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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Polkinghorne Quotes #6: The Mutually Enriching Relationship between Faith and Science

The remarkable insights that science affords us into the intelligible workings of the world cry out for an explanation more profound than that which it itself can provide. Religion, if it is to take seriously its claim that the world is the creation of God, must be humble enough to learn from science what that world is actually like. The dialogue between them can only be mutually enriching. The scientist will find in theology a unifying principle more fundamental than the grandest unified field theory. The theologian will encounter in science’s account of the pattern and structure of the physical world a reality which calls forth admiration and wonder. Together they can say with the Psalmist: “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom thou hast made them all.

From Science and Creation, page 117

It may appear that evolutionary creationists are constantly defensive, defending our faith on the one hand, and our science on the other. But that is only because we live in a world that assumes there is an inherent conflict between faith and science. The most salient conflict may be whether or not conflict is necessary. When d├ętente is reached and dialogue occurs, that dialogue between faith and science “can only be mutually enriching”.

The converse is also true: avoidance of dialogue can hamper both faith and science. As Einstein put it: “Religion without science is blind. Science without religion is lame”. I disagree with the limitations Einstein imposes, particularly the claim that Religion is “blind” without science, but I do agree with the claim that faith and science can benefit each other. My own take on the relationship (both positive and negative) is as follows:
  1. Through faith we can experience an intimate relationship with the Creator, but science allows us to appreciate more fully the majesty of the Creator and the grandeur of creation.

  2. Through science we can acquire an intimate knowledge of the character of creation, but without knowledge of the Creator it is an incomplete knowledge, a knowledge that is limited and ultimately unsatisfying.

Other Polkinghorne Quotes: [Introduction] [Previous] [Next]


Cliff Martin said...

Thank you for this Polkinghorne quote series. I have appreciated each post.

I just finished reading Relics of Eden by Daniel Fairbanks (due to arrive in Canada sometime in the Spring!). His last chapter is entitled "Abandoning the Dichotomy". The dichotomy he refers to is that which has been fabricated and sustained both by the materialist claim that evolution disproves a Creator God, and by the fundamentalist claim that evolution is irreconcilable with historic Christianity. Fairbanks is pleading for this very false dichotomy to be abandoned by all sides.

You will enjoy this book. The knowledge base currently being built by DNA science has gone well beyond establishing common decent to providing us with accurate time frames for the evolutionary tree and also for such things as the major human migrations across our planet. Amazing!

Anonymous said...

Very good post and I think that it is the best approach we can have with both sides. The problem is that, despite post-modernism, we are still in a Modern world in which science has been given the role of arbiter of all truth, but both theists and non-theists. Both sides agree that, for something to be TRUE, it must be scientifically discernable.

What we need to do is not expect science to incorporate the supernatural into it's matrix of analysis (as so many in the creationist/ID camp insist), but to simply recognize that science has the limited role of determining how the natural world works *naturally*. This, then, should be only one piece of evidence in the search for complete truth.

We have reassigned to science a bigger role than it can handle and, as a result, you have those on one side who stop at the answers it gives, and the other who insist that it give greater answers than it can.

Steve Martin said...

Thanks Cliff for the recommendation (although I it was on my list before from an earlier recommendation from you - or was it Gordon?)
Vance. Excellent comment. I've got nothing to add except amen.