Our Story in the Stars Origins and a Conversation between Science and Religion
Some thoughts... • Look up at the night-time sky and then ponder “These are the same stars that your great-great-great-grandmother saw in 1850” but ... are you seeing the same “thing”?
Some thoughts... • Has Science transformed the way in which we “see” • creation? • each other? • God?
Transforming Visionaries... • After tonight’s talk, and if its clear, look in the eastern sky. Jupiter and Saturn beckon.
Look above Jupiter and Saturn, you might see a small, dipper-like asterism...
Look in he constellation Andromeda - do you see a fuzzy patch?
With a small telescope • with a small telescope • and a thin book thin book
Nature and Nature's Laws lay hid in night: God said: "Let Newton be! and all was light. Newton...
Newton’s successors and a radically changing vision... theism deism atheism
Our Cosmic Journey begins... William and Caroline Herschel
Good Theory - Weak MYTH • Myth: a story that you tell knowing that it is not true (a-historical) • MYTH: a story that you tell that is intended to convey deep truths and convictions. It is neither historical or anti-historical (from Northrop Frye)
Taking stock...Backgrounding Science • it is historically and culturally delimited • it makes - a priori metaphysical and epistemological assertions about the natural world • it is socially situated
Some Metaphysical and Epistemological Assumptions about the Natural World • Simplicity • Mathematical Nature of Reality - Beauty and Elegance • Foundationalism • Materialism • “The Cosmos, all that is or ever was or ever will be”. Cosmos, 1980
Ways of Relating Science and Religion • Conflict • Independence • Dialogue • Integration
The atheism of Laplace • The collision between “evolutionists” and “creationists” • The strident attacks of Richard Dawkins and others Conflict
Quotables ... “We are survival machines - robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene “I think ... that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate. Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion.” Richard Dawkins, Humanist in Canada, Winter 1999 “Man knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance” Jaques Monod, Chance and Necessity
Worldviews in Collision “Science and Religion are diametrically opposed at their deepest philosophical levels. And because the two worldviews make claims to the same intellectual territory - that of the origin of the universe and humankind’s relationship to it - conflict is inevitable” The Humanist, (May-June, 1986),. 26. Conflict
Scientific Materialism • science is the only reliable path to knowledge • matter and energy are the fundamental entities of the universe. Conflict
the struggle between scientific materialism and biblical literalism is like a fight between a Boa Constrictor and a Wart Hog. Each tries to swallow the other whole. The fight can be avoided if they occupy different territories or if they pursue more appropriate diets! Ian Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science Conflict
In “the end, science as we know it has two basic types of practitioners. One is the educated man who still has a controlled sense of wonder before the universal mystery, whether it hides in a snail's eye or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ. The second kind of observer is the extreme reductionist who is so busy stripping things apart that the tremendous mystery has been reduced to a trifle, to intangibles not worth troubling one's head about. The world of secondary qualities - colour, sound, thought is reduced to illusion. The only true reality becomes the chill void of ever streaming particles.” Loren Eiseley, "Science and the Sense of the Holy"
Independence... • science and religion occupy completely separate territory. As soon as a physicist realizes that her “language” is not the same as a theologian’s “language” the conflict evaporates and they can become civil once again! It was all a big misunderstanding.
Dialogue and Integration • science and religion make potentially overlapping claims but the claims can refer to complimentary aspects of the same reality.
Reductionist methodolgies have proven extremely useful in understanding some aspects of natural phenomena but can reductionism function as the sole method of acquiring useful knowledge. • Is it necessarily true that all complex phenomena can be understood in terms of simpler underlying parts or does complexity impose its own top-down structure that is not reducible? Dialogue and Integration
The Durability of Religious Belief • many scientists maintain a belief in a personal God and participation in a religious community • religion exists and is practised in all cultures • religion is a “real” phenomenon in as much as it can be studied historically, anthropologically, sociologically .... • religion contains objective practices and ideas
How Science Informs Religion • Lessons of physics and the shift from naive realist to critical realist positions has led to the realisation that reality is “seen through a glass darkly”. This challenges us to begin to understand the extent to which a particular religion (Christianity, Islam, etc) is a model about God and our relationship to God. • The laws of nature challenge our understanding of how God acts within the universe (the problem of divine action and primary and secondary causes)
How Religion Informs/Transforms Modern Science · Religion provides a the corrective lens to re-focus scientific questions and concerns to human ends. · Religion challenges science to be aware of its metaphysical underpinnings and structural limitations
Contrasting Creation MYTHS • The secular, evolutionist MYTH is ultimately empty. It places us in a vast universe, alone and utterly insignificant - a mere speck in a meaningless universe ....but!
The Christian Creation MYTH • Conveys a deep truth about humanity... • Despite our seeming insignificance we nonetheless bear the imprint of the DIVINE • We have significance through our relationship with the God of the Cosmos
When I look at Your heavens, • the work of Your fingers • The moon and the stars that you have established; • What are human beings that You are mindful of them, mortals that You care for them? • Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with Your glory and honor! Psalm 8 (NRSV)