Had I been able to read Larry Witham’s book before I delivered the Gifford Lectures at St. Andrews, I would have been able to make my argument more compelling by locating the story I told in relation to Witham’s account of addressing the challenges of science. Witham has managed the impossible: to tell a coherent …
BOOK REVIEW: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, By Edward 0. Wilson. Knopf. 352 pp., $26.00. The subtitle of this book, “the unity of knowledge,” will strike some readers as abstruse, yet it directs us to important questions: Can we think about the world and ourselves in anything resembling an integrated manner? Do our moral convictions …
Ordained an Anglican priest after a career as one of the world’s top quantum physicists (his work helped lead to the discovery of the quark, a basic element of matter), John Polkinghorne vigorously argues that science and religion are not at odds. He served as the first president of the International Society for Science and …
Genes, Genesis and God: Values and Their Origins in Natural and Human history. By Holmes Rolston. Cambridge University Press, Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophy. By Michael Ruse. Prometheus. Evolutionary and Molecular Biology: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action Series (Vol. 3). Edited by Robert J Russell, William Stoeger and Francisco Ayala. When conservative …
Let me begin my saying that I am poorly informed with respect to the history of the relation of Buddhism and the natural sciences as these developed in India, China, Korea, and Japan. This is not because I question the importance of these sciences. I have no doubt, for example, that people in these countries …
When Bishop William Paley [1743-1805] wrote his Natural Theology, he intended his work to be an exaltation of God. Arguing from what he took to be the machine-like nature of the universe, a universe operating like clockwork, Paley felt he could deduce the existence as well as the many divine characteristics of God. His theology …
The author uses an analyses of quantum theory and how it needs a fundamentally new notion of order to show a development that is capable of making full contact with modern science, yet assimilates common experience, to give a single, whole, unfragmented world view.
All psychic phenomena (sensations, mental images, feelings, thoughts and processes of volition) are merged in our stream of consciousness. All psychic experience is therefore part of a process. Many considerations speak in favor of this “panpsychistic identism.”
The dizzying advances in molecular biology blur the former distinctions between man, animal, plant and mineral; and the recent "reductions" of mind to brain are fruits of the methodological imperative to explain the animate and mental in terms of the inanimate and the unconscious.
Three themes — the diverse functions of language, the role of models and the role of paradigms — combine to support the position of critical realism which the author defends in both science and religion.
Previously, biology was conceived as reductive to chemistry and chemistry as reductive to physics. But today these sciences have distinct features. Biology, as an example, by virtue of its structure, makes possible the requisite degree of conceptual origination, having the characteristic of “life,” which is not true of chemistry or physics.
The reduction of chemistry to physics, of biology to chemistry, of animal conscious or subconscious experience to biology, and of consciousness itself and the creativeness of the human mind to animal experience, are all problems that are unlikely if not impossible to succeed.
The important frontiers of the future are spiritual, psychological and social, not technical and industrial. This vision of the world stands in strong contrast to supernaturalistic dualism and materialistic atheism.
A broad description of contemporary views of the relationship between the methods of science and those of religion: Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integration.
The notion of evil is related to the fact that our universe is not only a process in which everything perishes but a process in which novelty is continually entering onto the cosmic scene, causing the breakdown of previous orderly arrangements and bringing about suffering.
The complementarity of science and religion may be formulated in terms of our hierarchical conception. Science is a mode of knowing adequate to grasp what lies below consciousness in the hierarchy. Religion, on the other hand, complements science by relating us to fields, dimensions or levels that lie above, or deeper than, consciousness in the cosmic hierarchy.
In fostering the necessity of human bonding in the image of the “body of Christ” or “the people of God,” Christianity promotes the preparation of a base suitable for a deeper incarnation of God in the cosmos. For this reason being a Christian is an acceptable way of endorsing and fostering the scientific discoveries of modernity.
The first ethical principle is that we should treat subjects as ends in themselves and not merely as means to our own ends. Compassion must be extended to all creatures who share the Earth with us. And we also have a responsibility to the non-animate world.
