Today we celebrate the Magi, also known as the Three Kings or Wise Men. They were early scientists, studying the configuration of stars and planets. This is a good moment to talk about something affecting young people: the perceived conflict between science and religion.
Young people today are giving up faith in higher numbers and at a younger age than ever before. Interviews reveal that the average age when young people lose their faith is 13, while 23% say they left the faith before age 10. They often say that they stopped believing in God because faith is unscientific. Who told them this?
So we have a big challenge: our children perceive a conflict between faith and reason. It's a perceived conflict because when you think about it, it doesn't make sense. After all, we have plenty of scientists who are also people of faith: biologists, medical professionals and astronomers who attend Mass and pray daily. The new Archbishop of Paris is a physician who practiced medicine for 11 years prior to studying for the priesthood. One of the bishops in Washington State received a degree in geology before entering the seminary. I have a Master's degree in Mathematics from UCI, as well as a Master's degree in Theology from the Angelicum in Rome (the alma mater of Pope Saint John Paul II), and I have never found any conflict between science and religion.
The bottom line is that there is no conflict between science and faith. But a perceived conflict persists. Part of the reason for this false perception is that we are living in a culture that increasingly looks down on faith, and even considers it dangerous or narrow-minded. But before anyone dismisses the faith, they should consider what many great scientists have said about faith.
Charles Darwin, founder of evolutionary biology, wrote, "The question of whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the Universe has been answered in the affirmative by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed."
Joseph H. Taylor Jr. received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the first known binary pulsar, and for his work which supported the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe. He wrote, "A scientific discovery is also a religious discovery. There is no conflict between science and religion. Our knowledge of God is made larger with every discovery we make about the world."
Physicist Ernest Walton won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics for his "atom smashing" experiments done at Cambridge University in the early 1930s, and so became the first person in history to artificially split the atom. He wrote, "One way to learn the mind of the Creator is to study His creation. We must pay God the compliment of studying His work of art and this should apply to all realms of human thought."
Lord William Kelvin was noted for his theoretical work on thermodynamics, the concept of absolute zero and the Kelvin temperature scale based upon it. He wrote, "If you study science deep enough and long enough, it will force you to believe in God."
Max Planck, the Nobel Prize winning physicist and a pioneer of modern quantum physics, wrote, "There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. It was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls."
Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winner in Physics and creator of quantum mechanics and inventor of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle wrote, "The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you."
Sir Martin Rees, prominent British astrophysicist, wrote, "I don't see any conflict between science and religion. I go to church as many other scientists do. I share with most religious people a sense of mystery and wonder at the universe."
Louis Pasteur, the founder of microbiology and immunology and the inventor of the pasteurization process, wrote, "A little science takes you away from God but more of it takes you back to Him. The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. Science brings men nearer to God."
Arthur L. Schawlow, Professor of Physics at Stanford University and winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics, wrote, "Scientific research is a worshipful act, in that it reveals more of the wonders of God's creation."
James Tour, one of the world's leading nanoscientists, wrote, "I build molecules for a living. I can't begin to tell you how difficult that job is. But I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. My faith has been increased through my research. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God."
Sir Francis Bacon, 17th century scientist who is often called the father of the scientific method, wrote, "A little science estranges a man from God. A lot of science brings him back."
Sir Derek Barton, 1969 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, wrote, "There is no incompatibility between science and religion. Both are seeking the same truth. Science shows that God exists."
Bottom line: If you know anybody who has fallen prey to the rapidly growing delusion that religion is unscientific, please tell them that the overwhelming majority of all Nobel Prize winning scientists not only believe in God, but are devout and practicing Christians, and assure them that drinking deeply from the wellspring of science reveals that the universe was created out of nothing 13.8 billion years ago, and now reveals an intelligent design at every scale, from intergalactic down to the quantum level, all of which makes belief in God not only reasonable, but highly compelling.