Brett Williams's Reviews > Quarks, Chaos & Christianity: Questions to Science And Religion

Quarks, Chaos & Christianity by John C. Polkinghorne
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Good, though Polkinghorne has better

Polkinghorne (an Anglican priest and Oxford physicist) writes a book with remarkable ideas though not without questionable conclusions. He doesn’t view religion as our internal response to an external world, but considers science and religion as intellectual cousins, each providing answers. He goes some distance in showing the malleability of scientific practice – an act of “intellectual daring” when viewing fact and interpretation, experiment and theory as independent, while they are actually mixed up in perspectives we bring to nature. Which is more about scientists as humans than science as flawed. though not the end point as open publication, debate and test are employed. Science is refutable. He also touches upon absurdities proffered by “modern philosophers” who state we invent theories of nature, we do not discover them. As Polkinghorne notes, our theories wouldn’t work if they didn’t represent part of the truth. Nature continues to impose itself as final judge, regardless of fashionable politics.

Given that “unpictureable” electrons provide surprises, Polkinghorne is not surprised to find an unpictureable God to do the same. He accepts the oddness of quantum mechanics like he accepts the oddness of Jesus as simultaneously man and God. We’re not sure how the oddness of say, astrology, with a longer history, many texts and practitioners may fit this view. To Polkinghorne the issue is not fact vs. opinion but interpreting our experience of the way the world really is. He views God as “faithful” to man and nature. The natural gift of a faithful God being reliability of his creation’s operation. Ignoring tribal aspects of the Hebrew God, God is also loving, thus granting independence, which alone by itself would be disarray, so both order and independence in the universe. “Chance is a sign of freedom, not blind purposelessness,” writes Polkinghorne. (A message to, Creationists.) “Shuffling explorations of chance lead to both deterioration and fruitful novelty.”

Does a world with concentration camps look like the creation of a powerful, loving God? With this we meet the “free will defense” – the potential for moral evil is the penalty for the greater good of human freedom. And what about natural disasters like quake fallen churches killing 50000 in 1755 Lisbon, or cancer? Polkinghorne provides the “free process defense” – God faithfully letting nature follow nature’s laws. The same biochemical rules allowing evolution also enables cancer. It’s a package deal. Natural disasters are not gratuitous, but a necessary cost of life. Disregarding what need an all knowing God would have for experiential suffering, Polkinghorne supplies the relieving Christian view - God is not simply a pitying, compassionate spectator, but a fellow participant in the world’s suffering, known through the experience of Jesus.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 14, 2003 – Finished Reading
February 4, 2015 – Shelved

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