We publish an interview to mathematician Amir D. Aczel, historian of science well known also as popularizer and for his activity to prove and promote balance between sciences and faith. His most recent recent book, Why Science Does Not Disprove God, strongly criticize philosophical positions of New Atheists like Dawkins or Hitchens, and shows that they can not use science to confirm their materialistic theories.
Born in Israel on November 6, 1950, Aczel has studied at University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a Bachelor of Art in mathematics in 1975, and a Master of Science in 1976. He has after received also a Ph.D. in statistics from the Oregon University. He’s author of several books about mathematics, technology, and relationship between science and people, religion, society.
You’re a mathematician, could mathematics confirm our faith in God ? I don’t think that our faith in God can be confirmed by any kind of sciences and any form of mathematics. Unfortunately, in my opinion, science and mathematics neither prove nor disprove any and all aspects of the Divine. Religion is not amenable to scientific and mathematical analysis (with the exception of un-scientific ideas that were really misinterpretations of Scripture, such as the young earth hypothesis, questioning the rotation of the earth, and denying evolution, e.g., Neanderthal remains and their implications).
How could you synthesize your book, Why Science Does Not Disprove God ? My book is designed as a scientific answer to the New Atheists, people like Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss and the late Christopher Hitchens, who hold that science somehow “proves” there is no God. What they say, from my point of view, is simply nonsense and a distortion of what science does, can do, and has done. I strongly disagree with these scientists, who should know quite well that no science in the last few decades has disproved the existence of some kind of force outside our universe. We amy well call that force God.
Which do you think are most critical aspects or issues of science and faith relationship, and how could we better redefine it ? I think that evolution is a very strong principle, even though it has some flaws. So in the realm of biology, there is not much to say (they don’t disprove God, but they do prove evolution. Teilhard de Chardin, for example, was a great example of a scientist who believed in both evolution and God). But cosmology is a different arena. Here, physicists such as Lawrence M. Krauss, who wrote a book called A Universe from Nothing, are saying something wrong. The universe does not, never did, and never will be derived from pure ‘nothingness’. Every physicist knows that empty space is not ‘nothing’ – Einstein knew that, as do all modern physicists. When you have empty space you already have in it forces and energy, and then come particles because as Einstein and Dirac showed us, energy can turn into particles. But from pure emptiness – the existence of nothing, not even empty space – no universe will arise on its own. This gives me, at least, a belief that God made the universe.
Regarding relationship between science and faith, from your point of view, which are worst mistakes of scientists and of theologians ? The mistakes of theologians are taking Scripture as truth. Scripture is written allegorically. It is not wise to believe the world was really created in six days, et cetera. Religion should be more abstract, in a sense, and not tied to antiquated dogma. Scientists, on the other hand, should not jump to scream: “We prove there is no God.” This is simply overreaching, as science has not done so. And it may never do.
What about using science to build ethics or mystify truth ? Yes, there are scientific notions that are wrong, and when they are used to make policy, it can be very bad for society. But in general science has some built-in checks: for example, peer review of publications in scientific journals, and other methods of verification, and generally, the truth emerges. But I don’t think that such a truth would ever disprove some kind of spirituality.
Why should we believe ? Simply because we don’t know, and because what science does reveal to us is really the wonder of nature and creation: things we do not understand, such as why we are here? how was the universe formed? what made the forces of nature so precisely-tuned to create a universe that can support life? and where does our amazing consciousness and creativity and understanding come from? Science has only raised these questions – never answered them.