Skip to content
Who's in the Video
William Phillips is a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute of the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In 1997, he was jointly awarded the[…]

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

Question: Does science make faith in God obsolete?

rnWilliam Phillips: Yeah.  Well first of all, I should say that I’m rnnot particularly comfortable with being described as a religious person rnbecause somehow I have this image in my mind of somebody who’s very rnproper and prim and follows all sorts of rituals and stuff.  And I like rnrather to describe myself as a person of faith.  And clearly I don’t rnbelieve that science has made belief in god obsolete, or else I wouldn’trn describe myself as a person of faith. 
rnI believe that certain ways of interpreting certain scriptures have beenrn made obsolete by science, but that in no way makes religious faith or rnbelief in God obsolete, it just requires what I would consider to be a rndifferent outlook, a maturation of religious faith.  But if we look at rnthe history of religious faith as told in the scriptures and as seen rnthrough history, I think the entire history of faith has been one of a rnmaturation of that faith. 
rnI see it as not so much as people becoming more mature in their faith, rnbut God challenging people to become more mature, to get a clearer rnunderstanding of what god wants for human-kind and I think God is alwaysrn pushing us to be better than what we are.
Have your religious beliefs contributed to your work as a rnscientist?

rnWilliam Phillips: Well, okay, so there’s two ways of answering that rnquestion.  By and large, science and religion deal with different kinds rnof questions.  Science deals with questions about how do things come to rnbe the way they are, how should I think about the way things are?  How rnshall I organize my understanding of the way things behave? 
rnWhereas, religion deals with questions like, how should I behave toward rnmy fellow human creatures?  What should my relationship be to God?  How rnshould I understand the ultimate origins of this world and this universern in which we live?  These are different kinds of questions.  But rnsometimes the areas that science addresses and the areas that religion rnaddress can overlap.  So, I don’t ascribe to the idea of science and rnreligion as being non-overlapping magisterial, as they’ve sometimes beenrn described.  But I also will say that, by and large, they deal with rndifferent kinds of questions.  But they are ethical questions that mightrn involve things like medial ethics, or environmental questions where yourn have to understand the science in order to be able to make good ethicalrn decisions that are guided by your religious principles. 
rnSo, there’s always going to be places where science and religion are rngoing to come to bear on the same kinds of problems.

Recorded June 4, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nullam id tincidunt mi. Morbi malesuada nulla sit amet est hendrerit tincidunt. Etiam viverra, nisl id volutpat eleifend, est augue sodales orci, […]