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“Science” and “Faith” are often presented as conflicting approaches to belief: science is the objective search for truth about the natural world, while faith, as Nietzsche put it, is “not wanting to know the truth.” On the other hand, some post-modern thinkers argue that science is just another form of faith; a different kind of story-telling, but no more objective or “true” than religious stories. I believe both approaches get it wrong. Contemporary science reveals that, indeed, most of our thinking is not aimed at “objective truth” but rather at addressing our quite subjective needs and desires. Scientists, as people, are not immune to this, but science, as a method, is designed to push against subjective biases and move us toward objectivity. This does not mean, however, that science does not involve faith. I will argue that not only does the practice of science involve faith (properly understood) but that a scientific faith is not only key to doing good science but is essential to the public good.
John Teehan, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Hofstra University, holds an M.A. in Psychology (Queens College, 1987) and a Doctorate in Philosophy (Graduate Center, CUNY, 1992). His main research is on the cognitive/evolutionary study of religion, with a particular focus on the connection between religion and morality and the implications of that connection for understanding religion’s role in the world today. He explored these topics in his book, In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence (2010, Wiley-Blackwell). He is currently working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Faith in the Age of Cognitive Science: Religion, Morality, and Worldviews. Dr. Teehan is also on the editorial board of Evolutionary Psychological Science, and Associate Editor of Science, Religion and Culture.
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