Beyond my career in science, I have a long-standing interest in history, philosophy, language, theology, and how these interact in culture and the arts. This Personal section will link to themes along these lines in my writing and that of others.
Let me be clear from the start: to my mind the intelligible order of the cosmos that science actually knows makes more sense within a theistic framework than within an a-theistic one. I have known many scientists with whom I share such an understanding. I do not hesitate to acknowledge that I seek to follow the way marked out by Jesus Christ. It is a path that must be walked with others who have gone before to lighten the way. Such a path must seek honesty and humility with a spirit of respect and openness. It beckons us to see, as the great poet Dante so eloquently put it in his Paradiso, “all the scattered leaves of the universe bound together in one volume by love.” Such an all-encompassing vision is not inconsistent with what science knows about the world and humanity, whether it be from astrophysics or neuroscience. Since one can not un-see what one has seen, my writing can not help but be informed by this theistic vision.
The great physicist Richard Feynman told in a 1963 talk how greatly he admired Christian ethics–the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all people, the value of the individual. To him it complemented the scientific spirit of adventure as a great heritage of our civilization. Feynman was honest enough to say that he did not see how to put “science” and “religion” together. But he posed a question to his listeners to find the inspiration to do so. You can read about what he said in my post on “The Feynman challenge.”
To take up such a challenge is to seek the kind of wisdom that can energize an entire civilization. It points us to the ancient philosophical puzzle of being: what is, and why? How do we understand the one and the many: is there a principle of unity that underlies the vast diversity of the many individual things we encounter in the universe, including ourselves? What does it mean to be human? Why is science even possible in the first place? No “science” can answer this question. Could Christ have anything to do with it? Does Dante’s poetry give a hint in the right direction?
The following links take you to writing or teaching I have done that relate to science, philosophy and theology:
I highlight a few articles here:
- Just what is science, after all? Thoughts from Aristotle, Feynman, and Origen.
- Word and Fire: Thoughts about Big Bang cosmology, stellar nucleosynthesis, quantum chemistry, and life as we know it
- Time and Eternity: a perspective on the science of time with Christ as the fundamental analogy for seeing the relation between God and the world.
- Can wonder ever end? The wealth and poverty of a child illuminates the wonder that animates philosophical thinking (prompted by an essay by philosopher Ferdinand Ulrich).
- Beyond conflict: science, culture, and Christ, for The Telos Collective: Dare we think that we can have a Instauratio Magna (“Great Renewal,” Sir Francis Bacon, 1620) of the human imagination for our time centered on a better logic than Bacon’s?
- My introduction and talk, “Renewing the Christian Imagination,” for the “God, Science, and Humanity” conference, Feb. 10, 2018.
- The previous talk, and the following two articles, deal with the classic understanding of creation ex nihilo in Thomas Aquinas, which is radically different from the simplistic notions of “creationism” one finds in contemporary culture wars. One can affirm both creation ex nihilo and a cosmos with an evolutionary developmental order in space and time.
It is important to say things positively and precisely. The various essays above have attempted to do so, perhaps with too many words, but with an occasional poetic flair. Yet positivity can hide apophatic depth. It may be that only poetry–words at play, living words–can best summon the Real from its place of hiding, allowing our fullest participation in the gift of being.
Consequently, I have added a Poetry section, with my own as well as those of others.
There is much more I wish to say on these themes and more, so these lists will grow.