Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.
Todays world is beset with many crises that are calling us to rethink our patterns of living. Energy shortages, environmental overloads, population explosions, cries for a just redistribution of wealth—crises such as these are forcing a reevaluation of values, attitudes, social institutions, and political structures around the world. However, underlying these specific, important problems is a still more fundamental problem grounded in what all such crises have in common: They are contributing to an increasing rate of change and uncertainty in our daily personal and collective lives. In an age of rapid change and much uncertainty can we find for ourselves as human beings a meaningful place in the scheme of things? Can we be at home in the universe?
Our sense of personal meaning depends heavily on our belief that the world has an order to it and that we participate in that order. But how do we dance to the music of the spheres if the tune is constantly changing? Unpredictable changes brought about by the chance interaction of causal chains of events constantly disrupt the biological, social, and personal aspects of our lives. With delightful surprise we watch as male and female chains of DNA recombine in unpredictable ways to create new offspring. Yet a pregnant mothers taking drugs to help maintain her health can affect the phenotypic outcome in quite unexpected, even disastrous, ways. Similarly societies around the world, each carrying out its own good purposes, can impinge upon one another in unexpected ways, forcing sudden reshifting of priorities and emphases in carefully worked out foreign policies and domestic practices. Individual lives too are constantly subject to chance: Our day begins well planned in our minds, but the plans are disrupted time and again by unexpected interactions with others who are simply attempting to carry out their own plans. Living with others means having to adapt continually to the unexpected that causally affects our destinies. What meaning can we find in such a world governed by chance and necessity?
The problems which have haunted the twentieth century and which darken the future of our species have their roots, according to many commentators, in the general dysfunction of our moral and religious traditions, our spiritual life. We have no real sense of obligation to the future, they say; we have lost our will to self-discipline; we do not have the flexibility to survive the avalanche of economic and political crises ahead.¹ This dysfunction is not commonly perceived directly; it more often appears as a feeling of something missing, alienation, concern about the future. Analyses of the host of problems it has caused fill many books, but the root itself rarely is analyzed perhaps because it seems secure against solution or because it is considered to be something belonging to the past without relevance in this rational age.
This brief sketch outlines the core ideas necessary for an effort to revitalize our spiritual life and reactivate our ethical sense. It claims to be a real, rational, democratic, objective, and simple solution. It is not all new, and it promises no rapid or easy social transformation; even unprecedented effort applied over many generations may have no positive effect since the human being has, in addition to his commanding wisdom, an ineradicable instinct for ignoring the plain and obvious. …
¹ Robert L. Heilbroner, An Inquiry into the Human Prospect (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1974).
Robert T. Hemphill works in physics and computer technology. His home address: 311 North Summit Avenue, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20760.
There is an element of necessity in the universe, the givenness, from our point of view, of certain of its basic features: the fundamental constants, the nature of the fundamental particles (and so of atoms, and so of molecules, and so of complex organizations of molecules), the physical laws of the interrelation of matter, energy, space, and time. We are in the position, as it were, of the audience before the pianist begins his extemporizations—there is the instrument, there is the range of available notes, but what tune is to be played and on what principle and in what forms is it to be developed? …
A. R. Peacocke is dean, Clare College, Cambridge CB2 1TL, England.
Objections to the theory of evolution stemming from apparent conflict with religious beliefs seem to be of two types. One is that of the biblical fundamentalists who advocate a literal interpretation of the account of primordial events given in Genesis. This approach of course results in contradictions with a number of facets of evolutionary theory. Perhaps the most serious of these is the question of the time that has elapsed between the appearance of the first living forms and the appearance of modern man, which ranges from the order of days in the fundamentalist approach to eons in the evolutionary scheme. The other objection to evolutionary theory, however, is not concerned with the account in Genesis but rather with the general religious-philosophical question of the existence of purpose in the evolutionary process (which can be interpreted as implying direction by a supreme intelligence) versus a randomly occurring, accidental sequence of events. This problem, which transcends questions of biblical interpretation or even of divine origin of the bible, is the subject of this paper. …
Malcolm E. Schrader is senior scientist, David M. Taylor Naval Ship Research and Development Center, Annapolis, Maryland 21402.
The basic problem that faces us in the relations between theological science and natural science has to do with a paradox in the heart of natural science itself. The understanding of the contingent nature of the cosmos, upon which all empirico-theoretical inquiry rests, derives not from natural science but from Judeo-Christian theology, that is, from the doctrine of God as Creator of the orderly universe, who brought it into existence out of nothing and who continuously preserves it from lapsing back into chaos and nothingness. Nevertheless scientific investigation of this created order, in accordance with its distinctive nature, must be pursued without reference to God or recourse to theological reasoning.
Natural science assumes the contingence as well as the orderliness of the universe. If there were no order in the universe it would not be accessible to scientific knowledge; if the universe were not characterized by contingence, the laws of nature would be derived from it immediately and necessarily through logico-deductive processes without experimental questioning of nature, which would make empirical science quite pointless. …
T. F. Torrance is the very reverend emeritus professor of Christian dogmatics, New College, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Complementarity of Religion and Science: A Trialogue by Max Rudolf Lemberg
Max Rudolf Lemberg, who died in 1975, was a distinguished biochemist, fellow of the Royal Society, foundation fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, nature lover, and Quaker. At his death he was director of the Institute for Medical Research, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia. This article consists of the completed chapters of a planned larger work.
Meaning and Change by Roland Robertson, reviewed by Karl H. Hertz