Trudi Schüpbach and Eric Wieschaus: A shared passion for nature’s truth  pg. 7

“How much do people know about how the embryo is formed?” she continues. “Do people know what a blastocyst is and what it does?  People need to know what they’re talking about before they start drawing conclusions.”

Wieschaus teaches a required undergraduate class for non-science majors at Princeton called “DNA to Human Complexity.” His students often challenge him when science conflicts with their religious beliefs, and he has learned to handle the issue philosophically.

Photo by Jon Roemer
“People think their beliefs have a basis in science, but that’s not possible,” he says. “Your religious beliefs may help you live a moral life, but other people have other beliefs. Science can’t say whose beliefs are the best.”

Wieschaus tells his students that scientists argue constantly. They inch forward toward some facet of the truth by running experiments and gathering data. But arguing the truth of religion over science doesn’t strengthen one’s faith.

“You either believe it or you don’t,” Wieschaus says. “Religious faith is a gift -- you can’t argue people into it. Religion has always had to deal with new science, and it has always adapted.”

“Think of Galileo,” Schüpbach interjects. “The Catholic Church fought against his position at the time, but I don’t think you’ll find a Catholic today who thinks the earth is the center of the universe. I’ve never understood why the notion of evolution is considered anti-religious. There’s no reason why God could not have used evolution.”

Wieschaus and Schüpbach also worry about the political manipulation of scientific research.

“There is governmental support for science as an engine that drives military pursuits, but there’s no support for science as a whole,” Wieschaus asserts. “Scientific facts are being suppressed, especially with global warming. There’s no appreciation for the science behind it or the consequences of our actions.”

According to Wieschaus, the culprit is not a fear of science, but the belief that science is just another way to make a buck -- and that manipulating science can make even more bucks.

"We don’t mind different political opinions, but it’s emotional for us as scientists,” he says. “We see educated people who misuse science, who don’t value it. As rare as scientific truth is, it should remain pure.”

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