There was once room for God in the sciences, and there needs to be again, said professor David Collingridge at the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities conference May 9.
Speaking as part of a session titled "Religion and Science: Defining the Secular," Collingridge said God has been both passively and actively pushed out of the study of the natural world — and the shift happened despite the fact that some of the world's greatest scientists were also believers.
"Several pioneers of the scientific revolution were devout theists," he said. "They mentioned God in their scientific writings."
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei and other great minds openly revered the hand of God in nature while also being leaders in their fields.
A Brigham Young University and Salt Lake Community College professor of psychology and statistics, Collingridge said a few movements are responsible for rendering science "Godless and God-hostile." During the 18th century Enlightenment, writers such as Voltaire "downplayed references to God" when they rewrote the treaties of past scientists and made them available to the masses.
Consequently, many people aren't aware of the way these scientists coupled scientific beliefs with spiritual beliefs, Collingridge said.
More overtly, however, has been the shift to 20th-century secular humanism, which Collingridge said he sees as a very intentional, pointed force.
"I see it as a … movement that is trying to remove God from all areas of education, secular scholarship and politics," he said.
One evidence of the movement is in the way it turns "freedom of religion into freedom from religion."
Collingridge said that when he was a student at two different liberal-arts colleges, he was surprised at how all points of view were accepted so long as they weren't religious in nature.
He anticipated that some people in the audience would be uneasy with the idea of mixing science and religion, but only because they're unfamiliar with the concept.
"If the idea of including God in science feels uncomfortable to us … it's just because we have been led to believe that he does not belong," Collingridge said.
But in reality, all scientific progress can and should be attributed to a divine creator, because the light of Christ inspires and leads people to knowledge and truth.
Collingridge said part of the danger in prohibiting God from the sciences is that by not acknowledging the source of their knowledge scientists are limited in their own understanding and unable to reach their true potential.
"I think that we could perhaps do a lot better than we're currently doing if we in fact acknowledge God in an active way," he said. "Because the scientific community has largely rejected the creator … I think that we are ever learning without coming near to a knowledge of the truth."
Collingridge said he wasn't asserting that only theists should be in the field, but he would like to see the scientific community change to allow for scientists who want to bring God into the conversation. He would like for it to be similar to how the government established a National Day of Prayer, or the way God is mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance.
To read more stories from the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities conference, see the "Studies & Doctrine" section of MormonTimes.com.Heady