Have balanced forums on science and religion


Andrew Loke Ter Ern

Published: 4:02 AM, September 21, 2013
Updated: 1:10 AM, September 23, 2013

I attended the recent public lecture by physicist Lawrence Krauss, organised by the Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Science Centre, and found his presentation on science interesting.

As a scholar in religious studies and a Singaporean, though, I found his repeated criticisms of religion uncalled for, and I would like to raise a concern about the misuse of public forums in a multi-religious society where respect for religion is important.

I do not oppose scientific progress, freedom of inquiry or open discussions. Nevertheless, to claim that religion is false assumes prior knowledge of religion. Professor Krauss, though, lacks the expertise to assess his claim that there is no evidence for religion.

He is a qualified scientist but has no degree in religion nor any peer-reviewed publication addressing the philosophical and historical evidence discussed in academic literature and which has been offered for religion.

He displayed ignorance of scholarly literature in which other scientists have addressed the apparent areas of conflict between science and religion, and misconceptions such as belief in God hinders scientific progress.

That he failed to mention the arguments of his colleagues who disagree indicates that his criticisms of religion on the basis of science were biased, and misleading to the young people who were there.

He is entitled to his opinions, but given his renowned anti-religious views, the organisers should have taken prior precautions, such as warning him not to speak on issues in which he has no expertise, or arranging dialogues with scholars in religion and science.

Academic institutions should check the speakers they invite, and should foster scholarly, balanced and respectful public education. That includes the proper way to relate science and religion. I hope the organisers will take measures to prevent a repeat incident.