15 November 2009

Complementarity of Religion & Science

Opening paragraph of my thesis, "The Complementarity of Religion and Science:  John Polkinghorne's Scientific-Critical Realism":

As individuals committed to truth-seeking enterprises, modern scientists and modern religious believers are best equipped philosophically with a critical realist theory of science and religion. Anglican priest and physicist, John Polkinghorne, proposes that science and religion, properly understood in critical realist terms, are complementary human discourses designed and used to discover, describe, and explain what the world is really like. For science, “the world” is the self-made physical universe of observable entities, natural processes, cosmic forces, and sometimes unobservable objects whose existence is “theoretically necessary.” For religion, “the world” is all of creation, the universe made from nothing; created by God to grow and thrive under His guidance, and to serve as a living sign of His presence among His creatures. A critical realist theory of complementarity succeeds because both the world of the scientist and the world of the believer are open to rational inquiry and subject to critical dissection; that is, these worlds are intelligible. As such, Polkinghorne argues, the successful truth-seeking experiences of scientists and believers are necessarily always, already interpreted experiences. Truth is not the result of an immediate confrontation between the human mind and the really-real. Truth is a relationship between the perceived and the perceiver, where both the object of perception and the one perceiving share in the establishment of an “adequate” though not absolute description of how the world really is. Science, as a truth-seeking enterprise, is a systematically descriptive and explanatory investigation into the physical entities and processes of the world. Religion, also as a truth-seeking enterprise, is a systematic attempt to uncover and understand God's Self-revelation in His creation so that believers might be better able to imitate the love and mercy God has shown to us in our creation.

[N.B.  The worst part of writing this thing:  I am being forced to use the incredibly picky and byzantine Chicago-style manual!  MLA is a thousand times better.  Oh well.]

*Blogger wouldn't accept the footnotes for some reason.


  1. Hello Father!

    This clause scares me:

    "Truth is a relationship between the perceived and the perceiver ..."

    I thought Jesus Christ is the Truth. Or am I missing something here? Please explain.

  2. Amazing, Father! I have no idea what this means, but I'm sure your profs will be totally cool with it.

  3. PMc, this is a standard definition from Thomas Aquinas. His so-called "adequatio" defintion. As limited creatures our understanding of the truth is necessarily limited. I'm using "truth" here as a philosophical term to describe the relationship between a limited human mind and a thing perceived. This isn't meant to be a theological term as I'm using it. Nothing to be scared of. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

  4. Amazing how no matter how progressive and questioning of Biblical sources or how ultramontane and "Roma locuta" they are, really, all kinds of theology professors treat the style manuals as THE Word from God on high and direct revelation that is not to be messed with!

    I'll say a little prayer for ya!

  5. Anonymous7:47 PM


    Well written! Very interesting indeed... :)