Behind and permeating all our scientific activity, whether in critical analysis or discovery, there is an elemental, overwhelming faith in the rational constitution of things, but faith also in the possibility of grasping the real world with our concepts

Behind and permeating all our scientific activity, whether in critical analysis or discovery, there is an elemental, overwhelming faith in the rational constitution of things, but faith also in the possibility of grasping the real world with our concepts, and above all faith in the truth over which we have no control but in the service of which our rationality stands or falls. Faith and intrinsic rationality are interlocked with one another… Science does not operate from an axiomatic set of formally defined and verified propositions, as the positivists claim, but from ultimate informal assumptions which cannot be proved or refuted and which cannot be completely formalized, yet without implicit reliance on them would be no scientific knowledge at all. As examples of these ultimate assumptions we may refer to belief in truth or belief in the lawfulness of nature, neither of which we could prove for we would have to assume them in any attempted proof, but both of them are nevertheless all determining constituents in our fundamental frame of belief, affecting the entire shape and scope of our scientific activities and their results as well, Hence Polanyi insisted that the premises of science on which all its inquiry rests are the beliefs held by scientists on the intelligible nature of reality independent of themselves and its capacity to disclose itself in an indeterminate range of yet unknown and perhaps even unthinkable ways. Far from being subjective or irrational these beliefs have to do with the structural kinship between the knowing subject and the objective reality he seeks to know, and they arise in his mind as intuitive convictions which he cannot reasonably avoid for they are thrust upon him as elemental aspects of reality pressing for realization in his understanding.

Thomas F. Torrance, Christian Theology of Scientific Culture, Oxford University Press, New York, 1981, pp. 63-66

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