Charles Reid, professor of law at St. Thomas University, has recently written an interesting piece in the Huffington Post titled “The Reconciliation of Science and Religion: We Can Do Better.” The thrust of the article is Reid’s review of Amir Aczel’s book, “Why Science Does Not Disprove God.”:
The reconciliation of science and religion is one of the most compelling tasks confronting religious believers today. For we are truly faced with a pair of hostile, warring camps. Many religious believers have drifted into a kind of pietistic mistrust of science that seeks comfort in demonstrably false propositions like young earth creationism. On the other hand, we find a number of scientist who dismiss the possibility of a spiritual dimension to human existence. Some dismiss faith altogether as an outdated mode of explaining the inexplicable. Religion is superstition, they contend, and empiricism must finally triumph over the irrational.
Thus I picked up Amir Aczel’s book, “Why Science Does Not Disprove God,” with eager anticipation, hoping that he might make peace between these contending factions. Alas, I sighed, upon finishing the book, the chasm remains unbridged. Rather than grappling with the truly challenging, foundational questions, Aczel, I discovered, preferred to recite middle-brow explanations that might give consolation to people of faith but that never really come close to achieving a reconciliation of science and faith.
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There are other thinkers, of course, who have attempted a sophisticated reconciliation of evolution and religion. Classically, there was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). A world-class paleontologist as well as a Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin relied on evolutionary theory and extended it to propose an ever-expanding “noosphere” — an inter-connected realm of cognition and consciouness that aims finally at the Omega Point, which constitutes ultimate knowledge of the universe, and of God.
Aczel mentions Teilhard de Chardin, but refuses to engage the complexity of his thought. He merely quotes Teilhard on the compatibility of religion and evolution and leaves it at that. Why? Why are evolution and religion compatible? One longs to have the “why” question answered. But Aczel does not venture a reply.
I am a fan of Dr. Aczel as he is a preeminent scientist who can translate into common language. He can also be a bit of a sensationalist (in a good way), including when it comes to this blog’s namesake, Teilhard de Chardin, as evidenced by the book “The Jesuit and the Skull” which talks about the discovery by Teilhard de Chardin and his team of Peking Man.
While I agree with Dr. Reid that Dr. Aczel’s book falls short in some respects, I am not as critical as Reid is. I believe the purpose of Dr. Aczel was to specifically counter the New Atheists and the book was written on the rudimentary level of their arguments. However, Dr. Reid’s broader point about the need to take up Teilhard de Chardin’s challenge of a broader synthesis of theology and science is accurate. I encourage Dr. Reid to take up his challenge and write such a book as he seems to have both the desire and the academic pedigree to do so :-).
In the interim, I highly recommend Brendan Purcell’s book “From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution“. Purcell’s book is comprehensive, yet readable and is the best book on the symbiotic relationship between theology and science that I have read.