Science and Religion as "Allies and Sparring Partners"

Science and Religion as "Allies and Sparring Partners" May 22, 2010

Kathleen Mulhern has a lovely reflection — based on her dissertation research — on the relationship between faith and scientific reflection.  My favorite part is this quotation from Maurice Blondel, a French Catholic theologian who is enjoying something of a renaissance among scholars today:

If the life of the senses leaves us with an infinite lassitude, scientific research leads to a more profound emptiness, to a collapse without remedy. To know is vain, is painful, because the knowledge brings to light an unsatisfied and inexplicable desire, the unknowable and the vanity in human being. Through its very development, science multiplies our contacts with the mystery as an expanding sphere touches at more and more points the void into which it is plunging. What is even a simple fact? Can we place ourselves in the presence of any positive, palpable, complete fact? No, every fact is already a complex fiction, an organic integration, a mental construction . . . . Science leaves an enormous amount unknown in the world; in vain do we seek from it reasons for acting…” (Action, 38)

Mulhern points to the unprovability of faith claims and scientific theories.  She concludes:

“The absence of proof — in both spiritual and scientific arenas — is not a negative, but a positive situation. It makes room for the new questions, the exploration, the quest.

“And yet, as the 17th century scientist, philosopher, and Christian thinker, Blaise Pascal, wrote, we must still choose our destiny. Without proof. And therein lie both the agony and the genuine possibility of “ecstasy,” which means the ability to stand outside the self. Each individual must choose, and choice alone makes the difference between a Richard Dawkins and a Francis Collins.

“The reasons for Dawkins’ rejection of the possibility of God and Collins’ embrace of it come from within, not from the data in a lab. Pascal, the scientist and man of faith, knew it as the Deus absconditus, the hidden God: “Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not. There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.”

“Human origin and human destiny are a matter of conviction. And conviction is a choice we make in the convergence of scientific discoveries, records of revelation, and the desires of the heart.”

Read the article in whole here.

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