Tag Archives: Paul Davies

Part of the reason Antony Flew left atheism can be found in this Paul Davies’ quote “Science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview!”

 


Conversation with John Barrow

Published on Jun 16, 2012

Templeton Prize 2006, Gifford Lectures 1988
British Academy, 1 June 2012

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Many Christians are involved in science and John D. Barrow is one of the leaders of science today.

Here is his bio:

John D Barrow

John D. Barrow was born in London in 1952 and attended Ealing Grammar School. He graduated in Mathematics from Durham University in 1974, received his doctorate in Astrophysics from Oxford University in 1977 (supervised by Dennis Sciama), and held positions at the Universities of Oxford and California at Berkeley before taking up a position at the Astronomy Centre, University of Sussex in 1981. He was professor of astronomy and Director of the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex until 1999. He is the author of 325 scientific articles in cosmology and astrophysics, and is a recipient of the Locker Prize for Astronomy and the 1999 Kelvin Medal of the Royal Glasgow Philosophical Society. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Hertfordshire in 1999. He recently held a Senior 5-year Research Fellowship from the Particle Physicsand Astronomy Research Council of the UK.

In July 1999 he took up a new appointment as Research Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Cambridge and Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project, a new initiative to improve the understanding and appreciation of mathematics and its applications amongst young people and the general public.

He is the author of 15 books, translated into 28 languages, which explore many of the wider historical, philosophical and cultural ramifications of developments in astronomy, physics and mathematics: these include, The Left Hand of Creation (with Joseph Silk), The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (with Frank Tipler), L’Homme et le Cosmos (with Frank Tipler), The World Within the World, Theories of Everything, Pi in the Sky: counting, thinking and being, Pérche il mondo è matematico?, The Origin of the Universe, The Artful Universe, Impossibility: the limits of science and the science of limitsBetween Inner Space and Outer Space and The Book of Nothing. His most recent book, The Constants of Nature:from alpha to omega has just been published by Random House. He has written a play, Infinities, which was performed (in Italian) at the Teatro la Scala, Milan, in the Spring of 2002 under the direction of Luca Ronconi and in Spanish at the Valencia Festival.

He is a frequent lecturer to audiences of all sorts in many countries. He has given many notable public lectures in many countries, including the 1989 Gifford Lectures, the George Darwin and Whitrow Lectures of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Amnesty International Lecture on Science in Oxford, The Flamsteed Lecture, The Tyndall Lecture, The RSA Christmas Lecture for Children, and theSpinoza Lecture at the University of Amsterdam. John Barrow also has the curious distinction of having delivered lectures on cosmology at the Venice Film Festival, 10 Downing Street, Windsor Castle and the Vatican Palace.

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Below is an excerpt from Antony Flew’s book THERE IS A GOD: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind, (pages 107-109) where he quotes both Paul Davies and John D. Barrrow when essentially making the same point:

WHOSE LAWS?
In his Templeton address, Paul Davies makes the point
that “science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an
essentially theological worldview.” Nobody asks where the
laws of physics come from, but “even the most atheistic
scientist accepts as an act of faith the existence of a lawlike
order in nature that is at least in part comprehensible to
us.” Davies rejects two common misconceptions. He says
the idea that a theory of everything would show that this is
the only logically consistent world is “demonstrably wrong,”
because there is no evidence at all that the universe is logi-
cally necessary, and in fact it is possible to imagine alterna-
tive universes that are logically consistent. Second, he says
it is “arrant nonsense” to suppose that the laws of physics
are our laws and not nature’s. Physicists will not believe
that Newton’s inverse law of gravitation is a cultural cre-
ation. He holds that the laws of physics “really exist,” and
scientists’ job is to uncover and not invent them.
Davies draws attention to the fact that the laws of nature
underlying phenomena are not found through direct obser-
vation, but extracted through experiment and mathematical
theory. The laws are written in a cosmic code that scientists
must crack in order to reveal the message that is “nature’s
message, God’s message, take your choice, but not our mes-
sage.”
The burning question, he says, is threefold:
Where do the laws of physics come from?
Why is it that we have these laws instead of some
other set?
How is that we have a set of laws that drives feature-
less gases to life, consciousness and intelligence?
These laws “seem almost contrived—fine-tuned, some
commentators have claimed—so that life and conscious-
ness may emerge.” He concludes that this “contrived
nature of physical existence is just too fantastic for me to
take on board as simply ‘given.’ It points to a deeper under-
lying meaning to existence.” Such words as purpose
and design, he says, only capture imperfectly what the universe
is about. “But, that it is about something, I have absolutely
no doubt.”25
John Barrow, in his Templeton address, observes that
the unending complexity and exquisite structure of the
universe are governed by a few simple laws that are sym-
metrical and intelligible. In fact, “there are mathematical
equations, little squiggles on pieces of paper, that tell us
how whole universes behave.” Like Davies, he dismisses
the idea that the order of the universe is imposed by our
minds. Moreover, “natural selection requires no under-
standing of quarks and black holes for our survival and
multiplication.”
Barrow observes that in the history of science new
theories extend and subsume old ones. Although Newton’s
theory of mechanics and gravity has been superseded by
Einstein’s and will be succeeded by some other theory in
the future, a thousand years from now engineers will still
rely on Newton’s theories. Likewise, he says, religious con-
ceptions of the universe also use approximations and anal-
ogies to help in grasping ultimate things. “They are not the
whole truth, but this does not stop them being a part of the
truth.”26

 

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The Kalam Cosmological Argument (Scientific Evidence) (Henry Schaefer, PhD)

Published on Jun 11, 2012

Scientist Dr. Henry “Fritz” Schaefer gives a lecture on the cosmological argument and shows how contemporary science backs it up.

