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Top-List Survey With Francis Beckwith

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September 4, 2010 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now
Top-List Survey With Francis Beckwith

Today's entry was written by Francis Beckwith. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

The BioLogos Top-List Survey is a sociological exercise aimed at collecting lists of people’s ‘favorites’ in a variety of categories related to the mission of BioLogos, i.e. relating to the science, philosophy, and religion dialogue.

A survey question is asked of a scholar in the area of science, philosophy, or religion, who responds with their “Top-List” and, if he or she wishes, a brief commentary on why that particular list was chosen. Each new “Top-List” survey thread will be introduced by an opening Top-List from someone who is considered an ‘expert’ to friends and regular visitors, or who holds a perspective that BioLogos is promoting.


"What are you three favorite quotes on science and faith?"


  1. “For when anyone in the endeavor to prove the faith brings forward reasons which are not cogent, he falls under the ridicule of the unbelievers: since they suppose that we stand upon such reasons, and that we believe on such grounds." - St. Thomas Aquinas

  2. “It is clear from a churchman who has been elevated to a very eminent position that the Holy Spirit’s intention is to teach us how to go to Heaven, and not how the heavens go” - Galileo

  3. “This rapid survey of the history of philosophy, then, reveals a growing separation between faith and philosophical reason. Yet closer scrutiny shows that even in the philosophical thinking of those who helped drive faith and reason further apart there are found at times precious and seminal insights which, if pursued and developed with mind and heart rightly tuned, can lead to the discovery of truth's way. Such insights are found, for instance, in penetrating analyses of perception and experience, of the imaginary and the unconscious, of personhood and intersubjectivity, of freedom and values, of time and history. The theme of death as well can become for all thinkers an incisive appeal to seek within themselves the true meaning of their own life. But this does not mean that the link between faith and reason as it now stands does not need to be carefully examined, because each without the other is impoverished and enfeebled. Deprived of what Revelation offers, reason has taken side-tracks which expose it to the danger of losing sight of its final goal. Deprived of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so run the risk of no longer being a universal proposition. It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition. By the same token, reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being.” - John Paul II, from Fides Et Ratio

Francis Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies at Baylor University and is a prolific scholar of jurisprudence, the theory of law. His most recent book, Politics for Christians: Statescraft as Soulcraft, clarifies the confusion many Christians feel about how their faith should shape their involvement in the public square, particularly within politics.

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Conrad - #28148

September 4th 2010

I always liked;

“If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”

Bilbo - #28150

September 4th 2010

My first one is from origin of life researcher and atheist Robert Shapiro:

“Some future day may yet arrive when all reasonable chemical experiments run to discover a probable origin for life have failed unequivocally. Further, new geological evidence may indicate a sudden appearance of life on the earth. Finally, we may have explored the universe and found no trace of life, or process leading to life, elsewhere. In such a case, some scientists might choose to turn to religion for an answer. Others, however, myself included, would attempt to sort out the surviving less probable scientific explanations in the hope of selecting one that was still more likely than the remainder.”

Bilbo - #28151

September 4th 2010

My second:

We have always underestimated cells. … The entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines. … Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts.  Bruce Alberts, cell biologist and past president of the National Academy of Sciences.

Bilbo - #28153

September 4th 2010

My third: 

Venter also points to what the cells–powered by genomes made in a lab from four bottles of chemicals, based on instructions stored on a computer–reveal about what life is. “This is as much a philosophical as a technological advance,” he says. “The notion that this is possible means bacterial cells are software-driven biological machines. If you change the software, you build a new machine. I’m still amazed by it.”   From an interview of J. Craig Venter, after he successfully implanted a synthesized genome from one kind of bacterium into a different kind of bacterium.

Paul Bruggink - #28203

September 5th 2010

Here are my three favorite quotes on science and faith:

Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study. - Arthur Schopenhauer

Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. - Albert Einstein

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident. - Arthur Schopenhauer

conrad - #28225

September 5th 2010

I like the Einstein quote.
I think everything that “just happens” is in God’s plan.

merv - #28308

September 5th 2010

“Not only does God play dice, but he throws them where they can’t be seen.”

—Not necessarily my favorite quote, but I think our atheist friend, Hawking, was rather profound on this one.


conrad - #28319

September 5th 2010

I am very disappointed with Hawking.
We should all pray for that man.

His new book is a cry for help.

merv - #28375

September 6th 2010

From a quote collection on my own web site (no longer in service)—- it’s hard to pick favorites.

