Sunday, June 5, 2016

An excellent book on the theology of science

I have just finished reading the wonderful book Faith and Wisdom in Science by Tom McLeish. I think it may be one of the best (advanced) books about the relationship between science and theology.
Next monday night I will lead a discussion about the book at the monthly theology book club I am a part of.

Maybe the book partly resonates so much with me because like me, McLeish is both a theoretical condensed matter physicist and a Christian.

To get some of the flavour of the you can look at the associated blog which links to several reviews and a few videos where McLeish discusses the book.

The book is rich and highly original. Here are just a few ideas that I thought were particularly valuable.

Science should be be viewed as a richly human scholarly endeavour that should not be divorced from the humanities. Here he draws heavily on the classic book Real Presences by the literary critic George Steiner, who suggests

"Only art can go some way towards making accessible, towards waking into some measure of communicability, the sheer inhuman otherness of matter..."

McLeish takes this as a departure to explore that this is actually what science should really be about.

We should not think about "theology versus science" or "theology and science" but "a theology of science" and "a science of theology".

The book of Job, rather than Genesis, should be the starting point for a theology of science.

Science involves pain and love and worship. Science should be about "a meaningful reengagement  and reconciliation with nature".

Science today has lost this richness due to being instrumentalist and seen solely as a means of "wealth creation".

Drawing from a report about the safety of nanotechnology, McLeish considers several popular narratives for science, identified by the philosopher, Jean-Pierre Dupuy

1. Be careful what you wish for - the narrative of Desire
2. Pandora's Box - the narrative of Evil and Hope
3. Messing with Nature - the narrative of the Sacred
4. Kept in the Dark - the narrative of Alienation
5. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer - the narrative of Exploitation.

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