Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Is Faith the Enemy of Science?"

As my first topical entry, I need to make a little historical introduction. Last February 11, 2008, Dr. Lawrence Krauss, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Case Western Reserve University gave a presentation at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. The title of the talk was "Science vs. Anti-science: From Washington to the Classroom". Perhaps I will fill a post with a review of the presentation later (it's now a bit dated), but the relevant item is Dr. Krauss concluded his presentation with three statements:

Science is not the enemy.
Faith is not the enemy.
Ignorance is the enemy.

I found those three statements to be a nice, concise summary of the position. As someone who grew up in the southeastern United States, I can understand the importance of religion in the lives of many. I thought it was something the scientific community could reasonably agree with, but I underestimated the subtleties of semantics even for supposedly simple words like 'faith' and 'ignorance'. Consider the perspectives raised in this paper on the Cornell Preprint server:

"Is Faith the Enemy of Science", by Richard MacKenzie (arxiv:0807.3670)

and Dr. Krauss' response:

"Comment on 'Is Faith the Enemy of Science'" by Lawrence Krauss (arxiv:0808.0128)

I've always wondered how much of this 'conflict' is due to the personal interpretations of the terms we tend to use. It's just a little more to consider.

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