The metaphysical background of process thought is far more germane to the evolutionary picture provided by biology than is the mechanistic philosophy. The only sort of universe in which evolution of organisms can occur is one in which the entities have subjective aim.
This chapter examines some parallels between the methods of science and those of religion: the interaction of data and theory (or experience and interpretation); the historical character of the interpretive community; the use of models; and the influence of paradigms or programs.
There is no decisive line of demarcation in the universe that segregates experience on the one side from insensitive objects on the other. Rather, the universe is ultimately and pervasively made up of “units of experience.” Following Whitehead, the author avoids the dualism that puts nature in one arena and subjective experience in another.
The spirit of dualistic mythology separating subjectivity from objectivity continues to pressure us into the assumption that acts of consciousness are not part of the continuum of occurrences that constitute the world of nature.
Religious models are in relation to other forms of religious language — particularly symbols, images, myths, metaphors, parables and analogies.. The author discusses these religious forms, some of which have no parallel in science.
Three research programs that are motivated by opposition to physical reductionism.
Metaphysics has an essential role in the philosophy of science — that of the understanding and the grounding of scientific concepts and methodology. That is, the fundamental concepts of a metaphysical system should give an analysis of the foundational concepts of the sciences in such a way that these concepts themselves provide a grounding — a general logic — of the methodology of the sciences.
In addition to the necessarily deterministic and probabilistic interpretations of the material world of science, there is the primary but private knowledge which each of us has of his own stream of consciousness, more or less continually directed toward the finding of an acceptable course through the difficulties of the external world by means of voluntary actions.
The transcendence of life and human mind were evolutionary from the non-living to living entities, but scientific knowledge is quite insufficient to give satisfactory accounts of these transitions. An explanation is intractable and unsolved thus far.
Through both the memory and the anticipatory pole of the notion of physical reality, a cosmic aim or purpose may be envisaged as insinuating itself into the interior workings of the universe.
Models have a variety of uses in science: They serve diverse functions, some practical and some theoretical. They are taken seriously but not literally. They are not pictures of reality or useful functions. They are partial and inadequate ways of imagining what is not.
When “perception” is limited to the material presented to our minds by the five senses we are by no means dealing yet in a fundamental way with the reality of the world. Perception may be understood as having two poles, primary and secondary. With primary perception there is a pervasive and vague feeling of the influence of the world upon our being and becoming. Secondary perception deals with spatially clear and distinct objects of sense perception.
Since physics and chemistry have demonstrated how limited in penetration our mere sense perceptions are, how radically they fail to disclose what is really there in nature, it follows that the entire traditional foundation for both materialism and dualism has been destroyed by the advance of knowledge. All concrete or physical things (a) are minds of some high or low kind, or (b) are composed of minds. However, only active singulars are individually sentient.
How might we respond to the challenge of religious pluralism today? (1) the character of historical inquiry, (2) whether objectivity is possible if it is recognized that all knowledge is historically and culturally conditioned and (3) can we accept relativism if we abandon absolute claims.
Our instinctive tendency is to believe that the relations of succession can be adequately symbolized by geometrical relations. The persistence of this belief has had disastrous influence through the centuries on philosophical and theological thought, and upon physical theories as well.
The transition to an ecologically sustainable society requires reduced consumption of goods, the efficient recycling of materials, a move away from the use of fossil fuels to the use of renewable sources of energy, zero global population growth, a reduced standard of living for the rich, an increased standard of living for the poor and an appeal to quality of life instead of materialism.
A discussion of Whitehead’s understanding of: 1) metaphysics and it’s relation to science; 2) the fundamental categories to all of reality; 3) the implications in his understanding of fundamental categories in the objects of physics; and 4) non-reductionistic biology which avoids dualism, including vitalism.
The proper interpretation of Lamarckian notions in genetics depends fully on knowing ‘what’ we are talking about. All new patterns of efficient causation in animal bodies can be traced to some occasions’ subjective aims.
