THE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OF
NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS AND OTHER MODERN SCIENTISTS
This section is dedicated to the
religious views of Nobel Prize winners
and other notable modern scientists.
FROM, Brian, Denis (Editor). The Voice of Genius. Cambridge, Masssachussets:
Perseus Publishing, 1995.
PAUL DIRAC (Nobel, physics,
(Interview with his
What was your husbands attitude toward religion?
He was a Christian. He went to church on Sundays.
You mean he believed in Jesus Christ?
Perhaps sometimes, and sometimes not. You know, most people are
Most people I contacted are atheists.
My husband wasnt an atheist
Did he feel there was an intelligent creator?
GEORGE WALD (Nobel,
We live in a world of chance, yet not of accident. God
gambles but He does not cheat. (P. 137)
…the stuff of mind pervades the universe….The stuff of the
world is mind stuff…The mind stuff is not spread in space and time.
I find that the Hindu and Buddhist thought
on the imperishability, the immortality of what the Hindus call Self, (Soul or Spirit), the Atman, enormously interesting.
Do you think life has a purpose?
As I said, I began realizing years ago
that this universe of ours is a life-breeding universe…we are in an astonishing universe with a special concatenation of
properties that makes life possible…Humankind then takes a great place in cosmic evolution, one of
transcendent worth and dignity in which our purpose is to know and create and to try to understand.
…I once wrote “A physicist is the atom’s
way of knowing about atoms.” In our knowing, the universe comes to know itself.
ARNO PENZIAS (Nobel, physics, 1978)
This world is most consistent with purposeful
creation. (P. 153)
“The best data we have are exactly what I would have
predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the
Bible as a whole, in that the universe appears to have order and purpose.”
(The Bible) reflects the same world view,
rather than exactly the same world. It’s consistent with the same world view, though not exactly the same, in
the sense that there is not that kind of description. The Bible talks of purposeful creation.
What we have, however, is an amazing amount of order; and when we see order, in our experience
it normally reflects purpose.
And this order is reflected in the Bible?
Well, if we read the Bible as a whole we would expect order
in the world. Purpose would imply order, and what we actually find is order.
So we can assume there might be purpose?
This world is most consistent with purposeful creation.
The kind of things that make me believe in
purpose, or in the Bible, as it were, have to do with the miracles of existence, and not whether somebody can
figure out a way of having ten percent better odds at blackjack.
Are you a practicing Jew?
Mathematics is just a tool to guide our intuition. Math
isnt separate, its just one of those tools. It turns out as Kepler, the biggest true believer,
said. He thought God was going to be a mathematician and it turned out to be a very fruitful
CHARLES TOWNES (NOBEL, PHYSICS, 1964)
Do you believe in God?
Very few physicists do.
Relatively few. But a surprising number actually and its
becoming somewhat larger. The interaction between science and religion has increased, I
think, in the last decade or so.
Do you believe purely on faith?
I would say I feel it intuitively. I think
my prayers have been answered. On the other hand, to prove it scientifically is somewhat like the problem of
telepathy. It’s my own judgment over my experience that makes me believe in God.
Do you believe Jesus Christ was God?
That he was part of God I could say, yes in a sense he was, and
so are you. Christ
comes closer to being God-like than most of the rest of us certainly.
SCHAWLOW (Nobel, Physics, 1981)
(Intro before the interview.)
Nobel laureate Artur Schawlows favourite book is
not The Origin of Species or the collected works of Isaac Newton, but the Bible.
This he told Carl Irving, when interviewed by The San Francisco Examiner in 1985. When I spoke
with Schawlow almost a decade later, he not only confirmed his faith but said his
brother-in-law, Charles Townes, is also religious. (P. 209)
Is the Bible your favorite reading?
I don’t read it very much, but if you
asked me what I thought was the greatest book ever written I guess I’d have to
say that it was.
Are you religious?
