2006 : WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?

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Psychologist, Director, Institute of Cognition and Culture, Queens University, Belfast; Columnist, Scientific American (
Science will never silence God

With each meticulous turn of the screw in science, with each tightening up of our understanding of the natural world, we pull more taut the straps over God's muzzle. From botany to bioengineering, from physics to psychology, what is science really but true Revelation — and what is Revelation but the negation of God? It is a humble pursuit we scientists engage in: racing to reality. Many of us suffer the harsh glare of the American theocracy, whose heart still beats loud and strong in this new year of the 21st century. We bravely favor truth, in all its wondrous, amoral, and 'meaningless' complexity over the singularly destructive Truth born of the trembling minds of our ancestors. But my dangerous idea, I fear, is that no matter how far our thoughts shall vault into the eternal sky of scientific progress, no matter how dazzling the effects of this progress, God will always bite through his muzzle and banish us from the starry night of humanistic ideals.

Science is an endless series of binding and rebinding his breath; there will never be a day when God does not speak for the majority. There will never be a day even when he does not whisper in the most godless of scientists' ears. This is because God is not an idea, nor a cultural invention, not an 'opiate of the masses' or any such thing; God is a way of thinking that was rendered permanent by natural selection.

As scientists, we must toil and labor and toil again to silence God, but ultimately this is like cutting off our ears to hear more clearly. God too is a biological appendage; until we acknowledge this fact for what it is, until we rear our children with this knowledge, he will continue to howl his discontent for all of time.