Beginning with the conviction that the inanimate world of subatomic particles and molecules described by physics and chemistry constitutes the basic construction material of the plant, the animal organism and the human brain, many scientific thinkers have questioned the “reality” of any other realm than that accessible to physics and chemistry. These reductionist methods contradict the most basic elements of simple logic. Can an essentially careless universe produce beings whose most admirable attribute is their propensity to care? Can a radically impersonal arranging and rearranging of molecules produce persons? Can a non-purposive movement of matter eventuate in beings whose very vitality depends upon their being animated by purpose?
In materialistic philosophy, “higher order” is an aggregate, and it cannot be said to be of greater complexity than its constituents. But the author proposes that in evolutionary development the higher-level order must have been contained in some sense in the lower-level constituent(s). Thus when higher levels of order exhibit properties not belonging to their lower-level constituents, the correct inference is not that something has been added to the lower-level constituents but, rather, that they exhibit different properties when they organize the higher-level order.
The degrees of freedom in the hierarchy increase with ascending order, and each upward shift of attention to higher levels, each handing over of decision to higher echelons, is accompanied by the experience of free choice. But is it merely a subjective experience? The author thinks not, since freedom cannot be defined in absolute, only in relative, terms, as freedom from some specific constraint.
Science formulates the laws binding one component to another without explicit consideration of the overall sequence of cosmic components or events. Perhaps our universe is closer to an embodiment of "intelligence" than we have been accustomed to think.
The character of religious models is in several respects similar to that of scientific models. There are also differences.
The two hardest tasks of all for humanity seem to be: 1) the international political and economic one of managing the world, and 2) reforming religion. These two areas illustrate the need to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.
Twentieth-century physics has some important epistemological implications and some modest metaphysical ones. The downfall of classical realism is described. In its place, some interpreters have defended instrumentalism, but the author advocates a critical realism.
The author discusses the similarities and differences between the insights of Bernhard Rensch, Sewall Wright, and Charles Hartshorne, from a Whiteheadian point of view.
Within a theistic framework it is not surprising that there is intelligent life on earth; we can see here the work of a purposeful Creator. Theistic belief makes sense of this datum and a variety of other kinds of human experience, even if it offers no conclusive proof. We still ask: Why is there anything at all? Why are things the way they are?
Possible parallels exist between the role of models in twentieth century physics and religious thought. Can one continue to employ two very different models within either science or religion? Can an electron be thought of as both a wave and a particle? Can one use both personal and impersonal models of Ultimate Reality? An extended discussion includes Paul Tillich’s use of personal and impersonal symbols.
Human beings can change, though their response to change varies greatly from one person to another. On a grand scale societies have responded to change in major ways, but large cultural changes require a deliberate reorientation in consciousness at the grassroots level.
Extraneous causation is a legitimate notion. It is not a vitalistic ploy but instead an indispensable explanatory idea, though not one capable of scientific verification.
From the very limited vantage point that each of us occupies within the emerging universe, discord often seems to be dominant over harmony. We are often even inclined to take our individual experiences of tragedy as the key to the whole universe. However, the aesthetic model of cosmic purpose suggests that our own experiences may be lacking in perspective. There is perhaps a perspective on the universe that we do not ourselves have, but which would be able to unify into an aesthetic whole even those contradictions and absurdities that we deem most insurmountable. The author thinks the word “God” may in part be understood as pointing to such a perspective.
Reductive determinism mistakenly holds the view that when prediction of behavior and thought is not possible, this is because of the complexity of the determining factors rather than because of indeterminacy or freedom.
The author proposes a solution to the dilemma of considering the beginning of the evolutionary process as, on one end, depending on nothing but atoms, forces and physicochemical factors, and the other end, as involving something of a totally different character we call ‘mind.’
If we approach science from the Whiteheadian point of view, the fortress which the anti-scientists will have to attack is not what they think it is, and may be capable of mounting a rather devastating counter-attack.
We are estranged in four ways: from self; from others, from nature and from God. The restoration of a right relationship which has been corrupted is salvation or healing. It is the meaning of atonement.
Arguments for the "chance" hypothesis as well as that of "design." The issue of chance and purpose brings us to the question of the plausibility of hierarchical thinking. Would the fact of chance rule out the religious vision that the cosmos abides within the caring and ultimately meaningful environment of a loving God?
