This is one reason, I suspect, that Christians are more common in the physical sciences and less common in fields like anthropology, psychology, and sociology. A really serious anthropologist or sociologist or psychologist who is a believer would be, I suspect, consumed by trying to understand the personality, motives, and characteristics of the Christian god, and that can only be done with some rigor through a scientific study, which the Christian is explicitly forbidden to do by Matthew 4:7, Deuteronomy 6:16, and Luke 4:12. In contrast, the chemist, geologist, or physicist is able to compartmentalize his/her beliefs more successfully. Believing in Jesus is not going to strongly impact your experiments if you are studying the properties of organic compounds or the interactions and decays of baryons.
Compartmentalization is the key word here, and it was very much in evidence in last night's Pascal lecture. To say it was a lecture is somewhat overstating the case. It started with a commercial (for James Tour's lab and its admittedly excellent work in nanotechnology) and it finished with pure Christian evangelism. Given that the title was "Nanotechnology and God", I was expecting a somewhat more polished segue between the two topics (although it was too much to hope that he might have remarked that both topics concern the vanishingly small). There was none. Prof. Tour went in one sentence from a summary of his work on nanotechnology to a story of how he became a Messianic Jew. Along the way he admonished the audience in various ways: to abjure pornography, to pray for personal success, to read the bible every day.
Here are a few of the things that Prof. Tour seems to believe, as I understand it. First, that the "fact of the Resurrection is overwhelming". (I don't think he uses the term "fact" the way I do.) Second, that he obtained his wife because he prayed for one and his god granted his wish. Third, that he was offered money to buy more software (through some supernatural intervention?) because of his virtuous refusal to break the license of software he used on other machines. Fourth, that he prays before every course lecture and scientific talk that his presentation will be wonderful. Fifth, that he prayed for the success of a disliked colleague and this resulted in the success of the colleague and his transfer to another university. Honestly, it was really hard to not laugh at all that.
I find it fascinating that such a scientist -- evidently extremely clever -- can successfully convince himself that there is a supernatural being, the creator of the universe, who is so obsessively concerned in that scientist's success and life that he (the god) arranges things so that departmental money to buy software arises (because of the scientist's virtue) and so that rival colleagues get offers to leave.
I did get a chance to ask a question. After hearing this litany of successes that Prof. Tour had achieved through prayer, I asked him what percentage of things he prays for don't come true. He was unable to provide a figure. This is compartmentalization again. A scientist would, I would think, want to know this important fact. Do certain kinds of prayers work better than others? Does the time of day affect success? Is success actually greater than chance, or does Prof. Tour simply forget about the prayers that don't come true? Does it help if the prayer is said in certain languages? Are prayers for oneself granted more often than prayers for others? What happens when two equally virtuous people pray for opposite outcomes?
Another thing that I was able to establish was that Prof. Tour, despite being a signatory to the Discovery Institute's notorious "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism", has never read a college-level textbook about evolution. In my opinion, this is irresponsible (but not surprising).
In short, although Prof. Tour is a good speaker who clearly has done excellent work, his religious beliefs seem (to me) to be childish and unwarranted. His personal version of prosperity theology is laughable. The event was largely evangelical and not intellectual in nature, and is inappropriate to be sponsored and endorsed by a public university that accepts students of all faiths. It was, in short, another embarrassment.
* I phrase it this way to avoid the ambiguous term "Christian scientist".