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John D. Barrow

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the English theoretical physicist John David Barrow. For other uses, see John Barrow (disambiguation).
John D. Barrow
Born 29 November 1952 (age 61)
LondonEnglandUK
Fields Physicist and mathematician
Institutions University of Cambridge
Gresham College
University of California, Berkeley
University of Sussex
Alma mater University of Durham
University of Oxford
Doctoral advisor Dennis William Sciama
Doctoral students Peter Coles
David Wands
Notable awards Templeton prize (2006)

John David Barrow FRS (born 29 November 1952) is an English cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and mathematician. He is currently Research Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Barrow is also a writer of popular science and an amateur playwright.

Life[edit]

Barrow attended Barham Primary School in Wembley until 1964 and Ealing Grammar School for Boys from 1964–71 and obtained his first degree in mathematics and physics from Van Mildert College at the University of Durham in 1974.[1] In 1977, he completed his doctorate in astrophysics at Magdalen College, Oxford, under Dennis William Sciama. He was a Junior Research Lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1977–81. He did two postdoctoral years in astronomy at theUniversity of California, Berkeley, as a Commonwealth Lindemann Fellow (1977–8) and Miller Fellow (1980–1).

In 1981 he joined the University of Sussex and rose to the rank of Professor and Director of the Astronomy Centre. In 1999, he became Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and a fellow in Clare Hall at Cambridge University. He is Director of theMillennium Mathematics Project. From 2003–2007 he was Gresham Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London, and he has been appointed as Gresham Professor of Geometry from 2008–2011; only one person has previously held two different Gresham chairs.[2] In 2008, the Royal Society awarded him the Faraday Prize.

In addition to having published more than 480 journal articles, Barrow has coauthored (with Frank J. TiplerThe Anthropic Cosmological Principle, a work on the history of the ideas, specifically intelligent design and teleology, as well as a treatise on astrophysics. He has also published 17 books for general readers, beginning with his 1983 The Left Hand of Creation. His books summarise the state of the affairs of physical questions, often in the form of compendia of a large number of facts assembled from the works of great physicists, such as Paul Dirac and Arthur Eddington.

Barrow’s approach to philosophical issues posed by physical cosmology makes his books accessible to general readers. For example, Barrow introduced a memorable paradox, which he called “the Groucho Marx Effect” (see Russell-like paradoxes). Here, he quotes Groucho Marx: “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member”. Applying this to problems in cosmology, Barrow states: “A universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind capable of understanding it.”[3] That is, the better we understand the problem, the more likely it is to be oversimplified. Conversely, the closer we get to a description of reality, the more complex and incomprehensible the description becomes. There would be few if any fields of study in which this paradox does not apply.

Barrow has lectured at 10 Downing StreetWindsor Castle, the Vatican, and to the general public. In 2002, his play Infinities premiered in Milan, played in Valencia, and won the Premi Ubu 2002 Italian Theatre Prize.

He was awarded the 2006 Templeton Prize for “Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities” for his “writings about the relationship between life and the universe, and the nature of human understanding [which] have created new perspectives on questions of ultimate concern to science and religion”.[4] He is a member of a United Reformed Church, which he describes as teaching “a traditional deistic picture of the universe”.[5]

Books[edit]

In English:

  1. Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science. ISBN 978-0224075237
  2. New Theories of Everything. ISBN 978-0192807212
  3. Between Inner Space and Outer Space: Essays on the Science, Art, and Philosophy of the Origin of the Universe
  4. Impossibility: Limits of Science and the Science of Limits. ISBN 0-09-977211-6
  5. Material Content of the Universe
  6. Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being. ISBN 9780198539568
  7. Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity
  8. Barrow, John D.Tipler, Frank J. (1988). The Anthropic Cosmological PrincipleOxford University PressISBN 978-0-19-282147-8LCCN 87028148.
  9. The Artful Universe: The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity
  10. The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe
  11. The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless
  12. The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe
  13. The Origin of the Universe: To the Edge of Space and Time
  14. The Universe That Discovered Itself
  15. The World Within the World
  16. Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation
  17. The Constants of Nature: The Numbers that Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe
  18. 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know
  19. Mathletics: A Scientist Explains 100 Amazing Things About The World of Sports

In other languages:

  1. L’Homme et le Cosmos (in French)
  2. Perché il Mondo è Matematico? (in Italian)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Jump up^ “Durham graduate wins $1M prize”. University of Durham Department of Physics. 20 March 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  2. Jump up^ Gresham College: New Gresham Chair of Geometry.
  3. Jump up^ Barrow, John D (1990). The World Within the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 342–343. ISBN 0-19-286108-5.
  4. Jump up^ Lehr, Donald (2006-03-15). “John Barrow wins 2006 Templeton Prize”templetonprize.orgJohn Templeton Foundation. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
  5. Jump up^ Overbye, Dennis (16 March 2006). “Math Professor Wins a Coveted Religion Award”New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-24.

External links[edit]

Publications available on the Internet
[hide]

Authority control

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Although not converting, Charles Darwin like Antony Flew struggled until his dying accepting that the universe came about by chance!!!