“Education is a method whereby one acquires a higher grade of prejudices.”
—Laurance Peter

“Some things have to be believed to be seen.” —Rolf Hodgson

“A cynic is just a man who found out when he was about ten that there wasn’t any Santa Claus, and he’s still upset.”
—James Gould Cozzens

“In mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.”
Johann von Neumann

A genius! For thirty-seven years I’ve practiced fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius!
Attributed to Pablo Sarasate;  Spanish violinist and composer.

“All sects are different, because they come from men; morality is everywhere the same, because it comes from God.”

“Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.”
C.S. Lewis

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’
All that are in Hell chose it.”  —C.S. Lewis

I always have a quotation for everything – it saves original thinking.  – Dorothy Sayers

merv - #28377

September 6th 2010

... and of course there’s a good followup to the Lewis quote above, although I’m not sure who gets credit for this one.  (Robert Benchley?)

“There are two kinds of people in the world:  those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don’t.”

merv - #28378

September 6th 2010

Sorry if some of those quotes strayed from being strictly “science/faith”.  To me it is impossible to divorce science/faith from the wider world of the thinking person.


Bilbo - #28398

September 6th 2010

I just saw a good one on a roadside sign: 

People who think they know everything annoy those of us who do.

Rich - #28399

September 6th 2010

“God does not play dice with the universe”—Einstein

“At this point must I not marvel that there should be anyone who can persuade himself that there are certain solid and indivisible particles of matter borne along by the force of gravity, and that the fortuitous collision of those particles produces this elaborate and beautiful world?” —Balbus

“... none who have the use of their eyes can be ignorant of the divine skill manifested so conspicuously in the endless variety, yet distinct and well ordered array, of the heavenly host; and, therefore, it is plain that the Lord has furnished every man with abundant proofs of his wisdom. The same is true in regard to the structure of the human frame. To determine the connection of its parts, its symmetry and beauty, with the skill of a Galen (Lib. De Usu Partium), requires singular acuteness; and yet all men acknowledge that the human body bears on its face such proofs of ingenious contrivance as are sufficient to proclaim the admirable wisdom of its Maker.”—Calvin

merv - #28454

September 6th 2010

to beat my previous theme to death just a bit more:  “There are 10 kinds of people in the world:  those who understand binary, and those who don’t.”

And a new favorite quote that I picked up from the ‘science and miracles part 4’ essay on this very blog:

“The scientist, even when he is a believer, is bound to try as far as possible to reduce miracles to regularities: the believer, even when he is a scientist, discovers miracles in the most familiar things.”

Reijer Hooykaas

Sam - #28578

September 7th 2010

My three favorite science and religion quotes:

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
— Galileo Galilei

“Bottom up thinkers try to start from experience and move from experience to understanding. They don’t start with certain general principles they think beforehand are likely to be true; they just hope to find out what reality is like.” - John Polkinghorne

“Is all this striving after ultimate meaning a massive delusion, a gigantic wish-fulfillment?...Could our symbol-rich world be of interest only to a pitiless nihilist? I do not think so.” - Simon Conway Morris

Rich - #28843

September 8th 2010

Let’s see, in 15 posts we have exactly five people who have submitted quotations relevant to science and faith.  Two of those are ID proponents or at least ID-sympathetic.  That leaves at most 3 TE/EC people who have come up with science/faith quotations. 

The same thing happened on the last top-list survey (of favorite science/faith books).  Very few people even submitted lists, and some of those who did weren’t TE/EC people. 

Meanwhile, as surveys of books and quotations garner 5 to 10 replies, other threads arguing about Adam and Eve or Flood Geology or the bacterial flagellum or whale evolution run up to hundreds of comments. 

What’s going on here?  Should we infer that most TE/EC people read primarily (a) biological writings and (b) books explaining why we should interpret the Bible non-literally?  That very few of them read many books wrestling with theoretical issues regarding science and faith?  Or can we infer only that TE/EC people don’t have good memories for striking quotations and/or just aren’t into making lists?

Gregory - #28923

September 8th 2010

“practically all the theories of orthodox philosophy of science, and the methodological directives they secrete, presuppose closed systems. Because of this, they are totally inapplicable in the social sciences.” - Roy Baskhar (The Possibility of Naturalism, 1979)

“If science is a search for reality and if science is a search for knowledge at the leading edges of the humanly knowable, then there are ‘sciences’ other than the Western science of measurement. One of these other sciences is Native American science.” – Leroy Little Bear, J.D. (2000)

“The interface between science and religion is, in a certain sense, a no-man’s land. No specialized science is competent here, nor does classical theology or academic philosophy really own this territory. This is an interdisciplinary zone where inquirers come from many fields. But this is a land where we increasingly must live.” – Holmes Rolston III (2006)

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