Jonathan Franzen on Science, Religion, and Art

“To be honest, I’m thinking much more about science than about religion when I’m writing. To me, art itself is a religion and the challenge to it is not religion, it’s the hardcore materialism of science,” novelist Jonathan Franzen said during a press conference at the Hay Festival Cartagena.

“So I spend quite a bit of time trying to make sense of how I seem to have a soul, I have this ghostly consciousness, yet I know as a believer in science that this is just coming from carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. I think if you take science seriously there are a lot of interesting questions to ask. I would be happy if more novelists, not just science fiction writers, paid attention to that.”

Brian Cox Says He’s Fighting Maniacs Not Religion

“There is a lot of goodwill toward scientists among the religious communities in this country. I met the dean of Guildford Cathedral when I was an atheist on a panel and we got on well. After that I took him to CERN and we became good friends. I also recently got invited to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s house because he liked Wonders of the Solar System,” Brian Cox, the famous particle physicist and professor at The University of Manchester, tells The Telegraph.

“Rowan Williams is a very thoughtful man. If you want to move society forward in a more rational direction, religious leaders can be useful because they share that view. Setting yourself up as anti-religion is not helpful. You can set yourself up as anti-maniac, that’s different. So it’s OK to say that if you believe the world was created 6,000 years ago, as the creationists do, then you are an idiot. There is nothing wrong in saying that because you are an idiot. But setting yourself up as an atheist who is against all religion is not a battle that needs to be fought.”

Francis Collins Says He Doesn’t Mix S&R

“I simply would argue you need to be thoughtful when you’re asking a question—is this a faith question or a science question? As long as one keeps that distinction clearly in mind, then I don’t see a conflict,” Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, tells Newsweek.

“There is, of course, a group of rather vocal people who disagree with that, people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. I obviously don’t agree with their perspective, but I refuse to demonize them. I think they share with me the awe of what science can teach us about nature and the joy of that discovery and the promise that has for bettering the human condition. They don’t share with me the sense that there are other valid ways of finding truth. In terms of being the director of NIH, I don’t think anybody who’s worked with me would be able to identify a circumstance where my personal beliefs about faith have in any way interfered with my role as a scientific leader.”

Howard Markel Says Mummies Have Privacy Rights

“I remain of mixed mind about the growing enterprise of exhuming bodies for research,” Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan, tells Wired blogger David Dobbs.

“To start with, digging up bodies automatically gets you into murky territory. Unless they’ve willed their bodies to science, most people expect their bodies to be left alone. And we know the mummies especially expected that. They made those tombs difficult to get into for a reason: They did not want to be disturbed as they went on to the River of the Dead and the afterlife. But we found them, and we have disturbed them repeatedly.”