From the sixteenth through the eighteenth century, philosophy and science developed in close connection. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries they have become quite separate. The disciplines of cosmology and philosophy of nature have fallen between the stools. Alfred North Whitehead is the major twentieth-century exception to this breakdown of an ancient and fruitful relation. C.H. Waddington believes that scientific thought is “just about now beginning to catch up with the first phase of Whitehead’s thought,” and that science will proceed in the general direction Whitehead moved in his later work. The editors believe that the advance of science can be facilitated by an ongoing discussion with Whitehead’s philosophy of nature, and hope that more philosophers and scientists will join in the discussion.
The contingency of existence and of boundary conditions is consistent with the meaning of ex nihilo, while the contingency of laws and of events is consistent with the idea of continuing creation. Theism does provide grounds for the combination of contingent order and intelligibility that the scientific enterprise presupposes, though these are limit-questions that do not arise in the daily work of the scientist.
All data are theory-laden. Comprehensive theories are highly resistant to falsification, and there are no rules for choice between research programmes. Three assertions are essential for objectivity in science: 1. Rival theories are incommensurable; 2. Observation exerts some control over theories; 3. There are criteria of assessment independent of particular research programmes.
The universe, if it is to become intelligible to us today, actually requires a religious interpretation.
The most complex machine will not exhibit any purposiveness, yet the determinist and the teleological arguments are intertwined into the very roots of nature. Self-conscience human purpose is found in the higher orders, thus the author opposes a reductionist interpretation of emergent novelties.
Had God not lured the world on to the creation of beings with the capacity for conscious, rational self-determination, the distinctively human forms of evil on our planet would not occur. We risk suffering that we might have a shot at intense enjoyment.
What biology and the biblical tradition have to say about human nature. The basic question is whether evolutionary biology and biblical religion are consistent in their views of human nature.
A discussion of the influence of theory on observation, the debate over the falsifiability of religious beliefs compared with falsifiability in science, the role of commitment to religious paradigms, the problem of transcendence and the status of metaphysics, and the criteria of assessment and their limitations.
The possibility of purpose in the universe may be understood in terms of a hierarchical conception of the cosmos.
An aesthetic perspective on the cosmos is better able to support the religious view that all is ultimately cared for than are the usually employed ethical criteria for evaluating things.
Process philosophy has developed a systematic metaphysics that is consistent with the evolutionary, many-leveled view of nature. Here are developed ways in which Whitehead applies various categories to diverse entities in the world — from particles to persons — and an evaluation of the adequacy of process philosophy from the viewpoint of science.
The author discusses several models of God, particularly two which have recently been developed under the influence of philosophical thought — the agent model and the process model.
The author suggests implications of critical realism for the academic study of religion and for the encounter of world religions, as well as for personal religious faith.
Ways in which God’s action in the natural order is currently portrayed and an evaluation of these interpretations in the light of previous conclusions, including an exploration of several answers to these questions within the Christian tradition.
In God’s feeling of the world the uniqueness and individuality of each aspect of reality is preserved as such. The universality of the aesthetic purposiveness of the cosmos does not diminish the value of each individual occasion by allowing it to be dissolved into the totality.
It is difficult to understand those philosophers who hold that the individual’s life can have meaning even if the universe as a whole is void of purpose. In order to entertain the hypothesis that there is cosmic purpose one must assume that nature and mind are somehow interwoven.
Twenty million copies of Chariots of the Gods? (Bantam, 1968) have been sold, and its author, the young Swiss Erich von Däniken, is campaigning aggressively for converts to ‘his thesis that our earth was visited by interstellar travelers between 40,000 and 500 BC. He sanctioned "In Search of Ancient Astronauts," the TV travelogue that has …
We would be overburdening science’s limited methodological possibilities were we to expect it to set forth any statements concerning natures purpose. In addition, we tend to carry around ridiculously outworn pictures of nature that resist not only teleological interpretations but even the insights of contemporary science.
