Many Catholic scientists told me this past weekend in Chicago that the hyped ‘clash’ between science and religion is getting old. And one of the goals of the new organization they had gathered to launch, is to counter the myth that science and faith are incompatible.
But it’s not the only goal–nor even the most important, as several of the scientists in attendance told me.
For many I spoke to at the inaugural conference of the Society of Catholic Scientists at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, the issue of faith versus science was not nearly as important as forming a network of support for fellow scientists and students who share the same religious convictions.
Stephen M. Barr, the founder and president, is professor of physics at University of Delaware, and a frequent contributor both on the lecture circuit and in print, to the debate about faith and science.
One of the reasons for starting the organization, he said, was derived from his own experience as a young Catholic in science. “I felt isolated, because– not just in the world of science, but in the world of academia–people tend to keep their faith quiet, keep it under wraps, and that creates an illusion that there aren’t many religious people in the academic world. But especially in the scientific world.”
And as a consequence young scientists can feel quite alone, he said. “They don’t know of colleagues, or professors of theirs, or senior people in their field, or even nationally and internationally known scientists who are religious, let alone Catholic. And I think that isolation can be very demoralizing for people.”
Karin Öberg, professor in the department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Harvard, agreed. “I believe that it is important for Catholic scientists to support one another. Many of us are alone, in the sense that we are the only openly practicing Catholic in our departments. When reflecting over how to live out our vocations as scientists, it is immensely helpful to do so in fellowship with other catholic scientists.”
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