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Beliefs

More fuel for faith-vs.-science debate

Thinkers weigh in on all sides of the issue, and a Vatican astronomer ponders extraterrestrial life.

May 24, 2008|Steve Padilla | Times Staff Writer

DNA technology can craft a cure for a cancer or produce a weapon of bioterrorism. It is only a person's application of science that takes on a moral dimension. In that light, an atheist creates his or her own moral precepts in the absence of God. A believer looks to religious texts for guidance in what is right and what is wrong. Right and wrong, for both, do not come from physics or chemistry or biology. . . .

* From Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, professor at Claremont Graduate University:

It depends.

The answer turns on whether one emphasizes belief or God. Science does not make belief in God obsolete, but it may make obsolete the reality of God, depending on how far we are able to push the science.

On the question of belief in God, the answer is clearly no. Surveys conducted in 1916 and again in 1997 found that 40% of American scientists said they believe in God, so obviously the practice of science does not make belief in God obsolete for this sizable group. Neither does it for the hundreds of millions of practicing Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and members of other faiths who both believe in God and fully embrace science.

Even on one of the most contentious issues in all of science -- evolution -- a 2005 Pew Research Center poll found that 68% of Protestants and 69% of Catholics accept the theory. Of course, reality does not bend to the psychology of belief. . . . Clearly the veracity of a proposition is independent of the number of people who believe it.

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steve.padilla@latimes.com

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