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Science and the Search for God Paperback – April 1, 2003
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As a boy, I often pestered my grandmother for answers to the Great Mysteries - "What came before time," "Who made God," "What's outside the universe." She said I'd just have to wait until I got heaven to find out. Then, she promised, I could just walk up to God's throne and ask him. In other words, don't worry about it.
At some point, I simply started putting the two incompatibles - science and God - into separate mental compartments. Not willing to accept religious stories as serious explanations for life, yet equally unwilling to renounce some kind of godly First Cause as responsible for life, it seemed better to keep the matters mentally, and emotionally, apart.
The Reverend Gary Kowalski, minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont, makes a good argument that such segregation isn't needed. In "Science and the Search for God," the author gives us a gentle and gracefully written book in which he contends that faith and science should coexist on friendly, non-exclusive terms. "There is no reason that science should make us blind to the sacred in its prolific expression," he writes, "God is in the details - the lavishness and extravagance that bless every niche, nook and cranny of creation..."
It seems to me that I can live very nicely with that. I view as unarguable that wiggly creatures are our ultimate ancestors. But on the other hand I regard the mind as something far more than an evolutionary happenstance. Kowalski's book suggests the two views aren't contradictory, that the intellect that requires the former can live perfectly well with the faith that supports the latter.Read more ›
One of the subtexts is an arc of history which starts before there was a schism in knowledge between religious beliefs and scientific knowledge. Gary Kowalski would like to see the arc come back to a conversation about the big questions that involves all free thinkers. I am also a UU and very comfortable with science. I am comfortable with atheism, but, you can never prove a negative assertion. My current fascination is how much wiggle room do we need to make the gods possible. If Reality was just the 3 dimensions plus time, one cold claim that there was no mystery and that God could not exist. But Gary walks thru many several corners of science - what came before the big bang, the uncertainty principle, quantum mechanics the seem to leave some room for mystery. This sense is reinforced by scientists. An example is the J.B.S. Haldane quote "the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose". Many longer wonderful passages by the likes of Einstein, Feynman and Schrödinger.
Two chapters really spoke to me: one on the Gaia hypothesis and the other on process theology. While process theology feels very real whenever I can wrap my mind around it, it can be a little vague. A bit like the force or a giant magnet pulling us towards our best selves.Read more ›
The subject of the book is exactly what its title says: "Science and the Search for God." Kowalski doesn't prescribe a simplistic answer for that search, but brings me on a journey of questioning and possibility as we travel through this stranger and stranger universe of ours, with its movement and dimensions, its strings and quarks, and all its parts, including me, that may even share active roles in its being what it is. I strongly recommend it.
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;" -- Ecclesiastes 3:7 (NKJV)
Reverend Kowalski makes the obvious point that science is advancing very rapidly, and that non-scientists can gain a lot by understanding and applying that new learning. Much of what is being learned raises more fundamental questions, ones that the scientific perspective may not be able to answer on its own. Drawing on examples as wide-ranging as Gaia Hypothesis and the role of the observer in modern physics, he points to a connectedness that is felt, rather than measured, that faith can elaborate. He is encouraged by the establishment of the Templeton Foundation and other initiatives to encourage faith-science conversations.
Some won't like that he feels science has a role in defining who we see God as. Others won't like his attempt to embrace all perspectives. Surely those views and efforts should be less offensive than lobbing stones at either faith or science merely to defend one's own preferential source of enlightenment.
If you don't already believe that dialogue can occur and be fruitful, you should read this book. It will help you see past the rhetoric that divides faith and science in too many cases.