Volume 10 SPRING/SUMMER 2003 Numbers 1/2
SCIENCE & THEOLOGY—
About the Contributors
Do Science and Religion Mix? An Evangelical Response
Dr. Vickie L. Hess
Indiana Wesleyan University
Marion, Indiana (USA)
The Quandary of
Scientific Realism: A Theological Challenge to Naturalism
Bearings: Writing After the Quantum
Religion and Science:
Evolving Toward Enlightenment
Chaperone for Theology and Science?
On Literary Politics:
Reflections of a Reluctant Theorist
Faust through the
Ages: God, Grace, Satan, Sin, and Science
Jonathan E. Adler,
Belief's Own Ethics
S. Morris Eames,
Experience and Value: Essays on John Dewey and Pragmatic Naturalism
Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity
and James Keenan, Jesus and Virtue Ethics:
Richard A. Horsley
and Neil Asher Silberman, The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and
Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World
John Howie, ed.,
Ethical Issues for a New Millennium
Jim Mann, The Weird
and Wonderful World of Professor Marcy
John R. Polkinghorne,
Traffic in Truth: Exchanges Between Science and Theology
BOOKS OF NOTE
In the “scientific” age in which we live, some question the relevance of religion to questions with scientific content. Others try to preserve their views of religion by partial or total rejection of science as it is generally practiced. Still others argue that the best approach is a “wall of separation” that defines questions as being either scientific or religious, and off limits to the other domain. None of these approaches is completely adequate for those who take both domains seriously; questions about ultimate origins illustrate the difficulties inherent making a clean separation. Rather, we need to look at the underlying presuppositions of each domain, and forge a worldview that has integrity and consistency by taking into account the truth claims of each.
Since the Enlightenment, anti-theistic polemicists have characteristically leaned to science to deliver their challenge against faith. In both popular culture and scholarly circles, the spirit of Voltaire lives on, reassuring the faithful that science and religion apply to different and incommensurable spheres of knowledge, and then mocking the believer for treating their sacred texts as trustworthy in philosophical and scientific matters. An example of this approach is found in A. D. White’s The History of the Warfare of Science with Theology. White’s book seems to agree with the contemporary affirmation that Christians have the epistemic right to believe what they wish; however, so long as they understand the Biblical narratives in a general straightforward manner, they ought not to claim or vainly pretend that they hold justified and true beliefs since they conflict with well-established scientific claims. Such restrictions derive from the notion of science as the paradigm of rationality.
A theological response to this challenge is two-fold. Considering the first response (Part I), it is important to note that those making the above claims, or claims similar to them, adopt a philosophy of science, commonly called “scientific realism,” which ascribes to science the accurate portrayal of the natural world as it actually is. The work of Thomas Kuhn and the historical account of science show that science (“scientific realism”) is unable to provide a true (or even approximately true) account of the natural world—for the simple reason that it is inherently impotent to do so. The second response (Part II) is the philosophical and theological claim that the Christian faith provides the necessary preconditions for the intelligibility of the scientific enterprise. In other words, without the theological and philosophical views of theism, the scientific discipline is at best arbitrary and at worse undermined. The non-theological scientist obviously does do science, but that scientist cannot give account for the very science being done. This second response will require both a philosophical description of the Christian worldview and the assistance of David Hume and Bertrand Russell to argue for the necessity of theism for science.
While there has been a divide between the cultures of the sciences and the arts, it is not absolute and has not always existed. The advent of Relativity and Quantum Field theory, bringing with them a fundamentally new way of trying to understand the world, has closed the gap. One consequence of this reconciliation is a postmodern literature that exemplifies the new epistemology, one that goes well beyond positivism. This essay traces a trajectory from the seventeenth century to the present, along which science, technology and mathematics first inhabit the same environment as the arts and humanities, then separate, and then come back in a reunion exemplified in theories such as Niels Bohr’s Complementarity and in imaginative poetry and prose by writers such as Charles Olson and Ernest Hemingway.
A revolution took place in seventeenth-century England more significant than the English Civil War. The millennia-old Aristotelian worldview washed away and was replaced with a superior Newtonian metaphysics. Western theologians swam in the scientific currents, some enthusiastically and others less so, for the intellectual world they inhabited had changed forever.
Our seventeenth-century forebearers provide insights into religious wonder in a turbulent time. They inquire after the foundations of their beliefs and feel inspired to discover the mysteries of reality. The philosophical language of their time enriches the mysteries they wonder at. Intellectual revolutions provide excellent opportunities to pursue fresh aspects of the divine character of our world.
Modern thinkers often feel pressure to segregate their spiritual intuition from their secular intellectual lives, to the detriment of both. We ought, rather, to make connections with confidence, and participate fully in the endeavors of philosophy and science.
The commonalities between critical realism and the theological science of Wolfhart Pannenberg are examined. It is suggested that the commonalities exist in the following areas: the programme of revelation-as-history and the implications of this for a philosophy-of-history, the view of resurrection of Jesus as event, the approaches to understanding Jesus in history, the relationship of theology to philosophy-of-science, and the understanding of God as the all-determining reality. It is suggested that within the theological science of Wolfhart Pannenberg one might find some theological foundations for critical realism, or at least some scope for future dialogue.
The role of philosophy as an epistemic chaperone is explored through a dialogue between theology and science. A philosophical epistemic chaperone has served to help our couple avoid misunderstandings by uncovering and correcting fallacies that each party sometimes falls prey to in attempting to understand the other. A dilemma of religious experience facing theologians is proposed and a philosophical epistemic chaperone urges theologians to make use of the sciences in solving that dilemma.
The present sense of crisis in the humanities can be shown in some measure to be both delusory—the standards for a traditional “high” literacy turn out to be quite recent in development—and real—the various deconstructive and receptivist theories now dominating literary studies really do re-order the relations among writer, reader, text and society. It is possible to represent persons whose readings are informed by revealed religion as one more ideological group. But doing so would not honor their truth claims, and materialists would probably not consider those claims sufficiently demoted. The solution may involve a kind of undulation amongst modes. On a long view of the profession, this approach gives students the skills they need to participate in the dynamic process of culture-formation.
The Faust motif provides an excellent opportunity for exploring the contradictory attitudes among Christians towards science and technology in historical perspective. Depending upon one’s understanding of the relationship of God and the world, the accomplishments of a Leonardo da Vinci or a Faust can be interpreted as divine or diabolic in origin. Contrary to what seems intuitively obvious, Faust’s damnation originated not in medieval times, but in early modern northern Europe and reflected an obsession with human sinfulness that was more characteristic of the Germanies than of Renaissance Italy. Encouraged by hellfire-and-brimstone preachers, the common folk saw demons, devils, and witches in every dark corner while Humanist scholars sought to recapture the brilliant past of the Greeks and the Romans. Goethe=s interpretation represents a return to earlier versions of the story while contemporary Faustians continue to be accused of Satanic connections for seeking forbidden knowledge and daring to play God by manipulating the stuff of life.
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