 

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The Kalam Cosmological Argument (Scientific Evidence) (Henry Schaefer, PhD)

Published on Jun 11, 2012

Scientist Dr. Henry “Fritz” Schaefer gives a lecture on the cosmological argument and shows how contemporary science backs it up.

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Charles Darwin wrote THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES  and it was published in  November of 1859, and at that time Darwin was still a theist. However, later in life he became an agnostic. Francis Schaeffer pointed out that Darwin’s letters later in his life gave the reasons for him leaving Christianity behind. One of those reasons was that it conflicted with his theory, but yet late in his life he still struggled with his view that the universe came about by chance. I have included a quote from Antony Flew where he quotes Darwin’s THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES and I think he has a good point that Darwin at that time did think a Divine Mind was behind the creation. Nevertheless, Darwin did lose his faith and leave Christianity, but evidently he agonized over this even up until a few months before he died in 1882. This same issues weighed heavy on Flew’s mind too in the last decade of his life and he embraced theism.

From Antony Flew’s book THERE IS A GOD: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind,  (pages 103-107):

QUANTUM LEAPS TOWARD GOD
Einstein, the discoverer of relativity, was not the only great
scientist who saw a connection between the laws of nature
and the Mind of God. The progenitors of quantum physics,
the other great scientific discovery of modern times, Max
Planck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, and Paul
Dirac, have all made similar statements, 17 and I reproduce
a few of these below.
Werner Heisenberg, famous for Heisenberg’s uncer-
tainty principle and matrix mechanics, said, “In the course
of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on
the relationship of these two regions of thought [science
and religion], for I have never been able to doubt the real-
ity of that to which they point.”18 On another occasion he
said:
Wolfgang [Pauli] asked me quite unexpectedly: “Do
you believe in a personal God?”. . . “May I rephrase
your question?” I asked. “I myself should prefer the
following formulation: Can you, or anyone else,
reach the central order of things or events, whose
existence seems beyond doubt, as directly as you
can reach the soul of another human being. I am
using the term ‘soul’ quite deliberately so as not
to be misunderstood. If you put your question like
that, I would say yes. . . .If the magnetic force that
has guided this particular compass—and what else
was its source but the central order?—should ever
become extinguished, terrible things may happen to
mankind, far more terrible even than concentration
camps and atom bombs.”19
Another quantum pioneer, Erwin Schrödinger, who
developed wave mechanics, stated:
The scientific picture of the world around me is
very deficient. It gives me a lot of factual informa-
tion, puts all our experience in a magnificently con-
sistent order, but is ghastly silent about all that is
really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It
cannot tell a word about the sensation of red and
blue, bitter and sweet, feelings of delight and sor-
row. It knows nothing of beauty and ugly, good or
bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends
to answer questions in these domains, but the an-
swers are very often so silly that we are not inclined
to take them seriously.
Science is reticent too when it is a question of
the great Unity of which we somehow form a part,
to which we belong. The most popular name for it
in our time is God, with a capital “G.” Science is,
very usually, branded as being atheistic. After what
we have said this is not astonishing. If its world
picture does not even contain beauty, delight, sor-
row, if personality is cut out of it by agreement, how
should it contain the most sublime idea that pres-
ents itself to the human mind.20
Max Planck, who first introduced the quantum hypoth-
esis, unambiguously held that science complements reli-
gion, contending, “There can never be any real opposition
between religion and science; for the one is the comple-
ment of the other.”21 He also said, “Religion and natural
science are fighting a joint battle in an incessant, never
relaxing crusade against skepticism and against dogma-
tism, against unbelief and superstition . . . [and therefore]
‘On to God!’”22
Paul A. M. Dirac, who complemented Heisenberg and
Schrödinger with a third formulation of quantum theory,
observed that “God is a mathematician of a very high order
and He used advanced mathematics in constructing the
universe.”23
Generations before any of these scientists, Charles
Darwin had already expressed a similar view:
[Reason tells me of the] extreme difficulty or rather
impossibility of conceiving this immense and won-
derful universe, including man with his capability
of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as
the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus
reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause
having an intelligent mind in some degree analo-
gous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a
Theist.24
This train of thought has been kept alive in the present
time in the writings of many of today’s leading expositors of
science. These range from scientists like Paul Davies, John
Barrow, John Polkinghorne, Freeman Dyson, Francis Col-
lins, Owen Gingerich, and Roger Penrose to philosophers
of science like Richard Swinburne and John Leslie.
Davies and Barrow, in particular, have further developed
the insights of Einstein, Heisenberg, and other scientists
into theories about the relationship between the rational-
ity of nature and the Mind of God. Both have received the
Templeton Prize for their contributions to this exploration.
Their works correct many common misconceptions while
shedding light on the issues discussed here.
______________________

At the present day the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons...Formerly I was led by feelings such as those just referred to (although I do not think that the religious sentiment was ever very strongly developed in me), to the firm conviction of the existence of God, and of the immortality of the soul. In my Journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, “it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind.I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body. But now the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind. It may be truly said that I am like a man who has become colour-blind

 Darwin’s own words

I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost my taste for pictures or music. Music generally sets me thinking too energetically on what I have been at work on, instead of giving me pleasure. I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did. On the other hand, novels which are works of the imagination, though not of a very high order, have been for years a wonderful relief and pleasure to me, and I often bless all novelists. A surprising number have been read aloud to me, and I like all if moderately good, and if they do not end unhappily—against which a law ought to be passed. A novel, according to my taste, does not come into the first class unless it contains some person whom one can thoroughly love, and if a pretty woman all the better.

This curious and lamentable loss of the higher æsthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies, and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subjects interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine, would not, I suppose, have thus suffered; and if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

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Francis Schaeffer commented:

This is the old man Darwin writing at the end of his life. What is saying here is the further he has gone on with his studies the more he has seen himself reduced to a machine as far as aesthetic things are concerned. We go through this we find that his struggles and my sincere conviction is that he never came to the logical conclusion of his own position, but he nevertheless in the death of the higher qualities as he calls them, art, music, poetry, and so on, what he had happen to him was his own theory was producing this in his own self just as his theories a hundred years later have produced this in our culture. I don’t think you can hold the evolutionary theory as he held it without becoming a machine. What has happened to Darwin personally is merely a forerunner to what occurred to the whole culture as it has fallen in this world of pure material, chance and later determinism. Here he is in a situation where his mannishness has suffered in the midst of his own position.

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Charles Darwin (1809–1882), who proposed the theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

 

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Religious views of Charles Darwin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In a letter to a correspondent at the University of Utrecht in 1873, Darwin expressed agnosticism:

I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came from and how it arose. Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world. I am, also, induced to defer to a certain extent to the judgment of many able men who have fully believed in God; but here again I see how poor an argument this is. The safest conclusion seems to me to be that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect; but man can do his duty.[71]

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Francis Schaeffer observed:

This of course is a valid argument. The only answer to the problem of evil is the biblical answer of the fall. Darwin has a problem because he never had a high view of revelation, so he doesn’t have the answer any more than the liberal theologian has the answer. If you don’t have a space-time fall then you don’t have an answer to suffering. If you have a very, very significant man at the beginning, Darwin did not have that, but if you had a very significant, wonderful man at the beginning and can change history then the fall is the possible answer that can be given. To continue reading Darwin’s own words, “I am, also, induced to defer to a certain extent to the judgment of many able men who have fully believed in God; but here again I see how poor an argument this is. The safest conclusion seems to me to be that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect; but man can do his duty.”

What he (Darwin) is saying is that at this point I have no answer, but the interesting thing is he puts a semicolon after that and then says, “but man can do his duty.” Darwin understands what he has said undercuts all duty and all morals. So he adds as a faith sentence, “but man can do his duty.” It doesn’t fit really, but he adds because he sees that he must say this because otherwise what happens to man?

You can switch on further down the road and Darwin would be appalled to see where his own position has been taken, to Freud and Deterministic psychology. Modern Man has a dilemma because the word “duty” doesn’t have a meaning anymore.

(Determinism: The doctrine that human action is not free, but results from such causes as psychological and chemical makeup which render free-will an illusion.)

 

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Darwin, C. R. to Graham, William

3 July 1881

In this letter Darwin goes against his agnosticism and again says that he can’t believe we are here as a result of chance::

Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

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Francis Schaeffer comments:

Can you feel this man? He is in real agony. You can feel the whole of modern man in this tension with Darwin. My mind can’t accept that ultimate of chance, that the universe is a result of chance. He has said 3 or 4 times now that he can’t accept that it all happened by chance and then he will write someone else and say something different.

 

 

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John Polkinghorne – God and Science 1of3

Uploaded on Jul 7, 2008

John Polkinghorne is a former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, Dean of Trinity Hall and President of Queens College Cambridge. Here he discusses his views on the harmony between science and faith. This is another great example of the false dichotomy which young earth creationists continually regurgitate where an acceptance of evolution equates to atheism. Polkinghorne is also the author of many books on the subject of God and science such as “Science and Creation” and “Quarks, Chaos and Christianity.” Richard Dawkins said of Polkinghorne that he is one of a number of “good scientists who are sincerely religious”

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John Polkinghorne

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Polkinghorne
Johnpolkinghorne.jpg

In 2007
Born 16 October 1930 (age 83)
Weston-super-MareEngland, UK
Nationality United Kingdom
Education MA mathematics (1952), PhD physics (1955)
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Occupation Physicistpriest, writer
Known for Particle physics; relationship between science and religion
Religion Anglican
Spouse(s) Ruth (née Martin) Polkinghorne
Children Peter (born 1957)
Isabel
(born 1959)
Michael (1963)
Parents George and Dorothy (nèe Charlton) Polkinghorne
Relatives Peter Polkinghorne (brother, died 1942)
Ann Polkinghorne (sister, died 1930)
Awards Templeton PrizeKBEFRS

The Rev Dr John Charlton PolkinghorneKBEFRS (born 16 October 1930) is an English theoretical physicisttheologian, writer, and Anglican priest. A prominent and leading voice explaining the relationship between science and religion, he was professor of Mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He served as the president of Queens’ College, Cambridge from 1988 until 1996.

