William Phillips – Reconciling Science and Faith

Question: Does science make faith in God obsolete?

William Phillips: Yeah.  Well first of all, I should say that I’m not particularly comfortable with being described as a religious person because somehow I have this image in my mind of somebody who’s very proper and prim and follows all sorts of rituals and stuff.  And I like rather to describe myself as a person of faith.  And clearly I don’t believe that science has made belief in god obsolete, or else I wouldn’t describe myself as a person of faith.

I believe that certain ways of interpreting certain scriptures have been made obsolete by science, but that in no way makes religious faith or belief in God obsolete, it just requires what I would consider to be a different outlook, a maturation of religious faith.  But if we look at the history of religious faith as told in the scriptures and as seen through history, I think the entire history of faith has been one of a maturation of that faith.

I see it as not so much as people becoming more mature in their faith, but God challenging people to become more mature, to get a clearer understanding of what god wants for human-kind and I think God is always pushing us to be better than what we are.

Have your religious beliefs contributed to your work as a scientist?

William Phillips: Well, okay, so there’s two ways of answering that question.  By and large, science and religion deal with different kinds of questions.  Science deals with questions about how do things come to be the way they are, how should I think about the way things are?  How shall I organize my understanding of the way things behave?

Whereas, religion deals with questions like, how should I behave toward my fellow human creatures?  What should my relationship be to God?  How should I understand the ultimate origins of this world and this universe in which we live?  These are different kinds of questions.  But sometimes the areas that science addresses and the areas that religion address can overlap.  So, I don’t ascribe to the idea of science and religion as being non-overlapping magisterial, as they’ve sometimes been described.  But I also will say that, by and large, they deal with different kinds of questions.  But they are ethical questions that might involve things like medial ethics, or environmental questions where you have to understand the science in order to be able to make good ethical decisions that are guided by your religious principles.

So, there’s always going to be places where science and religion are going to come to bear on the same kinds of problems.

Recorded June 4, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

Click through to watch the video:

Reconciling Science and Faith | William Phillips | Big Think.

(via numerous people on FB)

The ‘yeah’ in the transcript does not seem to be on the video.

I notice that he takes the route of Augustine and others in seeing that it is not Scripture which is invalid but the interpretation of Scripture which is challenged by science.

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10 Replies to “William Phillips – Reconciling Science and Faith”

  1. The quote has Augustine referring to what obviously is. In The City of God – which was written later – Augustine takes on the sciencism of origins. Gotta run but I can get the quote later.

  2. One day intellectuals claim Augustine was a superstitious flat earther, the next he is a proponent of Atheanity! I put in a long comment with links to his correct views, but it was kicked out.

    Anyway, the video is wrong in that it claims Augustine invented Christian Just War theory. Just War theory was a Roman concept regarding what wars were justified against the barbarians in maintaining the Roman empire.

    The quote from Augustine ignores the fact that all Creationists – including the classical pre-Christian pagan types – make a clear distinction between the science of eclipses and the atheist intellectual belief that spontaneous generation is science if we simply rename it as evolutionary science and start mindlessly chanting “peer review”.

    Anyway, Augustine had been an intellectual, but he descries the nature of this sin, repents and tells of his doing penance in Confessions.

  3. Looney, one can still be a flat earther and allow for science to correct that particularly bad interpretation of Scripture. Augustine understand, according to those quotes and others works in Genesis, that interpretations must go, but Scripture remains Scripture. As a matter of fact, his reading of Scripture often involved allegorical reading which allowed for something more to be present than the plain sense.

    Augustine did event the 'Christian' Just War theory, and like other Christians, could have easily borrowed certain elements of this belief system from the pagans around him. I mean, have you read Justin Martyr?

    Further, allowing for science does not make one and Atheist which is simply an attack and a forced separation.

    Augustine was still an intellectual even after his conversion, which for the life of me, I didn't realize was a sin to to repent of.

  4. Yes, I read Justin Martyr, but it has been awhile. If I recall correctly, his thesis was that true philosophy leads to Christ. The modernist pattern seems to be reversed: True Christianity leads elsewhere.

    Anyway, I hope your degree pursuits lead to academic excellence. As for intellectualism being a sin, I typically equate intellectuals with the Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers or the law. The problem being that it is very easy to get a bloated view of one's intelligence, or to compromise truth and ethics in the process of seeking affirmation from other intellectuals.

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