Religious Belief is a “Nightmare”

Nobel Laureate says science must work to 'weaken hold of religion'

Mark Alessio


Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg

( "A forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: In a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told," writes George Johnson of The New York Times (Nov. 22, 2006).

Sponsored by the Science Network, an educational organization based in California, and underwritten by a San Diego investor, Robert Zeps, the La Jolla meeting was titled "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival.” With atheists and agnostics in the majority, one speaker after another attacked religious belief for allegedly stifling scientific inquiry.

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that "the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief." Weinberg, author of the 1977 book, The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe, went even further and declared, “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization."

Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, declared, “Let's teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome – and even comforting – than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know."

Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration, showed the audience photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects – testimony, he suggested, that blind nature, not an intelligent overseer, is in control.

According to the Times report, it was Tyson who stole the show with his presentation to the effect that "science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance.” Tyson spoke of Sir Isaac Newton. When Newton’s Principia Mathematica failed to account for the stability of the solar system – why the planets tugging at one another's orbits have not collapsed into the Sun – Newton proposed that propping up the mathematical mobile was "an intelligent and powerful being."

"What concerns me now,” said Tyson, “is that even if you're as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops – it just stops.”

Comment: Franz Joseph Haydn, considered a key founder of the Classical Style of musical composition. Antonio Gaudí, architect who designed the Church of the Holy Family (Sagrada Familia), the most famous structure in Barcelona. Frank Capra, a major creative force in movie-making in the 1930’s and 40’s. Olivier Messiaen, hailed as one of the most original composers of the 20th century. Louis Pasteur, one of the founders of the science of bacteriology. J.R.R. Tolkien, author of one of the pivotal epic literary works of the 20th century. Gregor Mendel, the Augustinian monk hailed as “the father of modern genetics.”

Funny, these devout Catholics “basked in the majesty of God” and did not stop creating or discovering. On the contrary! In addition, it seems they all had a highly developed sense of the “incredible richness and beauty” of creation, even more so than the hyperbole-infested bigots quoted in the above story.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the rebel angel-warrior Moloch states that there is something worthwhile in disturbing God’s peace, "which if not victory is yet revenge." The positive historical relationship between the Catholic Church and the Arts and Sciences is a matter of record, and the anti-religious rantings of the above experts read like nothing less than juvenile revenge.

These experts appear scandalized by their own limitations and insignificance. Attributing no value to the human soul as a thing redeemed by a loving God, they will be forever tormented by their inability to “make one hair white or black”:

That Manichean horror of matter is the only INTELLIGENT reason for any such sweeping refusal of supernatural and sacramental wonders. The rest is all cant and repetition and arguing in a circle; all the baseless dogmatism about science forbidding men to believe in miracles; as if SCIENCE could forbid men to believe in something which science does not profess to investigate.

Science is the study of the admitted laws of existence; it cannot prove a universal negative about whether those laws could ever be suspended by something admittedly above them .... That is a question of philosophy or metaphysics and not of material science. (G.K. Chesterton, Why I Am A Catholic)