Polkinghorne is the author of five books on physics, and 26 on the relationship between science and religion; his publications include The Quantum World (1989), Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship (2005), Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (2007), and Questions of Truth (2009).[1] The Polkinghorne Reader (edited by Thomas Jay Oord) provides key excerpts from Polkinghorne’s most influential books. He was knighted in 1997 and in 2002 received the £1 million Templeton Prize, awarded for exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Polkinghorne was born in Weston-super-Mare to Dorothy Charlton, the daughter of a groom and George Polkinghorne, who worked for the post office. John was the couple’s third child. There was a brother, Peter, and a sister, Ann, who died when she was six, one month before John’s birth. Peter died in 1942 while flying for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.[3]

He was educated at the local primary school in Street, Somerset, then was taught by a friend of the family at home, and later at a Quaker school. When he was 11 he went to Elmhurst Grammar School in Street, and when his father was promoted to head postmaster in Ely in 1945, Polkinghorne was transferred to The Perse School, Cambridge.[3] Following National Service in the Royal Army Educational Corps from 1948 to 1949, he read Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1952, then earned his PhD in physics in 1955, supervised by Abdus Salam in the group led by Paul Dirac.[4]

Career[edit]

Physics[edit]

He joined the Christian Union of UCCF while at Cambridge and met his future wife, Ruth Martin, another member of the Union and also a mathematics student. They married on 26 March 1955, and at the end of that year sailed from Liverpool to New York. Polkinghorne accepted a postdoctoral Harkness Fellowship with the California Institute of Technology, where he worked with Murray Gell-Mann. Toward the end of the fellowship he was offered a position as lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, which he took up in 1956.[3]

After two years in Scotland, he returned to teach at Cambridge in 1958. He was promoted to reader in 1965, and in 1968 was offered a professorship in mathematical physics, a position he held until 1979,[3] his students including Brian Josephson and Martin Rees.[5] For 25 years, he worked on theories about elementary particles, played a role in the discovery of the quark,[2] and researched the analytic and high-energy properties of Feynman integrals and the foundations of S-Matrix theory.[6] While employed by Cambridge, he also spent time at PrincetonBerkeleyStanford, and at CERN in Geneva. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974.[3]

Priesthood and Queens’ College[edit]

Polkinghorne decided to train for the priesthood in 1977.[7] He said in an interview that he felt he had done his bit for science after 25 years, and that his best mathematical work was probably behind him; Christianity had always been central to his life, so ordination offered an attractive second career.[3] He resigned his chair in 1979 to study at Westcott House, Cambridge, an Anglican theological college, becoming an ordained priest on 6 June 1982 (Trinity Sunday). The ceremony was held at Trinity College, Cambridge and presided over by Bishop John A. T. Robinson. He worked for five years as a curate in south Bristol, then as vicar in Blean, Kent, before returning to Cambridge in 1986 as dean of chapel at Trinity Hall.[2][8] He became the president of Queens’ College that year, a position he held until his retirement in 1996.[8] He served as canon theologian ofLiverpool Cathedral from 1994 to 2005.[9]

Awards[edit]

In 1997 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), although as an ordained priest in the Church of England, he is not styled as “Sir John Polkinghorne”.[10] He is an Honorary Fellow of St Chad’s College, Durham and awarded an honorary doctorate by theUniversity of Durham in 1998; and in 2002 was awarded the Templeton Prize for his contributions to research at the interface between science and religion.[11]He spoke on “The Universe as Creation” at the Trotter Prize ceremony in 2003.

He has been a member of the BMA Medical Ethics Committee, the General Synod of the Church of England, the Doctrine Commission, and the Human Genetics Commission. He served as chairman of the governors of The Perse School from 1972 to 1981. He is a fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge and was for 10 years a canon theologian of Liverpool Cathedral. He is a founding member of the Society of Ordained Scientists and also of the International Society for Science and Religion, of which he was the first president.[12] He was selected to give the prestigious Gifford Lectures in 1993–1994, which he later published as The Faith of a Physicist.

In 2006 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Hong Kong Baptist University as part of their 50-year celebrations. This included giving a public lecture on “The Dialogue between Science and Religion and Its Significance for the Academy” and an “East-West Dialogue” with Yang Chen-ning, a nobel laureate in physics.[13] He is a member of staff of the Psychology and Religion Research Group at Cambridge University.[14]

Ideas[edit]

Polkinghorne said in an interview that he believes his move from science to religion has given him binocular vision, though he understands that it has aroused the kind of suspicion “that might follow the claim to be a vegetarian butcher.”[8] He describes his position as critical realism and believes that science and religion address aspects of the same reality. It is a consistent theme of his work that when he “turned his collar around” he did not stop seeking truth.[15] He believes the philosopher of science who has most helpfully struck the balance between the “critical” and “realism” aspects of this is Michael Polanyi.[16] He argues that there are five points of comparison between the ways in which science and theology pursue truth: moments of enforced radical revision, a period of unresolved confusion, new synthesis and understanding, continued wrestling with unresolved problems, deeper implications.[17]

Because scientific experiments try to eliminate extraneous influences, he believes they are atypical of what goes on in nature. He suggests that the mechanistic explanations of the world that have continued from Laplace to Richard Dawkins should be replaced by an understanding that most of nature is cloud-like rather than clock-like. He regards the mind, soul and body as different aspects of the same underlying reality—”dual aspect monism”—writing that “there is only one stuff in the world (not two—the material and the mental) but it can occur in two contrasting states (material and mental phases, a physicist might say) which explain our perception of the difference between mind and matter.”[18] He believes that standard physical causation cannot adequately describe the manifold ways in which things and people interact, and uses the phrase “active information” to describe how, when several outcomes are possible, there may be higher levels of causation that choose which one occurs.[19]

