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Trying to measure the unmeasurable.

In 1863, Cornelius Vanderbilt gave $1 million to found a university to support the tenets of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and to create a campus where faith and reason could exist alongside each other.

This year, Vanderbilt is the temporary home of Lawrence M. Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek and an expert in string theory, which tries to measure everything in the universe.

Professor Krauss, who is Catholic, is unhappy with folks who think some things cannot be measured. He is really unhappy with folks who try to prove that God exists.

Mr. Krauss' home lab, is at Case Western Reserve University, where scientists in 1887 conducted an experiment that gave evidentiary support to what would become Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.

Enter Sir John Templeton, Who made his billions by investing wisely, both for himself and for the British royals. He now lives on an island and gives away his money. He is fascinated by the relationship between science and religion, and he has poured millions into supporting conversation between the two fields.

Mr. Krauss, whose popular books--such as Hiding in the Mirror: The Quest for Alternate Realities, From Plato to String Theory (By Way of Alice in Wonderland, Einstein, and The Twilight Zone)--must make him a bundle, thinks Sir John is out of line. Seven years ago, he slammed the Templeton Foundation, calling its priorities "ill conceived." Combining science and religion, he said, is "an intellectually uninteresting exercise."

More recently, Mr: Krauss wrote in a winding diatribe that faith and reason are neither interesting nor compatible Subjects for university study. His essay, "Reason, Unfettered by Faith," appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the academic trade journal received by 80,000 individuals and 500 libraries.

Mr. Krauss was also especially unhappy about Pope Benedict's speech last fall in which he argued that faith and reason are compatible. In fact, Mr. Krauss--who has been known to FedEx long letters to the pope about evolution--said the suggestion that "deeply religious individuals base their faith on rationality is inappropriate and fundamentally illogical." Mr. Krauss argued, "It is not uncommon for religious leaders to advocate acting on faith in the face of reason," but he hoped people would act reasonably, "independent of faith."

Whenever faith contradicts Mr. Krauss' beliefs, it is unreasonable or worse. Moral theology and religious understandings of evolution are his preferred targets. Fundamentalism, extremism and Catholicism rest in the same cabinet in his office-lab.

Meanwhile Sir John, who used to begin his fund meetings with a prayer--more to clear and calm the mind than ask for divine intercession in the market--accepts the premise that scientific principles of evolution and the idea of God as Creator are compatible. So does, we should remind Mr. Krauss, the Catholic church.

But Mr. Krauss writes that "reason must be unfettered by faith if we are to truly educate our children and our students, and if we as a society are to overcome violence committed in the name of religion." He routinely contends that faith cancels reason in determining life's questions, so therefore it should be overcome.

Sir John Templeton's view is quite different. He thinks that once we get our acts together, "We realize that our own divinity arises from something more than merely being 'God's children' or being 'made in his image.'" Sir John has put his prodigious history of accomplishment--not to mention piles of cold hard cash--behind what he believes. He does not claim credentials as a theologian, just someone with enough money to stir new research pursuing greater "knowledge and love of God."

In a world where academic brickbats too often swing at anything religious, folks like Mr. Krauss still teach at schools founded to give room to faith in its conversations with reason, even if they refuse to join the conversation.

Professor Krauss, it is more about trying to know than about knowing.

I've heard Sir John quoted as saying that we have about the same capacity of understanding God and the universe as a clam has of understanding the ocean. I rather think he's right. I'd suspect the pope would think so too.

By PHYLLIS ZAGANO

Religion News Service

[Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University and author of On Prayer: A Letter for My Godchild.]
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Title Annotation:VIEWPOINT; Lawrence M. Krauss
Author:Zagano, Phyllis
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 23, 2007
Words:715
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