Sir Nevill F. Mott on Religion and Science

Sir Nevill F. Mott on Religion and Science July 25, 2013

This image with a quote from Nobel prize winner Nevill F. Mott came my way via Facebook.

“Science can have a purifying effect on religion, freeing it from beliefs from a pre-scientific age and helping us to a truer conception of God. At the same time, I am far from believing that science will ever give us the answers to all our questions.”

I'm not sharing it because I think that showing that there are Nobel Prize winners who are Christians proves anything, any more than the fact that there are Nobel Prize winners who are atheists prove anything. But the combination does, I think, demonstrate that when it comes to religion, even very smart people can disagree and do so intelligently. In recent posts, some have bristled at my use of the language of mystery in relation to God, and my suggestion that the term denotes what we do not know rather than things we do; while others have reacted negatively to my statement that there is such a thing as rational religion.

I don't view things in exactly the way Mott did. But on the points quoted I think that he is right. Science (not merely its conclusions, but as an approach to knowledge) can help purify religion from superstition, irrationality, and error, among other things. But that doesn't mean that science can answer all the questions to which human beings would like to have answers.


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  • spin

    “Science can… [help] us to a truer conception of god…”

    Can anyone here the wind whispering “unfalsifiable poppycock”?

  • Steven Carr

    Can religion answer questions?

    More importantly, can religion help us question the answers?

    Science can question the answers. That is what makes it different from religion.

    Religion can produce as many answers as there are religious people.

    But only science can then question them.

  • Robert Landbeck

    Sir Neville may have been more prescient in his words then he ever imagined! For the scientific model may very well be the key to “helping us to a truer conception of God.” Particularly as the first wholly new interpretation for two thousand years of the moral teachings of Christ has been published. Radically different from anything else we know of from theology or history, this new teaching is predicated upon the ‘Promise’ of a precise, predefined, and predictable experience of transcendent omnipotence, paving the way for access, by faith, to the power of divine Will and ultimate proof!

    Like it or no, a new religious teaching, testable by faith, meeting all Enlightenment criteria of evidence based causation and definitive proof now exists. Nothing short of an intellectual, moral and religious revolution is brewing. To test or not to test, that is the question? More info at