Shattering Myths, Toward Dialogue
I began this book with the story of Galileo. Many of the scientists I talked with gave Galileo’s torture at the hands of the Inquisition as a central piece of evidence that religion and science are in an entrenched conflict. But really, Galileo was never tortured; that’s a myth.1 Misconceptions about religion and science abound.
The best research is often deeply surprising, because it dispels common myths that we believe about ourselves and the world around us. Research cannot tell us how to live. But, interpreted through our own values, it can help free us up to live in ways that more closely align with our own view of the world. So far, we have listened to the voices of myriad scientists. We have discussed statistics revealing what scientists think about religion and religious people and how scientists incorporate religion into their own lives.
But here I trade in my scholar’s hood for the robe of an arbitrator. My goal is to see religious nonscientists and scientists (both religious and nonreligious) engage in more productive dialogue. I would like to see their conversations lead to more acceptance of some parts of science among people of faith and, among scientists, toward a better understanding of the diversity of religion. So I would be remiss if I did not directly point out how some of the assumptions of the present religion-science debates simply do not hold up under the weight of research data. I then offer possible recommendations for other scientists and religious people who share my goal of productive dialogue.
Both scientists and religious nonscientists have been to blame for the misconceptions that have fostered the antipathy of the religion and science debates. For some religious people, atheists are held at arm’s length as the complete “other,” those who are mostly interested in attacking religion and religious