August 2010 Anglican Newsletter
Keith examines the debate between scientists and religion
The debate between scientists and the religious has reached new heights of intensity during recent years. Some scientists think that their work has irrevocably proved that there is no God and no need for a God. Many scientists do not and find no difficulty in putting the whole body of science within the context of a belief in an all pervasive Creator God. Many believers, who are not scientists, are happy to be in their company. Many believers (who I assume cannot be scientists) believe that Creation happened a relatively short time ago and that much of revealed science is not true.
Of those 4 positions (which ignore all the shadings between of course), I put myself into the third. But it occurred to me that there are scientific propositions that hold true in the physical/natural world but which are inadequate metaphors for the spiritual and moral world, which we also inhabit.
One of Newton's Laws was that action and re-action are equal and opposite. This seems to be an example of the Law of Conservation of Energy. But economic theory (many natural scientists would deny that economics is a 'real' science) has a theory of a multiplier effect . It also teaches of reducing returns to scale. There is an implication that Outputs do not always equal Inputs. To some extent we often seem to get more out than we put in, because we do not take any measured notice of some inputs - for example the energy of the sun, which seems to be 'free' and so we don't count it. But nonetheless, ingenuity, invention, passion and other human qualities seem to just be there (costlessly) and give rise to extra output.
The same seems to be true of spiritual matters. One person's compassion can result in an enormous increase in happiness. One person's evil can result in enormous pain and distress. We all know examples from history and, possibly in lesser ways, from our own experience.
Newton's Laws were shown to be inadequate as theories of relativity came into their own in the 20th Century. But they were not shown to be wrong - just to be special cases of relativity - relativity applied to a 3 (only) dimensional world. In the same way, I have no reason to doubt any of the currently held scientific theories, although history suggests that many will be modified or even overturned as time goes by and we see and measure more and manage to think more inventively. But they are only part of God's creation.
Pscyhchologists claim to understand more and more of the chemical causes of all sorts of mental conditions, but they have not yet claimed (so far as I know) to be able to explain love.
Licensed Lay Minister