Archive for the ‘intelligibility of creation’ Category

We need to make a distinction between the claim that the world is out there and the claim that the truth is out there

November 14, 2009

We need to make a distinction between the claim that the world is out there and the claim that the truth is out there. To say that the world is out there, that it is not our creation, is to say, with common sense, that most things in space and time are the effects of causes which do not include human mental states. To say that truth is not out there is simply to say that where there are no sentences there is no truth, that sentences are elements of human languages, and that human languages are human creations. Truth cannot be out there–cannot exist independently of the human mind–because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true or false. The world on its own–unaided by the describing activities of human beings–cannot.

Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, Solidarity, CUP, 1989, p.5

But Rorty has assumed that language and thought can only exist in the human mind, and thus ‘truth’ only comes into being with human thinking. But God created and described the world before man existed (Genesis 1.3f. ‘And God said it was good’) and human language is a subset of God’s language (the image of God, Gen.1.26), the speaking God who spoke all things into existence Gen.1.

(Science) came to full flower in its modern form in seventeenth-century Europe. Have you ever wondered why that’s so? After all the ancient Greeks were pretty clever..

October 5, 2009

(Science) came to full flower in its modern form in seventeenth-century Europe. Have you ever wondered why that’s so? After all the ancient Greeks were pretty clever and the Chinese achieved a sophisticated culture well before we Europeans did, yet they did not hit on science as we now understand it. Quite a lot of people have thought that the missing ingredient was provided by the Christian religion. Of course, it’s impossible to prove that so – we can’t rerun history without Christianity and see what happens – but there’s a respectable case worth considering. It runs like this.

The way Christians think about creation (and the same is true for Jews and Muslims) has four significant consequences. The first is that we expect the world to be orderly because its Creator is rational and consistent, yet God is also free to create a universe whichever way God chooses. Therefore, we can’t figure it out just by thinking what the order of nature ought to be; we’ll have to take a look and see. In other words, observation and experiment are indispensable. That’s the bit the Greeks missed. They thought you could do it all just by cogitating. Third, because the world is God’s creation, it’s worthy of study. That, perhaps, was a point that the Chinese missed as they concentrated their attention on the world of humanity at the expense of the world of nature. Fourth, because the creation is not itself divine, we can prod it and investigate it without impiety. Put all these features together, and you have the intellectual setting in which science can get going.

John Polkinghorne, Quarks, Chaos and Christianity, p.18

It’s certainly a historical fact that most of the pioneers of modern science were religious men. They may have had their difficulties with the Church (like Galileo) or been of an orthodox cast of mind (like Newton), but religion was important for them. They used to like to say that God had written two books for our instruction, the book of scripture and the book of nature. I think we need to try to decipher both books if we’re to understand what’s really happening.

Quarks, Chaos & Christianity, page 29-30.

John Polkinghorne (born October 16, 1930 in Weston-super-Mare, England) is a British particle physicist and theologian. He has written extensively on matters concerning science and faith, and was awarded the Templeton Prize in 2002.

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful

October 4, 2009

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.

Jules Henri Poincaré, Science and Method, Part I. Ch. 1 : The Selection of Facts, p. 22

Poincaré – Jules Henri Poincaré (29 April 185417 July 1912), generally known as Henri Poincaré, was one of France’s greatest mathematicians and theoretical physicists, and a philosopher of science.

This ‘beauty’ of nature’s underlying order revealed in mathematical laws and scientific equations requires explanation.

Why should humans imagine the universe is intelligible?

September 3, 2009

It is the most persistent and greatest adventure in human history, this search to understand the universe, how it works, and where it came from. It is difficult to imagine that a handful of residents of a small planet circling an insignificant star in a small galaxy have as their aim a complete understanding of the entire universe, a small speck of creation truly believing it is capable of comprehending the whole…

(Murray Gell-Mann)