God, Science, and the Red Pill: The Wachowskis and Mr. Feynman on the Christian faith

By Stephen G. Mackereth

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”—The Matrix

I hope I would take the red pill.

The red pill means the spirit of adventure, the exploration of the unknown, freedom. The blue pill means parochial, timid adherence to the same old thing, a slave in the “prison for your mind”—and the story ends.

The red pill means danger, a rabbit hole who knows how deep, and many a sleepless night before you get to the bottom of it. The blue pill means safety, or at least whatever safety and control the familiar structures of this familiar world have to offer. It means the comfort of your own feather pillow.

The red pill means the truth. “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more,” remarks Morpheus.

The scientific method is a red pill. Christian belief, let’s be honest, is often presented as a blue pill.

The scientific method involves questioning everything, gathering hard data, and making inferences from evidence to conclusions only in strict obedience to the p-values, however disheartening that may prove to be. The ideal scientist is passionate enough to devote her life to the pursuit of a truth unknown; cautious enough to remain at the mercy of her data; and stoical enough to shelve her own ego and say “hypotheses non fingo” whenever she doesn’t understand something.

Richard Feynman epitomizes this vision of the scientist hero, someone who was never content with easy answers or superficial explanations, who was willing to hold many things in doubt, out of respect for the mysteriousness of the universe.

Christian belief, on the other hand, is commonly perceived as requiring a voluntary narrowing of the mind that only very uninquisitive people could enjoy. The imposition of a particular creed appears to be an arbitrary restriction on the possibilities of exploration and the full knowledge of the reality of the universe.

It seems to me that this perception is what’s really responsible for the “problem of science and faith.”

Of course Christians can be scientists and do worthwhile scientific research and hold ordinary scientific beliefs. The Catholic Catechism §159 rightly points out that the truths of Christian faith should never contradict truths established by natural reason. (I should like to studiously ignore Darwin-gate.) The question is whether two particular worldviews, which I call the “scientific-reductionist worldview” and the Christian worldview, are logically compatible…


God, Science, and the Red Pill | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson