March 24, 2002

HOW LITTLE WE KNOW :

Here's a very interesting review of The God of Hope and the End of the World by John Polkinghorne (Freeman Dyson, NY Review of Books)
I am myself a Christian, a member of a community that preserves an ancient heritage of great literature and great music, provides help and counsel to young and old when they are in trouble, educates children in moral responsibility, and worships God in its own fashion. But I find Polkinghorne's theology altogether too narrow for my taste. I have no use for a theology that claims to know the answers to deep questions but bases its arguments on the beliefs of a single tribe. I am a practicing Christian but not a believing Christian. To me, to worship God means to recognize that mind and intelligence are woven into the fabric of our universe in a way that altogether surpasses our comprehension. When I listen to Polkinghorne describing the afterlife, I think of God answering Job out of the whirlwind, "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?... Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding.... Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?" God's answer to Job is all the theology I need. As a scientist, I live in a universe of overwhelming size and mystery. The mysteries of life and language, good and evil, chance and necessity, and of our own existence as conscious beings in an impersonal cosmos are even greater than the mysteries of physics and astronomy. Behind the mysteries that we can name, there are deeper mysteries that we have not even begun to explore.

I enjoyed Dyson's essay too much to make much fun of it, but I would note this one line seems absurd : "The science of cosmology is largely concerned with collecting tangible evidence of things that happened billions of years ago, going all the way back to the beginning." How is it even theoretically possible to believe that the Big Bang was THE beginning? Something had to precede it, right? Posted by Orrin Judd at March 24, 2002 11:02 AM
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