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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Scientific Knowledge and Faith


Event Recap

Paul Davidovits, Professor of Chemistry, addressed the relationship between science and faith at a lunch colloquium on March 25. In particular, he discussed how faith affects science and scientific discovery. To begin, he offered a definition of faith, which is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” In this definition, Davidovits emphasized how faith is characteristically optimistic and a basic human trait.

According to Davidovits, three categories of faith exist: faith that contradicts science, faith that is tangential to science and faith that drives science. Miracles, events that contradict all known scientific evidence, make up the first category. The second category is a realm of study in which science and faith should not and cannot overlap. This includes questions such as “Is there a meaning to life?” or “Is there a guiding cosmic purpose?” These questions cannot be answered by science and are therefore left up to faith. Finally, faith that drives science can be profound, such as belief in a unifying principle underlying the diversity of phenomena encountered in nature.

Davidovits fielded challenging questions about his presentation, such as the relationship between finding an explanation and finding meaning, and what actually qualifies as science. He also addressed the potential limitations of the human mind and whether human beings are actually capable of understanding the depths of the universe.