BOOK REVIEW Belief in God in an Age of Science. By John Polkinghorne. Yale University Press, 160 pp., $18.00. I was living in Cambridge, England, in 1978-79 when the acclaimed physicist John Polkinghorne, a fellow of the Royal Academy, decided to leave the research lab and become an Anglican priest. Given the longstanding notion that …
There are religions which can and do ignore developments in the world of science and technology, but Christianity does not happen to be one of them. Certainly there have always been those Christians who have understood their faith solely in spiritual or personal terms, who have thought of Christianity as the guardian of eternal truths …
In both cases realism and even honesty were overshadowed by our desire for unbridled movement onward in a quest for success and publicity. Neither Baby Fae’s parents nor the public were adequately informed of the double-barreled danger of host-graft rejection and organ destruction from medication. Neither Schroeder nor the public were adequately informed of the …
Three basic positions on the relationship between science and theology have emerged in the modern era. Antitheological scientism is at one pole and antiscientific creationism is at the other. An outstanding example of one who held the former position is French philosopher Auguste Comte, who lived in the early 19th century. History shows, he claimed, …
While controversies over evolution continue to arise in some sectors of American Christianity, most mainline Christians have made their peace with Darwin. We may not grasp all the nuances of the scientific debate, but we have concluded that evolutionary theory is good science and therefore must be compatible with good theology. Darwin’s name doesn’t send …
The Humanizing Brain: Where Religion and Neuroscience Meet. By James B. Ashbrook and Carol Rausch Albright. Pilgrim, 233 pp., $20.95. In late 1997, an unusual story about the discovery of a "God-spot" in the brain began to appear in newspapers and newsmagazines. In a series of tests, epileptic patients with heightened brain activity in the …
Our universe is not without purpose and there is absolutely nothing in the scientific approach that contradicts the essence of a religious interpretation of reality. Instead there is much in scientific discovery and speculation that may help us to understand religion in a new and adventurous way.
This book represents a challenge to the orthodox cosmography that underlies current thought — that nature is inherently recalcitrant to purpose of any sort.
The thesis of this book is that there is a credible alternative to the materialistic worldview and a credible alternative to the traditional concept of God.
For you created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb [Ps. 139:13]. These lines are reminiscent of a rather quaint natural theology. But there are rustlings offstage as a cast of scientists discreetly parts the curtains to reveal some stunning new implications for natural theology. Over the past 40 …
(ENTIRE BOOK) A collection of essays by prominent physicists, biologists, geneticists, zoologists, philosophers and other thinkers about the relationship between science and philosophy, particularly the teleological versus the mechanistic explanation of the universe. Special emphasis is given to the writings of Alfred North Whitehead and Process Theology. Contributors include John Cobb, Jr., Theodosius Dobzhansky, Charles Hartshorne, and Arthur Koestler.
Janet Martin Soskice of Cambridge University has been at the forefront of a theological movement (largely inspired by Karl Barth) that asserts a renewed confidence in the intelligibility of theology. Her book Metaphor and Religious Language (Oxford University Press) argues for taking biblical metaphors seriously and for not translating them into some other idiom. She …
(ENTIRE BOOK) The author, a noted scientist, is concerned with the basic conceptual and methodological problems of religious language, and the influence of science upon these problems. Recent work in the philosophy of science has important implications for the philosophy of religion and for theology.
(ENTIRE BOOK) The author deals with the question: Do we carry out our projects on a stage that is blind, neutral and indifferent? Or do we have the “backing of the universe”? His answer is based Whitehead’s analysis. On one hand, religion represents, in a mythic and symbolic way, some of the qualitative data given to us in primary perception (intuition). Science, on the other hand, seeks to express correlations among the objects sensed through secondary perception (observation). Neither necessarily contradicts the other.
One common way of thinking about the relation of religion and science is to say that these are two different kinds of investigations that talk about different things: science tells us how the world is, religion tells us why it is that way or what it means. Or: science tells us about creation, but not …
The conceptual framework of this book is influenced especially by the writings of Alfred North Whitehead, Michael Polanyi and their followers. My purpose, however, is not primarily to give an exposition of their thought, but rather to address central issues in science and religion. I have at times employed the ideas and terminology of these …
These papers come from a conference held in Bellagio, Italy in June, 1974. The hope underlying the conference was that, if aspects of Whitehead’s form of process philosophy were effectively communicated to scientists who in turn could help philosophers understand the nature of their current problems, both philosophers and scientists would benefit. Although communication between the two communities is far from easy, this volume suggests that it is possible and that, when it occurs, it is mutually fructifying.
