The desperate need of our time is for a faith that can direct mans commitment to the creative source of human good as it works in the temporal world, open to rational-empirical search and to service by modern technology.
Henry Nelson Wieman
It is well understood by many people how a scientifically informed technology affects the lives of all of us, both in terms of the benefits it has created and the problems to which it has led. What is not so well understood, however, is the impact of scientific theory on our ways of understanding the world and ourselves and of scientific method on our ways of testing the validity of our understandings. While a scientifically informed technology has contributed to a new set of ethical issues, such as questions concerning abortion, euthanasia, population control, and environmental planning, the impact of scientific theory and method has reopened perennial questions of meaning such as what humanitys place is in the scheme of things, what fundamental purposes all humans should be seeking to fulfill, and how we come to know our place and purpose. In other words, technology tends to direct us to specific questions calling for ethical decisions, but the new theories of science and the methods through which those theories are established generally prompt us to ask religious questions.
Both types of questions are important. However, while not ignoring the good work that currently is addressing specific ethical issues, Zygons concern has been to consider sciences implications for broader, more fundamental questions of human meaning, purpose, and destiny. It has been Zygons concern to do this partly because the resolution of difficult, concrete ethical questions can come only when there are some shared understandings not only of the facts of the situation and the consequences of various courses of action but also of human purpose and destiny according to which the facts can be interpreted and the consequences evaluated.
Science is a word that worries me. Like the word art, it shows signs of wear. It has been used for too many things. Many of us, I suspect, especially when we go to galleries of modern art, have misgivings about the meaning of art. I often feel the same way about science. Advertisements reassure us that some toothpaste or patent medicine has been tested scientifically, or we are told that scientists have discovered this or that, the origin of the universe or how to grow bigger tomatoes, the public image of a scientist being a man in a white coat standing beside a computer. I often wonder what we mean by science.
To those who are not working scientists let me say that science, like religion, needs to be lived. It is easy to present the body of science without the spirit, to show the dry bones without the sense of excitement, of community and progress, and of the dedication which science inspires in so many of her followers. …
R. Hanbury Brown is professor, Chatterton Astronomy Department, School of Physics, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
Science and Religion: Athens and Jerusalem in Dialogue about Athens Salvation by Philip Hefner
My comments here are framed by a dialogue between Athens, representing contemporary science, and Jerusalem, standing for Christian theology. The three sections of the presentation correspond, first, to Athens telling Jerusalem what Athens itself conceives is essential for its salvation, that is, for Athens own salvation. The second section consists of Jerusalems own reflections upon the implications of Athens testimony for the Jerusalemic understanding of Athens condition and possible salvation. The third section presents Jerusalems further reflections upon the consequences of setting the first two perspectives alongside each other.
Thus it should be clear that I am not speaking of a genuine dialogue between Athens and Jerusalem. Rather I am lifting for consideration what I believe is the actual course of the conversation between science and religion. Athens speaks its mind about what it believes it sees concerning its own salvation, whereupon Jerusalem turns the Athenian testimony to quite another purpose, namely, that of informing the indigenous theological tradition of Jerusalem. Finally, recognizing what it has done, theology reflects upon what Athens has told us and upon its own transformation of that testimony into God talk. …
Philip Hefner is professor of systematic theology at the Lutheran School of Theology, 1100 East 55th Street; Chicago, Illinois 60615.
Science and the Baháí Faith by William S. Hatcher
Part of the difficulty involved in attempts to understand and clarify the relationship between religion and science is that the nature of religion seems much less clearly defined than that of science. Is religion primarily a cognitive activity like science, or is it more akin to an aesthetic or emotional experience? If religion is seen as primarily cognitive, then the main problem seems to be that of reconciling the application of scientific method to religion. In particular it is often felt that this is difficult to do without falsifying either the nature of scientific method or else the global, subjective, mystic character of religion. On the other hand, viewing religion as primarily noncognitive appears ultimately to relegate religion to an unacceptably secondary and inferior status in the range of human activities. It becomes very difficult to attribute any objective content to religious belief and to religious moral imperatives. These latter are seen at best to be expressions of various subjective, emotional, essentially irrational (and perhaps illegitimate and illusory) yearnings and desires on the part of a more or less general segment of mankind. …
William S. Hatcher is professeur titulaire, Département de mathématiques, Faculté des sciences et de génie, Université Laval, Cité universitaire, Québec, Canada G1K 7P4.
Albert Einstein: The Methodological Unity Underlying Science and Religion by Roy D. Morrison II
Strange is our situation here upon the earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose.¹
These are the opening words of Albert Einsteins credo. They reflect a philosophical and religious perspective that is different from that of classical Christianity and from those Western philosophies of history which it has influenced significantly. For Saint Paul and for Saint Augustine our situation on earth was unfortunate, but it was not strange. We knew exactly why we were here. Our aim was to achieve eternal life in another world or through miraculous transformation by worshipping and by obeying the supernatural, theistic god of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In the Genesis account of creation, in Thomas Aquinas, and in Georg W. F. Hegel, history and the human situation are dramatized. There is a beginning, a middle development, and a cosmic or ontological culmination. Behind the scenes and more or less inscrutable to humans there is a divine person or a divine principle that rationally and purposefully determines the course of history. Individual humans discover their ultimate purpose by faithfully and properly subscribing to the allegedly revealed purpose. The intent of the various dramatizing enterprises is to satisfy a typology, a cluster of potential needs that have been carefully, perhaps neurotically, cultivated in the consciousness of the Western world.² …
¹ Albert Einstein, Credo, in Living Philosophies: A Series of Intimate Credos, ed. Henry Goddard Leach (New York: Simon & Schuster. 1931), p. 3.
² In the twelfth century Joachim of Fiore used the Christian symbols of the trinity to develop a speculative doctrine of history and eschatology. See the critical discussion in Eric Voeglin, The New Science of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952). Concerning gnosticism and the nonrecognition of reality as a matter of principle see pp. 167-73. See also Paul Tillich, The Future of Religions (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), pp. 66-77.
Roy D. Morrison II is professor of philosophical theology and black philosophy of culture and religion, Wesley Theological Seminary, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016.
While best known for his scientific genius, Albert Einstein had diverse interests, including a concern for understanding the role of religion in an age of science. According to him science is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization.¹ By contrast religion deals with the moral, ethical, and emotional life of individuals.² Religion, unlike science, is not a function of the conceptual creation of individual persons. As Einstein explains in his essay Science and Religion, … mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of men.³ Consequently his position represents a, two-spheres approach to science and religion.
However, this neat compartmentalization of science and religion breaks down when Einstein addresses the question of God. At this point in his thought the otherwise distinct spheres overlap in both positive and negative ways. On the positive side belief in the existence of God is correlated with the rationality of the universe. On the negative side belief in the existence of God contradicts the absoluteness of causality. The first part of this paper provides an exposition of Einsteins views concerning belief in the existence of God. The second part provides a critical evaluation of his approach to the science-religion issue in the context of contemporary thought which has been shaped in part by his revolutionary ideas. …
¹ Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years (reprint ed., 1950; Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1973), p. 24.
² This is consistent with Immanuel Kants division of science and religion, in which the domain of science is confined to the phenomenal realm and religion to mans moral life.
³ Einstein, p. 22.
Dean R. Fowler is assistant professor of theology, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233.
The Coherence of Theism by Richard Swinburne, reviewed by Richard Schlegel