Yes, I was brought up a Protestant Christian and I’ve been
in a number of denominations…I go to church to a very good Methodist church.
Do you believe that Jesus was God?
I wouldn’t say I disbelieve it…Certainly I think Jesus was
the greatest moral philosopher. And the imitation of Jesus is the way to save your life, I
think. Beyond that I don’t know.
JOHN ECCLES (Nobel, neurophysiology, 1963)
There is a divine Providence over
and above the materialistic
happenings of biological evolution.
“There is a fundamental mystery in my personal existence,
transcending the biological account of the development of my body and my brain. That
belief , of course, is in keeping with the religious concept of the soul and with its
special creation by God.”
WILDER PENFIELD (World-renowned neurosurgeon)
scientific view the mind can only find expression through the brain. Now there may be
communication in the way of prayer, between the mind of man and the mind
in the way of extrasensory perception.
is a grand design in which all conscious individuals play a role
(quoted by interviewer from Penfields The mystery
of the Mind, New Jersey: Princeton, 1975,
McGrayne, Sharon. Nobel Prize Women in Science.
Birch Lane Press Book, 1993.
JOCELYN BELL BURNELL (Discoverer of pulsars)
Quoted by the author from her booklet Broken for Life.
(Her words are in quotations.)
“Can you find a wholeness that includes pain and a readiness to suffer?” she
asked. If God is a loving, caring God in charge of the world, why
is there suffering? And why so much of it fall on innocent people?
her book, she offers a possible resolution to these ageless questions. Although
she was loath to abandon the idea of a kindly God, perhaps God is
not running the world. “If the world is not run by God, then the calamities that occur
cannot be blamed on God. Perhaps God decided that we are responsible adults that should be
given a free hand and allowed to get on with life without interference…God would still
exert influence on the world, but only through people, through their attitudes and what they
do, through their healing and reconciliation.”
As a physicist, Burnell found such randomness comforting. It
actually ties in very well with the randomness of uncertainty that modern physicists know
is at the heart of everything and seems to be one of the
“givens of this world.” In fact she found the idea liberating, releasing one from the constraints of rewards and
punishments, just and unjust, cause and effect.”
“Sometimes religion appears to be presented as offering
easy cures for pain: have faith and God will mend your hurts…” (But) healing so as to
eradicate all the trace of the encounter is not part of the package,” she concluded.
Brokenness is an essentialingredient in life. “Suffering can mature us and make
us more sensitive to others ;then through small deeds and kind actions we can
interact with empathy, reassuring and helping others…But pain is not part of a Grand Design
and will not come to a purposeful ending unless we work at it to ensure that it
FROM, Hooper, judith,
Three pound universe. New York: Macmillan, 1986.
(This is a portion of an interview with Candace Pert, the discoverer of the opiate receptor.)
"Einstein and other physicists have described experiencing
an almost religious awe when contemplating the laws of the universe. Do you feel the
same way about the brain?"
"No, I don't feel an awe for the brain. I feel an awe for
God. I see in the brain all the beauty of the universe and its order--constant signs of God's
presence. I am learning that the brain obeys all the physical laws of the universe. It's not
anything special. And yet it is the most special thing in the universe." (P. 390)
Chandra Wichrasinge, "Science and the Divine Origin
of Life," The Intellectuals Speak out on God, ed. Varghese, 23-37. Quoted in
Ruggiero, V. R. Warning Nonsense is Destroying America. Nashville: T. Nelson Publ., 1994, 175.
CHANDRA WICKRASINGE (British scientist who worked with
Sir Fred Hoyle.)
"There's no evidence for all of the basic tenets of Darwinian evolution. I don't
believe there was aver any evidence for it. It was a social force that took over the world
in 1860, and I think it has been a disaster for science ever since.
Genuine science, she says, supports, " some miraculous property of life that's either
explained in terms of a statistical miracle or in terms of an Intelligent intervening. It's
one or the other."