Science versus Religion: Uncertainty and Certainty

Professor Steve Jones, prominent scientist and geneticist, on the god he purports to have no need of. He accepts that many religious people are ‘good’, but then so are many atheists who prove you can be good without god. He quotes Napoleon with approval: ‘I have no need of that hypothesis’.

Exploring with Catholic journalist Mark Dowd the relationship between scientific inquiry and religious faith, he is asked about the high number of ‘talented physicists’ at a recent conference who were both Christian and proponents of a religious view of creation and existence. ‘Do you respect them?’ ‘he is asked; ‘ I don’t respect them’, he replies, but showing that he has none of the anti-religious militancy of a Richard Dawkins, he insists that scientists, like everyone else, can believe what they like.

For Jones, and contrary to public opinion, scientists are the ones wedded to uncertainties – by definition of their work; ‘once you’re certain about anything, you’re no longer a scientist’, he says. It’s those with religion who deal in certainties.

Steve Jones, who grew up in a Welsh community and attended Welsh chapel regularly, is a fan of the Bible as ‘a magnificent work of literature’, a fan too of the political content of the New Testament – ‘the miracles are just clutter’ – but he is no fan of the Old Testament, where he finds ‘a genocidal god’ and what seem to be stories of the Jews versus the rest.


Image courtesy of DNA Art Online via ©©

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  • It is easy to warm to Prof Jones, but isn’t he contradicting himself? He starts by criticising Christians who ignore the “simple, established facts” of science, but then makes much of science being concerned with uncertainties: “The worst thing you can be if you’re a scientist is certain.” Who decides which things are certain?

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