Sunday, November 08, 2009

Faith, Science, and Some things I've been Reading.

Once again I will be quoting today from some things in my recent readings which have me thinking.

First: This summer I read The Soul of the American University by Marsden (a book I highly recommend to my friends in graduate school. I'm actually surprised to realize I haven't written a post specifically about this book yet. Anyway...) In chronicling the academic scene in the late 1800's, Marsden tells of how American thinkers saw no conflict between religion and science:
Strict biblicists committed to the Common Sense philosophy took for granted that one reasonable and unifying outlook must triumph in public life as much as did those who hailed scientific progress and a higher evolving religion. The stakes they thus set were remarkably high; in fact they were all or nothing. (215)

Much has, of course, changed since then, and I noticed today that Willard has a good description of the current situation:
To understand why the negative prejudice [that science rules God out conclusively] is so strong now, just reflect on how the entire system of human expertise, as represented by our many-tiered structure of certification and accreditation, has a tremendous vested interest in ruling God out of consideration. For, if it cannot do that, it is simply wrong about what it presents as knowledge and reality -- of which God is no part. (331)

Thus while I would still agree with the 'old' way of thinking that there is no conflict between my faith science (in fact the two complement each other!) I would not assume that one universal and God-centered worldview will come to dominate. In fact, as Willard suggests, it makes sense to assume that the opposite would happen. Understanding this distinction and addressing it is, I think, important for every person who professes faith in God.

On a different but definitely related topic:
I really appreciated some of Polkinghorne's statements in his book One World (I'm putting my favourite part in bold - it is so true!). He concludes his discussion of the post-enlightenment world:
At the same time the human psyche has revealed its shadowing and elusive depths, the physical world has denied determinate objectivity at its constituent roots. [...] [Heisenber's] uncertainty principle proclaims the unpicturability of the quantum world [...] the fitfulness inherent in quantum theory breaks the bonds of stric t determinism...

That in itselve is no great cause for religious rejoicing [...] Our century has seen a recurrent cult of the Absurd which is destructive of true understanding. To acknowledge the limits of rationality, objectivity and determinism is not to relinquish a belief in reason, a respect for reality or a search for order.

It may however lead to a greater openness to the variety of the world and our experience of it, an acceptance that beside the insights of science, expressible in the quantitative language of mathematics, there are the equally necessary insights of religion, expressible in the qualitative language of symbol. (5)

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