Dec 27, 2014

A Jesuit astronomer finds he doesn't need to reconcile faith, science

Journalist Nick Tabor interviews Jesuit astronomer Guy Consolmagno, who has some interesting things to say about the relationship between science and religion:
In TV and radio appearances he's frequently called on to discuss an old subject: How does he reconcile his faith with science?

'It's a question that never actually arises in our lives -- ever,' he said during a recent interview with Religion Dispatches. 'It's sort of like asking, "How do you reconcile being a scientist and a Detroit Lions fan?"'
So why do so many feel the two do -- or should -- conflict? Consolmango tells Tabor it's caused by a seeing both science and religion as smaller than they really are.

In his experience, those who imagine a conflict between science and religion usually take a reductive view of both. 'They think religion is a book full of things, and science is a book full of things,' he told RD. 'And what happens if the things in one contradict the things in the other?'

... Religious belief doesn't start with blind belief, he says in Brother Astronomer, it begins with experience. In his case it's a sense, at the most basic level of perception, of divine presence. Given that his own experience closely resembles those of other people in different times, places, and cultures, he writes, 'Occam's Razor … cuts pretty clean here.' He repeats an analogy not uncommon in mystical literature: it's like hearing music and knowing it's more than just noise. 'Faith,' he says, 'is our reaction to that experience.'

In the same way, he argues, science doesn't begin with logic. It begins with insight, and it uses logic to 'support the intuition after the leap of insight has occurred' -- or to scrutinize insights and discard or refine them.