Sometimes Christianity seems to him to be just too good to be true, but when this sort of doubt arises he says to himself, “All right then, deny it,” and writes that he knows this is something he could never do.[20]

On the existence of God[edit]

Polkinghorne considers that “the question of the existence of God is the single most important question we face about the nature of reality”[21] and quotes with approval Anthony Kenny: “After all, if there is no God, then God is incalculably the greatest single creation of the human imagination.” He addresses the questions of “Does the concept of God make sense? If so, do we have reason for believing in such a thing?” He is “cautious about our powers to assess coherence,” pointing out that in 1900 a “competent … undergraduate could have demonstrated the ‘incoherence'” of quantum ideas. He suggests that “the nearest analogy in the physical world [to God] would be … the Quantum Vacuum.”[19]

He suggests that God is the ultimate answer to Leibniz‘s great question “why is there something rather than nothing?” The atheist’s “plain assertion of the world’s existence” is a “grossly impoverished view of reality … [arguing that] theism explains more than a reductionist atheism can ever address.” He is very doubtful of St Anselm‘s Ontological Argument. Referring to Gödel’s incompleteness theory, he said: “If we cannot prove the consistency of arithmetic it seems a bit much to hope that God’s existence is easier to deal with,” concluding that God is “ontologically necessary, but not logically necessary.” He “does not assert that God’s existence can be demonstrated in a logically coercive way (any more than God’s non-existence can) but that theism makes more sense of the world, and of human experience, than does atheism.”[22] He cites in particular:

  • The intelligibility of the universe: One would anticipate that evolutionary selection would produce hominid minds apt for coping with everyday experience, but that these minds should also be able to understand the subatomic world and general relativity goes far beyond anything of relevance to survival fitness. The mystery deepens when one recognises the proven fruitfulness of mathematical beauty as a guide to successful theory choice.[23]
  • The anthropic fine tuning of the universe: He quotes with approval Freeman Dyson, who said “the more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming”[24] and suggests there is a wide consensus amongst physicists that either there are a very large number of other universes in the Multiverse or that “there is just one universe which is the way it is in its anthropic fruitfulness because it is the expression of the purposive design of a Creator, who has endowed it with the finely tuned potentialty for life.”[25]
  • A wider humane reality: He considers that theism offers a more persuasive account of ethical and aesthetic perceptions. He argues that it is difficult to accommodate the idea that “we have real moral knowledge” and that statements such as ‘torturing children is wrong’ are more than “simply social conventions of the societies within which they are uttered” within an atheistic or naturalistic world view. He also believes such a world view finds it hard to explain how “Something of lasting significance is glimpsed in the beauty of the natural world and the beauty of the fruits of human creativity.”[26]

On free will[edit]

Polkinghorne regards the problem of evil as the most serious intellectual objection to the existence of God. He believes that “The well-known free will defence in relation to moral evil asserts that a world with a possibility of sinful people is better than one with perfectly programmed machines. The tale of human evil is such that one cannot make that assertion without a quiver, but I believe that it is true nevertheless. I have added to it the free-process defence, that a world allowed to make itself is better than a puppet theatre with a Cosmic Tyrant. I think that these two defences are opposite sides of the same coin, that our nature is inextricably linked with that of the physical world which has given us birth.”[27]

On creationism[edit]

Polkinghorne accepts evolution. Following the resignation of Michael Reiss, the director of education at the Royal Society—who had controversially argued that school pupils who believed in creationism should be used by science teachers to start discussions, rather than be rejected per se[28]—Polkinghorne argued in The Times that there is a distinction between believing in the mind and purpose of a divine creator, and what he calls creationism “in that curious North American sense,” with a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and the belief that evolution is wrong, a position he rejects.[29]

Critical reception[edit]

Nancy Frankenberry, Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College, has described Polkinghorne as the finest British theologian/scientist of our time, citing his work on the possible relationship between chaos theory and natural theology.[30] Owen Gingerich, an astronomer and former Harvard professor, has called him a leading voice on the relationship between science and religion.[31]

The British writer Simon Blackburn has criticized Polkinghorne for using primitive thinking and rhetorical devices instead of engaging in philosophy. When Polkinghorne argues that the minute adjustments of cosmological constants for life points towards an explanation beyond the scientific realm, Blackburn argues that this relies on a natural preference for explanation in terms of agency. Blackburn writes that he finished Polkinghorne’s books in “despair at humanity’s capacity for self-deception.”[32] Against this, Freeman J. Dyson called Polkinghorne’s arguments on theology and natural science “polished and logically coherent.”[33] The novelist Simon Ings, writing in the New Scientist, said Polkinghorne’s argument for the proposition that God is real is cogent and his evidence elegant.[34]

Richard Dawkins, formerly Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, writes that the same three names of British scientists who are also sincerely religious crop up with the “likable familiarity of senior partners in a firm of Dickensian lawyers”: Arthur PeacockeRussell Stannard, and John Polkinghorne, all of whom have either won the Templeton Prize or are on its board of trustees. Dawkins writes that he is not so much bewildered by their belief in a cosmic lawgiver, but by their beliefs in the minutiae of Christianity, such as the resurrection and forgiveness of sins, and that such scientists, in Britain and in the U.S., are the subject of bemused bafflement among their peers.[35] Polkinghorne responded that “debating with Dawkins is hopeless, because there’s no give and take. He doesn’t give you an inch. He just says no when you say yes”[8]and writes in Questions of Truth that he hopes Dawkins will be a bit less baffled once he reads it.[36]

