Yesterday I discussed Lord May's caution that religious fanaticism is an inhibitor to scientific progress. Today it's the turn of another British Lord and scientist to express his views on the relationship between science and religion. Lord Robert Winston has written a book and made a TV series entitled the Story of God (starts Sunday 7th November, BBC1) and is of the opinion that science and religion can happily coexist.
Winston expresses his views today in a BBC News article. I'm a bit baffled by Winston. He seems to think that worrying about whether God really exists or not is besides the point:
It does not matter whether you believe there lurks a real God or gods behind the idea. The idea is real and, as a scientist who studies "real things", I believe it deserves to be examined.
But he is a practising Jew and in this recent interview he clearly separates religion and faith:
Do I believe in the conventional God who sits on a throne in heaven and judges people on earth? No I don't. I don't believe that because I believe in free will. And if you have free will then you can't have a god that intervenes - it doesn't make sense. But you can have a divine idea or divine spirit within you, which I believe. And I come from a religious tradition which is as much concerned with how you behave as how you believe. Judaism is one of the few religions which makes no demands on faith.'
I get the impression that Winston doesn't believe in God but does believe in religion. He seems to like the ritual of religion (he only eats Kosher food) and appreciate the intellectual and ethical framework of Judaism.
Interesting. This is certainly a more rational position than belief in the supernatural. But I still find it unnerving. I just don't see how a scientist can be so strongly influenced by dogma. I'm looking forward to watching his TV series and trying to get a better understanding of what Winston's views really are.