"If therefore it is agreeable to you [Pherecydes], I should be glad to become a pupil of yours as to the matters about which you write [Metaphysics]; and if you invite me I will come to you to Syros; for Solon the Athenian and I must be out of our senses if we sailed to Crete to investigate the history of that country, and to Egypt for the purpose of conferring with the priests and astronomers who are to be found there, and yet are unwilling to make a voyage to you; for Solon will come too, if you will give him leave...." -- Thales, philosopher, 6th century B.C.
"After increasing the reputation Pythagoras had already acquired, by communicating to him the utmost he was able to impart to him, Thales, laying stress on his advanced age and the infirmities of his body, advised him to go to Egypt, to get in touch with the priests of Memphis and Jupiter. Thales confessed that the instruction of these priests was the source of his own reputation for wisdom, while neither his own endowments nor achievements equaled those which were so evident in Pythagoras. Thales insisted that, in view of all this, if Pythagoras should study with those priests, he was certain of becoming the wisest and most divine of men." -- Iamblichus, philosopher, 3rd century
"In most ancient cultures in which sky observations were important, astronomers served also as priests." -- Dick Teresi, Lost Discoveries, author, 2002
New Scientist: Pope's astronomer: 'Science helps me be a priest'.
Vatican astronomers are Jesuits, and take a vow of obedience to Jesuit superiors. Could there be a conflict between a conclusion you reached scientifically and something your Jesuit superior told you to believe?
That situation is almost impossible because my superior would never tell me about science. What there might be is an apparent conflict - I repeat the word "apparent" - between the results of science and faith. Scientists research the truth in the universe. There is also religious truth. We don't believe there are two truths, we believe God is the truth and the two kinds of truth coincide in God. At the end we will find an explanation, maybe not in this life but in the next life.
Is the conflict between intelligent design and evolution an example of an "apparent" conflict between science and religion?
No, that is a real conflict. The problem is when religion enters the world of science, the scientific method; that could be the problem with intelligent design. On the other side there is a danger when scientists use science outside of the scientific method, to make philosophical and religious statements - using science for a goal that science is not meant for. So, for example, you cannot use science to deny the existence of God. You can believe whatever you want but you cannot use science to prove that God does not exist.
Does your work as a scientist affect your religious beliefs?
I would say that my work as a scientist helps me to be a religious person, a priest.