Fundamental issues in theology and science



In recent years significant progress has been made toward Einstein’s great objective of a unified field theory combining all primary forces in the universe, through a coordination of relativity, quantum, gravity and thermodynamic theory. One thinks here, for example, of the brilliant work of Stephen Hawking in linking together thermodynamics and the geometrical properties of black holes1. I myself do not consider that in principle a complete unified field theory can be achieved, owing to the contingent, unbounded nature of the finite universe, for contingent structures defy precise conceptual analysis and formalisation. Nevertheless, the more deeply scientific inquiry penetrates into the multilevelled intelligibility of nature, the more it needs a unified view of the universe.


Unify View Historical Science American Philosophical Society Unify Field Theory Ultimate Ground 
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References and notes

  1. 1.
    For Hawking’s own assessment of a complete unified theory, see his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, entitled ‘Is the end in sight for theoretical physics?’, 1980.Google Scholar
  2. 2a.
    Max Planck, Religion und Naturwissenschaft, 1937Google Scholar
  3. 2b.
    Cf. Karl Heim’s comments, Christian Faith and Natural Science, English translation, 1953, pp. 169f. & p. 233.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Cf. Einstein’s preface to Max Planck, Where is Science Going?, English translation, 1933, pp. 9–14.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    ‘Wir wollen nicht nur wissen wie die Natur ist (und wie ihre Vorgänge ablaufen), sondern wir wollen auch nach Möglichkeit das vielleicht utopisch und anmassend erscheinende Ziel erreichen, zu wissen, warum die Natur so und nicht anders ist’; p. 126.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    ‘... es ist sozusagen die religiöse Basis des wissenschaftlichen Bemühens’, p. 127. Cf. Cornelius Lanczos on this Einsteinian rejection of positivism, ‘Rationalism and the Physical World’, in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. III, 1974, p. 1985.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    For an instance of this see W. H. Waddington, The Ethical Animal.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Cf. here my essays: ‘The Ethical Implications of Anselm’s De Veritate’, Theologische Zeitschrift, vol. 24, 1968, pp. 309–319, and Juridical Law and Physical Law, 1982.Google Scholar
  9. 8a.
    See especially Ilya Prigogine, From Being to Becoming, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco 1980Google Scholar
  10. 8b.
    Ilya Prigogine,Order Out of Chaos, Bantam, New York 1984.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    See my essay ‘Time in Scientific and Historical Research’, Epistemologia X (1987), pp. 73–80.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    This is nowhere more evident than in Wilhelm Herrmann’s distinction between Historie and Geschichte with which Bultmann and many other biblical scholars have been operating.Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    Cf. ‘The Concept of Order in Theology and Science’, chapter 2 of The Christian Frame of Mind, The Handsel Press, Edinburgh 1985, p. 17: ‘… in theology and science alike, we are concerned with the kind of order that ought to be, through relating actual order to the ultimate controlling ground of order from which all order proceeds’. An enlarged edition is now published by Helmers and Howard, Colorado Springs.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    See his Oersted Lecture, ‘On Recognizing ‘Law Without Law’’, The American Physical Society, Jan. 25, 1983.Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    J. A. Wheeler, ‘Delayed-Choice Experiments and the Bohr-Einstein Dialogue’, Papers Read at a Meeting of the American Philosophical Society and the Royal Society, June 5,1980, The American Philosophical Society, 1981, p. 29.Google Scholar
  16. 14.
    Op. cit., p. 4. And see ‘Law Without Law’, chapter 1.13 of Quantum Theory And Measurement, edited by J. A. Wheeler and W. H. Zurek, pp. 182- 221.Google Scholar
  17. 15.
    Op. cit., p. 36.Google Scholar
  18. 16.
    E.g. The Tacit Dimension, 1967, p. 11f. Cf. Scientific Thought and Social Reality,Google Scholar
  19. 1974, p. 137f: ‘All meaning lies in higher levels of reality that are not reducible to the laws by which the ultimate particulars of the universe are controlled.’Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    Edited by A. Giovanni, M. Marinaro and A. Rimini.Google Scholar
  21. 18.
    My references are to Wheeler’s own typescript, pp. 5ff, 13ff, 20ff.Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    Oersted Lecture, p. 15f.Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    See Karl Barth’s appreciation of ‘the incomparable Mozart’, and the pure way in which the music of creation, as expressed by Mozart, is related to the Word of God, Church Dogmatics, III. 3, English translation, 1960, pp. 297ff; and cf. III.1, p. 404f.Google Scholar
  24. 21.
    For Michael Polanyi the capacity of nature to reveal itself in unsuspecting ways in the future is an essential aspect of its reality, The Tacit Dimension, 1967, pp. 23, 32f, 77f, 87; Knowing and Being, 1969, p. 119f, etc.Google Scholar
  25. 22.
    See the essay by R. B. Lindsay, ‘Entropy Consumption and Values in Physical Science’, American Scientist, 1982, pp. 375–385.Google Scholar
  26. 23.
    This is forcefully argued by Ilya Prigogine in showing that recognition of the inherence of time in nature induces a transition in our thought from being to becoming; see: From Being to Becoming, 1980, passim, but cf. p. 214f. (The subtitle of this book is: Time and complexity in the physical sciences!)Google Scholar
  27. 24.
    Cf. Prigogine’s contribution to Zygon in 1984, Vol. 19.4, ‘The Rediscovery of Time’, p. 444. Prigogine derives the term ‘(un)redeemable time’ from a poem by T. S. Eliot published in 1968: ‘Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in our future/ And time future contained in time past/ …/If all time is eternally present/ All time is unredeemable’ (‘Murder in the Cathedral’).Google Scholar
  28. 25.
    See St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, chapter 2 verse 12 to chapter 10 verse 15.Google Scholar
  29. 26.
    Although privately printed in a limited edition, the book is available from the author at Broomhill, Kippford, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. M. Bloemendal, physical chemist, Research associate NOW (The Netherlands organization for scientific research)/Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and lecturer Nederlands Israelitisch Seminarium, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EdinburghEdinburghScotland

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