Beyond Belief

“In Place of God”

Can secular science ever oust religious belief – and should it even try?


This is the title of the article I recently read at the New Scientist, 18 November 2006 issue, pp. 8-11. This article highlights the key points of a quaint symposium in La Jolla, California entitled, “Beyond belief: Science, religion, reason and survival” hosted by the Science Network, a science-promoting coalition of scientists and media professionals convening at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. Unfortunately the article is not available at the NS website. I tried searching for it on the internet, and voila! – someone has managed to put the entire article in his blog. You can find the link here . Those who wish to hear more of the debate can access the following url: .


In the symposium, they were asked to address three questions:


1. Should science do away with religion?

2. What would science put in religion’s place?

3. Can we be good without God?


Some of the prominent answers are given below:


Should science do away with religion?

  • “It is just as futile to get someone to give up using their ears, or love other children as much as their own… Religion fills very basic human needs.”
    Mel Konner, ecologist, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

  • “Religion is leading us to the edge of something terrible… Half of the American population is eagerly anticipating the end of the world. This kind of thinking provides people with no basis to make the hard decisions we have to make.”
    Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith

  • “Religion allows billions of people to live a life that makes sense – they can put up with the difficulties of life, hunger and disease. I don’t want to take that away from them.”
    Francisco Ayala, biologist and philosopher, University of California, Irvine

  • “No doubt there are many people who do need religion, and far be it from me to pull the rug from under their feet.”
    Richard Dawkins, biologist, University of Oxford

  • “Science can’t provide a sense of magic about the world, or a community of fellow-believers. There’s a religious mentality that yearns for that.”
    Steven Weinberg, physicist, University of Texas, Austin

  • “Science’s success does not mean it encompasses the entirety of human intellectual experience.”
    Lawrence Krauss, physicist and astronomer, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio

  • My say: “Science and religion fulfill two distinct aspects of our humanity: science fulfills our intellectual aspect, such as our need to understand the whys of the universe; religion fulfills our emotional and spiritual aspects, such as our need for love and expression of that love. It’s analogous to the human body which consists of various systems that function independently. The thought of substituting say, the heart, for the function of the brain simply does not make any sense. We need science as much as we need religion.”


If not God then what?

  • “It is the job of science to present a fully positive account of how we can be happy in this world and reconciled to our circumstances.”
    Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith

  • “Let me offer the universe to people. We are in the universe and the universe is in us. I don’t know any deeper spiritual feeling than those thoughts.”
    Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, Hayden Planetarium, New York

  • “Let’s teach our children about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is so much more glorious and awesome and even comforting than anything offered by any scripture or God-concept that I know of.”
    Carolyn Porco, planetary scientist, Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado

  • “I’m not one of those who would rhapsodically say all we need to do is understand the world, look at pictures of the Eagle nebula and it’ll fill us with such joy we won’t miss religion. We will miss religion.”
    Steven Weinberg, cosmologist, University of Texas, Austin

  • My say: “The concept of worshipping the universe is just so downright funny! Imagine people at Quiapo making images of solar systems and genuflecting before pictures of the sun. Hello? Okay lang kayo?”

Can we be good without God?

  • “The axiom that values come from reason or religion is wrong… There are better ways of ensuring moral motivation than scaring the crap out of people.”
    Patricia Churchland, philosopher, University of California, San Diego

  • “What about the hundreds of millions of dollars raised just for Katrina by religions? Religions did way more than the government did, and there were no scientific groups rushing to help the victims of Katrina – that’s not what science does.”
    Michael Shermer, editor-in-chief, Skeptic magazine

  • “It doesn’t take away from love that we understand the biochemical basis of love.”
    Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith

  • My say: “People are not good just because they are scared that Someone out there is going to punish them otherwise. In the first place, what is good, anyway?”

What about you, what’s your take on this?

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7 Responses to Beyond Belief

  1. reon says:

    This is a nice post, kathy.

    I have to disagree with some of your points though. Before we get to the question of whether religion is useful (it may be useful as a crutch), we have to answer whether it is true, and science and reason has proven time and again that most of the stuff that makes religions is simply false. Of course, you can’t say that the Japanese, most of whom doesn’t believe in God, can’t love and empathize with their fellow human beings.

    It’s funny that you mention the sun in your second comment because I believe that if Earthlings need to bow down to a god, it should be the Sun. It is the source of warmth on Earth, the Father of all life. One good thing about that believe is that there is absolutely no use to cloak it in dogma. For example, the Sun (as God) doesn’t say homosexuals will go to hell or that premarital sex is wrong. And you won’t see people killing each other because of they believe in different stars.

    “People are not good just because they are scared that Someone out there is going to punish them otherwise.” I agree; people nowadays are more scared of going to jail than going to hell. Hell, Russell has written, isn’t as hot as it used to be. That’s because of the progress made by science and reason, not religion.

    The End of Faith by Sam Harris is the last book I read, by the way.

  2. lai says:

    hmm… alas! i am more confused yet enlightened at the same time. its like science and faith. hehe.

  3. wako says:

    what is religion? according to merriam-webster, it is a system of beliefs. viewed this way, science can be considered a religion. so doing away with religion for science is just like replacing one with another. since science cannot provide the answers to all our questions, it can never replace the other religions.

  4. reon says:

    Did you say “Merriam-Webster”, wako-san? On page 1051 of Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary which I have right here, science is defined as: Knowlege covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through *scientific* *method*. Religion is faith in some supernatural things that are impossible to test or verify. Science looks for answers by observation and reasoning, testing and discarding faulty theories and adopting the best along the way. Religion, on the other hand, looks for unalterable “truths” inside the covers of an ancient book. Wako-san, science and religion are as different as day and night, please don’t confuse the two.

  5. wako says:

    different ways of finding answers to life’s questions. day and night? two sides of the same earth, one facing the sun, the other not.

  6. reon says:

    I guess that’s a cute way of putting it. Peace! :)

  7. kathy says:

    reon and wako: thanks for sharing your perspectives. very stimulating indeed.

    lai: still confused? hehe.

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