A.C. Grayling criticized the Royal Society for allowing its premises to be used in connection with the launch of Questions of Truth, describing it as a scandal, and suggesting that Polkinghorne had exploited his fellowship there to publicize a “weak, casuistical and tendentious pamphlet.” After implying that the book’s publisher, Westminster John Knox, was a self-publisher, Grayling went on to write that Polkinghorne and others were eager to see the credibility accorded to scientific research extended to religious perspectives through association.[37]

In contrast to Grayling, science historian Edward B. Davis praises Questions of Truth, saying the book provides “the kind of technical information…that scientifically trained readers will appreciate—yet they can be read profitably by anyone interested in science and Christianity.” Davis concludes, “It hasn’t been easy to steer a middle course between fundamentalism and modernism, particularly on issues involving science. Polkinghorne has done that very successfully for a generation, and for this he ought to be both appreciated and emulated.”[38]

Bibliography[edit]

Polkinghorne has written 34 books, translated into 18 languages; 26 concern science and religion, often for a popular audience.

Science and religion
Science
Chapters

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Jump up^ Eric Metaxas (13 October 2011). Socrates in the City: Conversations on “Life, God, and Other Small Topics”. Penguin Books.
  2. Jump up to:a b c Participants, John Templeton Foundation, 2005, accessed 17 June 2010.
  3. Jump up to:a b c d e f O’Connor, J.J. and Robertson, E.F. John Charlton Polkinghorne profile at gap-system.org; retrieved 23 March 2010.
  4. Jump up^ From Physicist to Priest, pp. 9–11; 23–29; 34.
  5. Jump up^ From Physicist to Priest, pp. 40–50.
  6. Jump up^ Henry Margenau & Roy Abraham Varghese (eds.), Cosmos, Bios, Theos. Peru, IL: Open Court, 1992, p. 86.
  7. Jump up^ From Physicist to Priest, p. 9.
  8. Jump up to:a b c d Reisz, Matthew. On the side of the angelsTimes Higher Education, 19 February 2009.
  9. Jump up^ Third Way, December 2005, p. 34.
  10. Jump up^ Official Website This is a strange quirk of British Forms of address
  11. Jump up^ For basic biodata see Who’s Who 2006.
  12. Jump up^ ISSR Presidents
  13. Jump up^ “Diary of Events” (PDF). Hong Kong Baptist University. November 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  14. Jump up^ Staff list, Psychology and Religion Research Group, accessed 25 March 2010.
  15. Jump up^ See, for example, John Polkinhorne. Exploring Reality: the Intertwining of Science and Religion. p. ix.
  16. Jump up^ John Polkinghorne (2007). Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected KinshipSociety for Promoting Christian Knowledge. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-281-05767-2.
  17. Jump up^ Quantum Physics & Theology, pp. 15–22.
  18. Jump up^ Science and Christian Belief. p. 21.
  19. Jump up to:a b Sharpe, Kevin (July 2003). “Nudging John Polkinghorne”. Quodlibet Journal 5 (2–3).
  20. Jump up^ From Physicist to Priest, p. 107.
  21. Jump up^ This and (unless noted otherwise) all subsequent quotations are from Chapter 3 ofScience & Christian Belief, also known as The Faith of a Physicist.
  22. Jump up^ Science and Theology, pp. 71–83.
  23. Jump up^ Science and Theology, p. 72.
  24. Jump up^ Science & Christian Belief, p. 76.
  25. Jump up^ Science and Theology, p. 75.
  26. Jump up^ Science and Theology, pp. 81–82.
  27. Jump up^ Polkinghorne, John (2003). Belief in God in an Age of Science. New Haven, CT: Yale Nota Bene. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-300-09949-2.
  28. Jump up^ ‘Creationism’ biologist quits job, BBC News, 16 September 2008.
  29. Jump up^ Polkinghorne, John. “Shining a light where science and theology meet”The Times, 19 September 2008.
  30. Jump up^ Nancy K. Frankenberry (ed.), The Faith of Scientists in Their Own Words (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008) p. 340
  31. Jump up^ Owen Gingrich, “review of Science and the Trinity“, Science and Theology Newsquoted by the Yale University Press
  32. Jump up^ Blackburn, Simon. An Unbeautiful Mind, a review of John Polkinghorne’s The God of Hope and the End of the WorldThe New Republic, 1 August 2002.
  33. Jump up^ Freeman Dyson, “Is God in the Lab?”The New York Review of Books, 28 May 1998
  34. Jump up^ Simon Ings, “God Only Knows”New Scientist, 4 July 1998
  35. Jump up^ Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion, Houghton Mifflin Co, 2006, p. 99.
  36. Jump up^ Polkinghorne, John (2009). Questions of Truth. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-664-23351-8.
  37. Jump up^ Grayling, A. C. “Book Review: Questions of Truth: God, Science and Belief by John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale”New Humanist, Volume 124, Issue 2, March/April 2009.
  38. Jump up^ Davis, Edward B. “The Motivated Belief of John Polkinghorne”First Things, 17 July 2009
  39. Jump up^ Questions of Truth website

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Ronald Oxburgh
President of Queens’ College, Cambridge
1988–1996
Succeeded by
John Eatwell
[hide]

Authority control

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Will Science render supernatural answers unnecessary?