What is the place of religion in an age of science? How can one believe in God today? What view of God is consistent with the scientific understanding of the world? My goals are to explore the place of religion in an age of science and to present an interpretation of Christianity that is responsive to both the historical tradition and contemporary science.
Whitehead, Hartshorne and Cobb have shown the author the connection between science and compassion for human nature.
References Adams, Chris (1989 September 11) ‘AIDS and changing realities’ Christianity arid Crisis pp. 257-9. Anon, (1991) ‘Measuring human development’ South Letter of the South Centre. 11 18-9. Barr, James (1975) Fundamentalism. London: SCM Press, Barr, James (1984) Escaping from Fundamentalism. London: SCM Press. Bartlett, Robert (1991) ‘Witch hunting’ New York Review of Books 38 …
(ENTIRE BOOK) Only the rebirth of compassion — for ourselves, for each other, for the planet — has the power to enrich and heal our ecologically fragile world reeling from human greed and exploitation. The author brings together science and process theology to make the connections.
(ENTIRE BOOK) An excellent and readable summary of the role of religion in an age of science. Barbour’s Gifford Lectures — the expression of a lifetime of scholarship and deep personal conviction and insight — including a clear and helpful analysis of process theology.
Like many other pastors, I received a formal education that was rich in the humanities and spiced a bit by the social sciences — particularly the subjects related to the helping professions. But the natural sciences were, like green vegetables, endured in small helpings and seldom savored. Indeed, I suspect that most pastors have only …
Chris Mooney has written a stinging indictment of the Republican Party’s attitudes toward science, focusing particularly on the manipulative and dismissive thinking and policies of the current administration. Even if only a part of what he says is true, he documents an appalling state of affairs. Although in terms of scientific know-how and capability the …
In the late 1960s, when Sir John Templeton laid the groundwork for a prize for progress in religion, esteem for religion took on a euphoria which invited dreams reminiscent at times of psychedelic delirium. The logic that led from the honest-to-God religion through a recycled process theology to the death-of-God religious studies unfolded itself with …
A genre of writing that fascinates some scholars and clergy consists of books and articles written by scientists who, venturing beyond what can be securely proved, present larger visions of the cosmos, life, the beginning and the end of all things, and the place of the human in the grand narrative. Scientists who write works …
Both astrophysicists and microphysicists have lately been discovering that the series of events that produced our universe had to happen in a rather precise way—at least, they had to happen that way if they were to produce life as we know it. Some might find this fact unremarkable. After all, we are here, and it …
Near the end of PBS’s recent series The Human Quest, we look over a Southwestern Chaco Canyon landscape that contains the ruins of the extinct civilization of the Anasazi while listening to Nobel physicist Murray Cell-Mann, director of the Santa Fe Institute, comment on this 12th-century culture as a failed adaptive system. As the camera …
(ENTIRE BOOK) Our universe is not without purpose and there is absolutely nothing in the scientific approach that contradicts the essence of a religious interpretation of reality. Instead there is much in scientific discovery and speculation that may help us to understand religion in a new and adventurous way.
Intelligent design is the theory that the universe is too complex a place to be accounted for by an appeal to natural selection and the random processes of evolution. Some kind of overarching intellect must have been at work in the design of the natural order. In principle, intelligent design is religion-neutral. The intelligent designer …
Creationist bills demanding equal time for a “creation model” of origins have been submitted to legislatures in more than 30 states. State boards of education, among them those in Texas and California. have been pressured to mandate as acceptable textbooks that include creationist materials. Local boards of education have also been targeted by creationists for …
Neuroscience research has established that the two hemispheres in the brain make different contributions to what we know and how we act, although complex activity requires the entire brain. Left-half cognition involves formal logic; it uses language to interpret what it observes in consistent ways. The left hemisphere’s analytic processing — item by item, step …