As I continue to structure the metaphysical thoughts behind the world in Evolved, a useful framework has been offered in John Polkinghorne‘s book, Science and Religion in the Quest of Truth. The book is part of a science and religion discussion group offered at my Congregational Church.
A huge challenge while writing Evolved was understanding how things like quantum physics and general relativity worked. An even larger question loomed in the back of my mind, which I did not recognize until after I had finished writing. It was the question of why things worked in such a way. This led me into philosophical questions, and then into spiritual explanations.
In his book, Mr. Polkinghorne refers to Philosophical Theology, a close relation to the Philosophy of Religion. Philosophy Theology sits on top of base layer of metaphysical topics like causality and consciousness, as well as theology studies focused on deity belief systems. It is a broad term that includes most major religions, although Buddhism may fall outside its scope due its denial of a deity.
To explain Philosophy Theology differently, Dr. Polkinghorne offers a look at one form of structure within its teaching. Ian Barbour created a taxonomy of stances when considering the relationship between science and religion. The four positions are conflict, independence, dialogue and integration.
At one end, conflict encompasses individuals who deny the other side offers viable answers. An atheist writer like Lawrence Krause and the biblical inerrancy belief system of fundamental christian denominations, like Baptism and Presbyterian, would fall into the “conflict” arena. Often our science versus religion debates get high-jacked by this conflict-laden approach. However, Mr. Polkinghorne argues each side’s antagonist views are based on an apples and oranges debate. Science is asking more of a “how?” question about the world while religion is asking more of a “why?” question. Recognizing this discord helped me set aside the typically bombastic arguments coming from each side.
My writing in Evolved is much more about the hope of finding balanced integration between science and religion. Thus I am seeking at least a “dialogue” between the two sides, with the hope of finding some integration. Philosophical Theology provides a framework to find a balance, without one side dominating the other. It also sets up well for the research I have already completed into science, philosophy and the spiritual (see Metaphysical “Choices”).
Personally, by writing Evolved I have discovered I am seeking a truth about the world. What is “Real?” Science explains many things but also is fairly limited in its scope. By definition it is an objective practice, striving to figure out how things work through repeatable experiments observed by many. Yet the world we perceive is by definition subjective. We cannot truly understand how another person experiences the world, or if they are even conscious as we believe ourselves to be. One person may perceive a miracle, something that seems to violate the laws of physics. By definition, this experience is not likely repeatable and therefore objective analysis is impossible. Therefore, science discards it.
My thoughts and feelings perceive more than science can explain. The more I look inward and open myself up, the more I perceive a universe beyond the objects that surround us. The more I search for the “You” in others, the greater my understanding of reality. Buddhism strives for “emptiness,” or a lack of objects to achieve enlightenment. Can science offer answers in an existence without objects?