Seeing Religious Creeds as Scientific Hypotheses with Lindon Eaves

Friday, November 22, 2013 - 4:26pm

Seeing Religious Creeds as Scientific Hypotheses with Lindon Eaves

Religion, like science, is about passionately pursuing what we know we cannot pin down, says Lindon Eaves. In 2002, Krista Tippett spoke with the geneticist and Anglican priest for the On Being episode "Science and Being." More than a decade later, Krista says it's still one of her favorite interviews and finds herself quoting from it while in conversation with other scientists.

Mr. Eaves says that he is always conducting an ongoing conversation with himself, a lively and irreverent back and forth between the scientist in him and the priest.

“I would say there are plenty of times when I just need to keep religion at bay in order to do my job properly. I mean, to be a thorough-going scientist I am compelled in the short term to see really good reasons for not believing the current model for reality because that’s how science perceives. That's a conversation between the past and the future with a real belief that everything we’ve believed in the past may turn out to be wrong."

Mr. Eaves is able to take comfort in what he does not know, in both science and religion. He compares scientific formulas and religious creeds, doctrines formulated by great theological minds to clarify basic beliefs:

"I mean, you can either think of, lets say the creeds of the great traditions as it were, as telling you what you ought to think. Or you can say they are in some some sense comparable to the theories of science. They are the best distillations of where we’ve been. But we don’t approach reality treating those models as if they are the last word. We treat them as operational hypotheses."


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Lily Percy

is senior supervising producer at On Being. Lily studied English Literature and Film Studies at Florida International University. She has worked as an associate editor at MovieMaker magazine, and as a producer for StoryCorps and NPR's "All Things Considered" on the weekends, where she produced the series "Movies I've Seen A Million Times." Her work has also been featured on NPR's Latino USA, WNYC's Soundcheck, and Esquire. In 2012, she received the Religion Newswriters Association Radio/Podcast Religion Report of the Year Award for her profile of four Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

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His ideas of religion are not what fills the mega-churches and sells millions of copies of “A Purpose Drive Life”. He doesn’t get to redefine what religion has been for thousands of years and claim that is what it always was. Scientists are driven by wonder. Most people who want religion, want simple answers. At least he acknowledged that the foundation of religion is not wonder, but he did a terrible job of defining what it is.

Sure, a few mystics looked up at the stars and asked what is real. Today, if someone asks that, you could write a poem, or they could learn about astronomy. It takes nothing away from them as a person that they choose not to write the poem. But if they choose to put down those who don’t write poems, then I question their humanity.

From the very first sentence one realizes Ms. Percy is susceptible to taking absolute nonsense from interviewees and accepting them as fact . Science is exactly the pursuit of "pinning things down." This, in no doubt, drives religious followers insane as one by one their myths and creeds are shown to be fantasy stories. Yet the devout continue their interesting policy of trying to brand their fairy tales as credible theories equal to those developed scientifically. This is utter nonsense, and we should have no part of it.