December 10, 2023

Religious clouds gather over Enlightenment, says editor

In an editorial which expresses the exasperation of many scientists, the editor-in-chief of the leading US journal Science, Donald Kennedy, has complained that religious faith is stifling scientific progress. Placing himself squarely in the camp of the Enlightenment, Kennedy regards the sceptical Scottish philosopher David Hume as the patron saint of science. Now, he complains, a truly scientific outlook is in danger of disintegrating under the pressure of religious fundamentalism. He points to the spread of intelligent design” theories in American high schools, growing scepticism about the truth of evolution, and reluctance by the Bush Administration to promote condoms to fight AIDS.

The low point, he suggests, is that “certain kinds of science are now proscribed on what amount to religious grounds”. Opposition to destructive embryo research is based on “what constitutes a human life: a belief held by certain religions, but not by others.” It is wrong, he argues, for evangelical Christianity to stamp its own beliefs on the nation’s research agenda.