Why Don't They Agree?

(Investigator 15, 1990 November)

"Why don't religious leaders talk things over and then all teach the same things?" is a question often asked.

The same question could be asked of scientists. Why don't scientists all talk things out and then say the same thing?

A debate about how far away "Quasars" are was arranged by the American Association of Science for December 30 1972 in Washington.

The result was considerable division among astronomers. Concerning two of these astronomers, Allan Sandage and Halton Arp, the book THE RED LIMIT (1979,  T. Ferris) says:

Sandage and Arp, who had been close friends, were no longer speaking. They worked in offices fifty feet apart in Pasadena, assaying cities of stars in a language of mathematics and physics not more than a handful of individuals fully understand, and did not talk to each other.

'I don't talk cosmology at the office any more,' Arp said one dusk, at home, as he watched the sun set. 'It's a very touchy subject. The people committed to the other side take it pretty seriously. Part of it is ego. I have a friend who says, "Any man who's egotistical enough to think he can figure out the whole universe is pretty damn egotistical." The other part is that the success or failure of your theories gets associated with the success or failure of your scientific career, and most people here have their whole lives wrapped up in their careers...

'Sooner or later we will find out what quasars really are, but whether we find out how to communicate with and trust one another, well, that seems to me much more important.'

I suspect that religious leaders fail to agree with for similar reasons that astronomers fail to do so. Religious leaders have the added problem that much of what they teach as  "truth" is untestable.