Mayim Bialik on science and religion

May 9th, 2017

Actor and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik recently recorded a video in which she defends her religious beliefs and their apparent inconsistency with her work as a scientist:

It sounds like Ms. Bialik thinks atheists don’t “have a tremendious sense of gratitude and humility for our place in the natural and scientific world.” She asks, “Do you ever get that feeling like ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we exist’?” I do, and it instills in me a profoundly humbling sense of awe. But of course it would be wrong to think that’s evidence for the divine. In fact that’s such a common error that there is a specific name for it.

She goes on to name all of the ways she benefits from her religious beliefs (among others, she’s “inspired by the notion of a responsibility to a universe that is governed by something bigger than me”), and of course that’s a personal value judgment that is completely valid and which no one can discount. But that has nothing to do with the scientific question of whether those beliefs are true, so in that sense, I think she fails to reconcile her belief in religion with her practice as a scientist. Yes, religion and science are compatible “in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind.” That’s a testament to the power of compartmentalization, and has little to do with the ability of religion’s emprical claims to withstand scientific scrutiny.

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