Letter from Christian B. Anfinsen to Henry Margenau
This is the second in a series of four letters exchanged between Henry Margenau (1919-1997), a professor of physics at Yale
University, and Anfinsen. Here, Anfinsen responded to Morgenau's inquiries as to his views regarding the relationship
between science and religion. The numbers in Anfinsen's response correspond to numbered questions in Morgenau's initial
Item is a photocopy.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (108,317 Bytes)
1988-06-28 (June 28, 1988)
Anfinsen, Christian B.
Reproduced with permission of Libby Anfinsen.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Religion and Science
Letter from Henry Margenau to Christian B. Anfinsen (June 1988)
Letter from Henry Margenau to Christian B. Anfinsen (March 13, 1989)
Letter from Christian B. Anfinsen to Henry Margenau (March 28, 1989)
1. Religion -- or I should say, the religions of the world -- are a natural outgrowth of man's need for some answer, however
mystical, to his concerns about existence, behavior, and morality. Science is quite a separate subject, and deals with man's
eternal curiosity about how the world and the universe are constructed and the laws that operate physically.
2. I cannot help but believe the conclusions that grow out of the Penzias-Wilson experiments and other work on the Big Bang.
Since we exist (I presume) there must have been a beginning and, scientifically, this appears to have occurred something like
20 billion years ago. The moment of the Big Bang included the built-in galaxy of physical laws that have inevitably led to
the universe as we see it now.
3. The origin of life, it seems to me, was an inevitable consequence of the evolution of the universe speaking physically.
There came a time when a combination of elements, heat, water, and who knows what else led to the formation of a living thing
-- that is, an object that could reproduce and could be susceptible to mutation and selection in the Darwinian sense.
4. Like all other living things, homo sapiens, in my view, developed from lower forms by the generally accepted processes
of mutation and selection. Indeed, even the Vatican appears to be happy about man's descent from lower forms of life.
5. Science and the scientist should continue to approach the questions of origin as is now being done by studying more and
more primitive organisms such as the archae bacteria and other forms of life that perhaps resemble the original reproducing
6. I think only an idiot can be an athiest [sic]. We must admit that there exists an incomprehensible power or force with
limitless foresight and knowledge that started the whole universe going in the first place. Such a process may have occurred
many times earlier and, indeed, must have, and will very likely occur again in the future. I enclose a favorite quotation
from Einstein that agrees almost completely with my own point of view.
I look forward to seeing what comes out of your culling of individuals who profess to have some serious ideas about these