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Intellect

Science and Religion: Notre Dame's Christian Smith speaks at BYU

Christian Smith, professor of Sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, delivered the BYU Forum address on Tuesday in the Marriott Center.

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In his address, Smith discussed the relationship between science and religion. He pointed out scientific authors who sometimes make the mistake of publishing claims on religion; claims that slip from scientific research and seem to unknowingly mix personal opinion with scientific reports. Smith suggested that mixing opinion with research does a disservice to both science and religion he said. 

"Physics cannot discover the purpose of the universe any more than my kitchen thermometer can tell me what emotions you are feeling inside," Smith said. 

In research, it's common for scientists to conclude that if science cannot observe or discover something, it cannot be real or true. Smith took issue with this claim arguing that it's not up to scientists to make such claims. 

"The idea of science versus religion has to do with who has the right authority and competency to rule the turf," said Smith. "Some feel because they speak with the authority of science, they may speak with that authority on any topic. This is arrogance."

Of course science and religion can be discussed together, Smith said, but that scientific authors need to be cautious of when conclusions incorporate more opinion than fact. 

"Please stick to what you’re good at and stop doing half-baked theology," he said. "Learn enough to distinguish between scientific and theological claims. If you want to make theological claims, learn enough about it first."

Distinguishing between science and religion is key to strengthening both disciplines, he said.

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"A scientist publicly publishing a scientific confession and concluding that they cannot personally believe religious claims is different than scientists using scientific authority to make claims concerning theology," Smith said.  

However, Smith concluded that science could be used in proving some religious claims under the right circumstances. 

"I’m not saying that no religious claims can be proved by science," he said. "If and when science has the tools to evaluate [religious claims], scientists can potentially invalidate them. But, the passing of time and lack of evidence makes some scientific claims impossible."

Ultimately, he said, the open discussion between the boundaries and overlap of science and religion is most needed. 

"Let’s still have discussions on science and religion," said Smith. "But let's have ones that are well-informed, fair and honest."

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Next Devotional: Performance Assembly​

Next Tuesday, March 1, at 11:05 a.m., in the Marriott Center, come see some of the very talented performing groups on campus at the Devotional Performance Assembly.

Vocal Point, Noteworthy, the Cougarettes and Young Ambassadors will perform from their repertoire of captivating music and dance numbers. Members of each group will share from their experiences representing BYU in their travels. It promises to be an uplifting and entertaining assembly. 

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