Will Science render supernatural answers unnecessary?

ARGUMENT #2: The “gaps” in scientific knowledge have been closing due to scientific discovery. Eventually, supernatural explanations will be rendered unnecessary.

RESPONSE: In one sense, this statement is true. Modern science has been learning more and more about our world over the last several hundred years. However, in another sense, this statement is false. In some areas, the “gaps” in our scientific knowledge have not been closing but openingover the last fifty years.

Here, we need to distinguish between scientific experimentation and scientific explanation. While scientific experimentation has grown in all areas of science, scientific explanations have shrunk in certain areas. For instance, the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, and the origin of first life are just as inexplicable now, as they were when they were first studied. Just consider the origin of first life. In his book The Fifth Miracle, agnostic Paul Davies writes,

When I set out to write this book, I was convinced that science was close to wrapping up the mystery of life’s origin… Having spent a year or two researching the field, I am now of the opinion that there remains a huge gulf in our understanding… This gulf in understanding is not merely ignorance about certain technical details; it is a major conceptual lacuna.[1]

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Naturalistic scientists are just as far from explaining the origin of first life, as they have ever been. In fact, the more we learn about these “gaps,” the less we are able to explain them –apart from an intelligent cause. Moreover, if science is truly explaining away the supernatural, then why have devout atheists like Antony Flew come to faith in God due to these recent scientific discoveries? In his book There is a God, Flew writes,

The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such ‘end-directed, self-replicating’ life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind.[3]

I must say again that the journey to my discovery of the Divine has thus far been a pilgrimage of reason. I have followed the argumentwhere it has led me. And it has led me to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being.[4]

Flew claimed that his other atheistic colleagues –like Bertrand Russell and J.L. Mackie –would have been “impressed” with this “evidence,”[5]if it had been discovered earlier.

Next Page

[1] Davies, P. C. W. The Fifth Miracle: the Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1999. 17-18.

[2] Harold, Franklin M. The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the Order of Life. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. 235-236.

[3] Flew, Antony, and Roy Abraham. Varghese. There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. New York: HarperOne, 2007. 93.

[4] Flew, Antony, and Roy Abraham Varghese. There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. New York: HarperOne, 2007. 155.

[5] Antony Flew & Gary Habermas My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism 2004.

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_____________ Mark Oppenheimer of Time Magazine claims Antony Flew was convinced by PSEUDOSCIENCE that God exists!!! Below you will read:  ”There Is a God” is perhaps the handiest primer ever written on the science (many would say pseudoscience) of religious belief. Regis Nicoll does a good job of refuting the claim that Flew was manipulated by […]

A review of “There is a God” by Antony Flew March 31, 2012

________ During the 1990′s I actually made it a practice to write famous atheists and scientists that were mentioned by Adrian Rogers and Francis Schaeffer and challenge them with the evidence for the Bible’s historicity and the claims of the gospel. Usually I would send them a cassette tape of Adrian Rogers’ messages “6 reasons I […]

Review of Antony Flew Book: THERE IS A GOD Article by R.C. Sproul May 2008

During the 1990′s I actually made it a practice to write famous atheists and scientists that were mentioned by Adrian Rogers and Francis Schaeffer and challenge them with the evidence for the Bible’s historicity and the claims of the gospel. Usually I would send them a cassette tape of Adrian Rogers’ messages “6 reasons I know […]

The Death of a (Former) Atheist — Antony Flew, 1923-2010 Antony Flew’s rejection of atheism is an encouragement, but his rejection of Christianity is a warning. Rejecting atheism is simply not enough, by Al Mohler

________________________________ Discussion (1 of 3): Antony Flew, N.T. Wright, and Gary Habermas Uploaded on Sep 22, 2010 A discussion with Antony Flew, N.T. Wright, and Gary Habermas. This was held at Westminster Chapel March, 2008 ______________________ During the 1990′s I actually made it a practice to write famous atheists and scientists that were mentioned by Adrian […]

Antony Flew’s journey from Atheism to Theism

During the 1990′s I actually made it a practice to write famous atheists and scientists that were mentioned by Adrian Rogers and Francis Schaeffer and challenge them with the evidence for the Bible’s historicity and the claims of the gospel. Usually I would send them a cassette tape of Adrian Rogers’ messages “6 reasons I […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 12 H.J.Blackham and Materialistic Humanism: The World-View of Our Era (Feature on artist Arturo Herrera)

  Today I am going to look at H.J. Blackham and the artist featured today is  Arturo Herrera. Herrera’s art interests me because it is based on the idea that accidental chance can bring about something beautiful and that is the same place that materialistic modern men like Blackham have turned to when they have concluded […]

“Woody Wednesday” Discussing Woody Allen’s movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and various other subjects with Ark Times Bloggers (Part 6) Judah ” I believe in God, Miriam. I know it… because without God the world is a cesspool”

_____________________________ Crimes and Misdemeanors: A Discussion: Part 3 Uploaded by camdiscussion on Sep 23, 2007 Part 3 of 3: ‘Is Woody Allen A Romantic Or A Realist?’ A discussion of Woody Allen’s 1989 movie, Crimes and Misdemeanors, perhaps his finest. By Anton Scamvougeras. http://camdiscussion.blogspot.com/ antons@mail.ubc.ca ______________ I have gone back and forth and back and forth with many liberals on the Arkansas Times […]