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February 24, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Quotes from “Questions of Truth: Fifty-One Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief” by Polkinghonre and Beale

Short review: this is reasonably well written. It seems in some spots like the historical Jesus or the issue of suffering, he doesn’t do as good a job of answering some questions as others do (for instance CS Lewis, Craig, and Lee Strobel–or even “The Ten Most Common Objections to Christianity” or Josh McDowell or Tim Keller seem to offer more direct answers). He does do a decent job speaking to the issue of quantum physics and a short section of evolution. Others should know that he is an old earth creationist (probably a progressive evolutionist). He cites several Christians who agreed with his view (Mendel, Fischer, Dobzhansky, along with contemporaries like Simon Conway Morris and Martin Nowak.). It feels like he does a mediocre job of answering the questions (for instance the three Appendixes are decent in this regard and the bibliography is pretty extensive)–rather than really knocking 4 or 5 out of the park. If you are going to read this book, I suggest getting it on inter-library loan rather than purchasing via Amazon.

“There is a vast, yawning gap, which no one currently knows how to bridge, between talk of neural firings, however sophisticated and interesting that may be, and the simplest of mental experiences, such as seeing red or feeling hungry….In fact, it is possible that conciousness will never be fully understandable by scientific methods. Pretty well everything else that science investigates, from atoms to live, can be treated as external and approached from outside of itself. That is not true of conciousness, which is intrinsically private and internal.” (p. 11)

Polkinghonre and Beale

“The presence of God is veiled because, when you think about it, the naked presence of divinity would overwhelm finite creatures, depriving them of the possibility of truly being themselves and freely accepting God.” (p. 11)

Polkinghonre and Beale

“If I am always setting traps to see if you are my friend, I shall soon destroy the possibility of friendship between us. That relationship has to be experienced through trusting, not through testing. If this is true of human persons, it is scarcely surprising that it is also true of relationship with the transpersonal reality God.”

Polkinghonre and Beale

“Yet the rational transparency and beauty of the universe are surely too remarkable to be treated as just happy accidents. Belief in God can make all this intelligible, for it sees the deeper order of the world–a world shot through with signs of mind, and might say–as being indeed a reflection of the truth that the mind of the Creator is revealed this way. Science is then understood to be possible because the universe is a creation and we are creatures made in the image of the Creator.” (p. 12)

Polkinghonre and Beale

“Moving away from science, there are further indications of the veiled pressence of God if we are prepared to look for them. We have moral knowledge that assures us that love is better than hate, truth is better than lie. Where does this come from? The religious person can understand our ethical intuitions to be intimations of God’s good and perfect will. Similarly our aesthetic experience of encounter with deep beauty can be understood a sharing in the Creation’s joy in creation. There is widespread human testimony to a meeting with a dimension of reality that can only be described as an encounter with the sacred.” (p.14)

Polkinghonre and Beale

“Given that we allow physicists to invoke entities whose nature they can approach only via such indirect means…it seems hard to deny in advnace to the religious adherent any similar right to speak of a divine reality that transcends the resources of directly descriptive language.” John Cottingham, The Spiritual Dimension, p. 29

“Machines, even the most beautiful and elegant, are only a small fraction of the universe. But the whole of the universe is teeming with matter and energy–dark and otherwise–and its amazingly finely tuned to carry within it the potential for intelligent life. Behind this, some see nothing: other discern a mind, and the love, of God.” (p. 98)

Polkinghonre and Beale

“But pretty well every competent physicist who has looked into this finds these coincidences remarkable…And remember, there is no known reason, other than the emergence of intelligent life, why these constants should be related.” (p. 101 to 102) referring to the 6 main constants of fine tuning

“If you are allowed to posit 10 to the 500th other universes to explain away otherwise inconvienient observation, you can ‘explain away’ anything, and science becomes impossible. This is not to say that multiverse ideas are necessarily wrong–Gods creation is amazing and full of surprises.” (p.105).

Polkinghonre and Beale

“Consider an artists who makes a hundred drawings. There is a fire, and all but one is destroyed. Then the probability of the existence of a given drawing is 1 percent, but the probability of the existence of the artist is 100 percent. As so often in philosophy, it is much easier to see that something is false, than to know that it is true.” (p. 116)

Polkinghonre and Beale

“The idea that nothing can happen unless its reason is scientifically understood is a pernicious falsehood. For example, superconductivity was discovered in 1911 and not scientifically explained until 1962.” (p. 177).

Polkinghonre and Beale

“Much of our thinking about the world has been misinformed by metaphors drawn from the world of machines…[M]ost of the real world are composed of systems that are cloud-like and inherently unpredictable, rather than clocklike.” (p. 126).

Polkinghonre and Beale

“Genes do nothing on their own, and at every level of biology there are feedback loops between “higher” and “lower” levels so that the behaviour of the system as a whole cannot be reduced to any of the levels. In addition, the fact that human intervention can change genetic makeup is now very salient.” (p. 149).

Polkinghonre and Beale

“Cooperation lies at the heart of most phenomena of interest–certainly including science. So perhaps when Christians affirm that cooperation, it its highest form of unselfish love, lies at the heart of the universe itself, this is another respect in which science and theology can find an unexpected kinship.” (p. 154).

Polkinghonre and Beale

Other books on this topic:
Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship

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