REASON AND REALITY, The Relationship Between Science and Theology by John Polkinghorne. London, England: WBC Print Ltd, Bridgend, 1991. 119 pages, index, bibliography, notes. Paperback; L6.95. ISBN 0-281-04487-2.

Notes, February 2003, by John Burgeson. Much of these notes are partial quotations, often abridged and/or paraphrased.

Begin with "Go from the bottom upwards, not from the top downwards." Luther

Pg 1. Neither science nor theology can be pursued w/o a measure of intellectual daring, for neither is based on incontrovertible grounds of knowledge. Both can claim "critical realism." Each demands commitment to a corrigible point of view as necessary. Both must speak of entities not directly observable, therefore both must make use of models and metaphor.

JP distinguishes models from theories. Models are heuristic devices; theories are candidates for the verisimilitudinous description of what is actually the case. Therefore a variety of (possibly contradictory) models is tolerable - a theory demands that it be unique.

Pg 2. Theology is unlikely to achieve more than a collection of models, each usable with discretion.

Math is the language of science - symbol that of theology.

Biology is more than physics writ large.

Taking science seriously should not lead us to believe that the world is "nothing but" a collection of elementary particles.

Pg 3. Everyday reasonableness is seen not to be the measure of all things; the world has proved strange beyond our powers of anticipation.

Pg 4. Science and theology have this in common, that both are investigations of what is, the search for increasing verisimilitude in our understanding of reality.

Pg 5. The underdetermination of theory by experiment ... some say science is no more than an instrumental success, effective in getting things done, but not to be taken with ontological seriousness. JP rejects this view.

Pg 21. The word "model" is used to mean a heuristic device by which one tries to gain some insight w/o believing that the model is either totally accurate or fully adequate.

Pg 22. A model is a coarse grained representation, applicable only in a limited domain.

Pg 23. Models are to be taken seriously, but not literally. They are imaginative tools, not descriptions. They are aids to understanding, but not the end of the scientific search. A plurality of models can be tolerated.

Theories are, OTOH, candidates for the verisimilitudinous description of reality. We have no warrant for expecting absolute success. We should "believe" only one theory at a time. (Note - I have a problem with this statement).

Pg 25. Sometimes a theory turns back into a model. Maxwell's wave theory of light is an example.

Pg 28. Aquinas's Summa Theologicia may be the nearest theology has ever come to a theory. But the object of theology is One who transcends us - while in science we transcend the objects (the physical world). Therefore theology must employ many models but always fall short of a fully articulated theory.

JP notes that Aquinas had a spiritual experience near the end of his life here - no commentary however.

Page 35. Chaos theory. See separate CHAOS.DOC.

Pg 43. The denial of human freedom is incoherent, because it destroys rationality.

Complex dynamical systems. Consider gas molecules as tiny (classical) billiard balls. In .0000000001 seconds, a typical molecule experiences 50 collisions. Postulate two universes, one with an extra electron placed at the most remote distance in the universe away. The two universes will differ considerably in a very short time, just due to the extra gravitational attraction of that single electron. JP does not elaborate enough on just how large the difference would be in some finite time; I wish he had done this.

Pg 45. It is by no means clear that information input (changes to the physical world by some intelligent agent) originates solely from animals and humans. It is conceivable that God might also interact with it. Perhaps he influences his creation in a non-energetic way.

Pg 46. Panentheism is an unsatisfactory answer, in JP's opinion. If there is to be any "free" action, either human or divine, there needs to be gaps in physical processes. We are "people of the gaps." JP denies that this is in any way connected to the old GOTG arguments, which look for the divine within patches of current ignorance.

Pg 47. JP also described Whitehead's god as one more to be pitied than to be worshipped. He finds Whitehead's "strings of events" to be unpersuasive. He specifically finds the panpsychism involved in Whitehead's "prehension" to be unconvincing.

God's acts, says JP, will be veiled, discernable by faith but not demonstrable by experiment. Process thought sees him as a passive pleader (persuader), but he is able to act.

Pg 60. Detailed attention to the Bible plays only a subsidiary role in the S/T debates, for the ST debates ought not have much, if any, bearing on one's own religious stance. The S/T issues are second-hand, a fringe activity.

Pg 61. A conservative biblicism implies "look up the answer in the handbook. " But the search for verisimilitude in science does not proceed that way, and JP clearly thinks theological searches ought not be done that way either.

Pg 62. Because revelation is the encounter with a Person, and not the deliverance of a set of propositions, the Bible is not our divinely-guaranteed textbook, but a prime means by which we come to know God's dealings with humankind and particularly his self-utterance in Christ.

Pg 67. It is not possible to square the God of love with I Sam 15. There is contradiction within scripture. Those who treat it as a divinely-guaranteed textbook are trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. At best, their efforts are described as "crazy ingenuity."

Pg 75. What science can do for theology is to tell it what the physical world is actually like. This is a healthy corrective for theology, which all too often engages in ungrounded speculation and then begins to insist on that speculation being essential to it. What theology can do for science is to provide answers to those meta-questions which arise from science but are not themselves scientific in character. A thirst for understanding.

Pg 76-84 Two examples of the latter and three of the former:

1. Intelligibility. Why is the universe so rational? And why is anything at all?
2. The anthropic principle. Why are the physical constants of the universe what they are?

1. Origins.
2. The end.
3. Chance and Necessity

Pg 86. QM has brought about an extension of the limits of what is conceivable. Our imaginations have been enlarged.

Pg 88. An axiom of classical logic is

If A is at X or A is at Y
Then either A is at X or A is at Y.

But if A is an electron, then A may be in a state which is some superposition of (A at X) and (A at Y). IOW, (A is sometimes at X) is a valid possibility. This is a possibility undreamed of by Aristotle. There are suggestions how to solve the problem:

1. Determinism. Bohm's theories.
2. Many- worlds.
3. Stochastic jumps.
4. Emergence upward
5. Emergence downward


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