talk about supernatural influences on their work are the ones
who are likely to get published and win prizes endowed by Mr. Templeton. But, I
think the public is getting a rather misleading view. I think most scientists
are not atheists to speak of because they dont think about it enough to be
atheists. There are scientists who are quite religious, my friend here and
others, but I think they are thin on the ground.
Polkinghorne: Can I just briefly comment on that? I mean this is
anecdote swapping. My impression is somewhat different. I certainly agree that
the majority of scientists are not religious believers in some traditional
sense. I think that the majority in my view, thinking of my friends, are people
who can neither take religion or throw it away. They are slightly wistful in
relation to religion. Theyd like to think there is a deeper meaning and
purpose behind things. But theyre wary of religion. They are wary of religion
because they think religion involves accepting things on authority which is
what someone said this morning, I think, in a question. I want to always say
that religious belief isnt shutting your eyes, gritting your teeth, believing
six impossible things before breakfast because the Bible tells you thats what
you gotta do. It is a search for motivated belief. A difficult search and
different people will reach different conclusions about it. But you dont have
to commit intellectual suicide to be a religious believer; otherwise I wouldnt
Contributed by: Sir John Polkinghorne and Steven