A review of the past ten years' of the Boyle Lecture and their contribution to the dialogue between Christianity and our contemporary understanding of the natural world.
The key to understanding the relationship between science and religion lies in the recognition that both are, in their own specific ways, concerned with the search for truth, a truth that is attainable through commitment to well-motivated beliefs. The ‘new atheists’ fail to acknowledge this fact, polemically alleging that religious people believe without evidence, or even against the evidence. This false caricature results in the new atheists paying no honest attention to serious theological discussion. Their writings are full of assertion but lacking in engaged rational argument.
Of course, in their search for truth science and religion are exploring different dimensions of the human encounter with reality. Science is concerned with impersonal encounter – reality treatable as an ‘It’, you might say. This is a realm in which experience can be manipulated and repeated as often as is desired. This ability gives science its great secret weapon of experimental testing. If you do not believe that the pressure and volume of a given quantity of gas at constant temperature are inversely proportional, just investigate for yourself and you will find that Robert Boyle was right. Yet we all know that there is a different dimension of reality, the personal and transpersonal, where reality is encountered not as an ‘It’ but as a ‘Thou’, and in that realm testing has to give way to trusting. If I am always setting little traps to see if you are my friend, I shall soon destroy the possibility of friendship between us. The attempt to manipulate God and put God to the test is the sinful error of magic. It is in this rich and profound realm of personal and transpersonal experience that religion pursues its quest for truth.
I see a cousinly relation between my scientific experience and my theological experience. I like to say that I am two-eyed, viewing reality with both the eye of science and the eye of religion. I believe that with this binocular vision I can see further and deeper than I could with either eye on its own.
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
Gresham College has been giving free public lectures since 1597. This tradition continues today with all of our five or so public lectures a week being made available for free download from our website. There are currently nearly 1,500 lectures free to access or download from the website.
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