I cannot disagree with Steve Pinker’s thoughts on the proper role of faith in academia. As I’ve tried to make clear, science should be a purely secular endeavor. Religion should be studied in religious institutions or as an elective for those who are interested. There is no good reason to give creationist science a “fair hearing” in biology classes. Sure, it’s a theory, but it’s not a particularly viable or robust one. Secular science tells us with relatively low uncertainty how the world around us works. But it cannot tell us why. This is where theism properly comes in– at least as one of many competing theories.

To answer you’re question, I don’t think theism shuts any doors to attaining knowledge. True, belief in God requires a “leap of faith” in the sense that one must accept the existence of something without any material or empirical reason for doing so. When a person takes this leap of faith, it does not mean they are rejecting wholesale the importance of making conclusions based on evidence. Most theists are content to stake their knowledge of the material world on empirical facts. In short, religion and science are not mutually exclusive. There are countless academics and professionals who excel in their fields and who also happen to believe in God. These people excel for the same reasons atheists in their respective fields excel– because they have mastered the information and best practices surrounding the field.

As a final point, I must reiterate that spiritual matters are not the only thing people accept on faith. Morality, too, requires belief in something absent empirical justification. Your comments about “knowing” when something is wrong (e.g. the feeling one gets at the Holocaust Museum) are a bit misleading. I will concede that moral sentiments can be quite strong (as can spiritual beliefs), but this is not proof that these sentiments are somehow natural. Both morality and religion are social phenomena. There is no empirical justification for either, but people over time have chosen to accept certain aspects of each.

Going back to your last question about attaining knowledge as a theist. What, exactly, do you mean? Can you think of an example (other than creationism or some other encroachment of the spiritual into the material) where religion might hinder knowledge?

Daniel Corbett