Prominent clashes — both historical and contemporary — have led to the widely held conclusion that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. Yet, many scientists practice a traditional faith, having found a way to accommodate both scientific inquiry and religious teaching in their belief system. Other scientists are bringing science to bear on the phenomenon of religion and spiritual belief — neuroscientists are studying what happens in the brain during religious experiences, while anthropologists are investigating how religion is linked to cooperation and community. This program provided an intimate look at what scientists have to say about their religious beliefs and what might be revealed by scientific studies of spirituality.
This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.
Bill Blakemore became a reporter for ABC News 46 years ago, covering a wide variety of stories. He spearheaded ABC’s coverage of global warming, traveling from the tropics to polar regions to report on its impacts, dangers, and possible remedies. Overseas he has covered a dozen wars or major conflicts, including the Black September, Bangladesh, 1973 Arab-Israeli, Iranian and Beirut civil wars, as well as the Iraq wars (from Baghdad), and the Afghan/Taliban war. On 9/11, he reached Ground Zero before the towers fell. He was ABC’s Rome bureau chief 1978-1984, traveled extensively with John Paul II and wrote several documentaries and the Encyclopaedia Britannica article about him. Since 1984, he’s been based in New York, where he also served as education correspondent. He began focusing on biodiversity, extinctions, and global warming in 2004, as well as the emerging sciences of play behavior and animal intelligence, and hosted ABC’s Nature’s Edge until 2012. He has won most major broadcast journalism awards. He currently writes and lectures on the journalistic profession, the “Many Psychologies of Global Warming,” and the cinematic art of Stanley Kubrick.
Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete (January 7, 1941 – October 24, 2014) was a Roman Catholic priest, theologian, physicist, and author. A frequent contributor to The New York Times, he was one of the leaders in the United States for the international Catholic movement Communion and Liberation and was on the Board of Advisors of the Crossroads Cultural Center.
At the 2008 World Science Festival program “Faith and Science,” Lorenzo Albacete joined scientists Nina Azari, Paul Bloom, and William Phillips to discuss their religious beliefs and what might be revealed by scientific studies of spirituality. In this intriguing clip from the program, Albacete offers a response to the idea of “political correctness” around the topic of religion.
Nina Azari specializes in cognitive neuroscience and the psychology of religion. She uses traditional psychological methods as well as cutting-edge medical imaging technology to explore religious experiences, consciousness, belief and perception in her subjects. Azari is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Paul Bloom’s research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art. A professor of psychology at Yale University, Bloom has written for scientific journals such as Nature and Science, but also for publications with more general circulation, such as The New York Times, the Guardian, and the Atlantic. He is the author or editor of four books, including How Children Learn the Meanings of Words, Descartes’ Baby, and, most recently, How Pleasure Works. He is currently writing a book about the developmental origins of good and evil.
Nobel Prize-winning physicist William Phillips is a professor at the University of Maryland and leads the Laser Cooling and Trapping Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. His research on manipulating atoms with laser light has led to more accurate atomic clocks and a more fundamental understanding of light-matter interactions.
Photo credit: ©Robert Rathe