Charles Reid: We Can Do Better on the Intersection of Science and Theology

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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 Some dismiss faith altogether as an outdated mode of explaining the inexplicable.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.

* * *

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.

Read Full Article Here

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.

 

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog (www.teilhard.com) explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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6 Responses to Charles Reid: We Can Do Better on the Intersection of Science and Theology

  1. James Cross says:

    Maybe you dealt with it at some point before I starting following or I overlooked it.

    Can there be religion without God? Can one be spiritual without God? Does a spiritual dimension require a God?

    • James, great question. I believe the problem is the definition of “God”. It is a commonly used term but means very different things to the people who use it. For example, Albert Einstein would refer to God in the deistic sense of the intrinsic mathematical laws of the universe. While this is different than theism, it is a spirituality based on the wonder of creation.

      I did a brief post on this issue earlier this year based on an article by Nicholas Frankovich on the “church” of the Sunday Assembly. The Frankovich article is interesting as it gets at your very question, which in turn comes back to the question of what (or who) exactly God is? I would love to hear your thoughts.

      Peace,
      W. Ockham

      • James Cross says:

        I try to avoid using the word “God” to get around this issue.

        If I were pressed on the matter, I could say I believe in some form of God. It would be something embedded in the Universe, not apart from it. I have a pantheistic view, perhaps even to a degree a polytheistic view and I think it is compatible with science.

      • I agree that in certain conversations the term “God” is not helpful as every person has a preconceived definition of that term but that definition quite frequently is not consistent with how the term is used by the other persons one is conversing with.

        My belief system is more panentheistic; I believe “God” is definitely present in our four dimensional universe but I also believe that there is an ultimate reality that exists beyond our four dimensional universe and who created this four dimension universe. Ultimately any belief system in God has to comport with scientific findings and real-world experience.

        Peace,
        W. Ockham

  2. You might find Krista Tippet’s “On Being” discussion with Jim Bradley and Michael Ruse, “The Evolution of Science-Religion Debate” part of her “Civil Conversations Project.” I put the link in the website area below my name.

    Link to OnBeing Program

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