Born American, raised Episcopalian, converted to Orthodoxy some fifteen years ago. I know the Answer to life, the universe, and everything; of the answers, I have only a share. I like looking outside the box, and dislike lack of vision and legalism. Give me a vista, for the big picture; but give me a focus, to get to the heart of the matter! I value courtesy highly and therefore disdain political correctness. I am orthodox yet unconventional, traditional yet unconservative, rigorous yet flexible, a thinker yet not a pedant. I love paradox but not contradiction, mystery but not concealment, honesty but not belligerence, cooperation not competition, and many kinds of puzzles you can't quite get your arms around. I think Wikipedia is more than a fine idea; it's also practical and thrives on good will and freedom (together, inseparably). And I do love the environment when a win is not a win unless it's a win-win-win-win-win.
|Short essay on science and Christianity|
"It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature. -- Neils Bohr, as quoted in Rhodes, Richard (2012) , The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Simon & Schuster, p. 77, ISBN 978-1-4516-7761-4
I admire Bohr's succinct correction about attitudes to physics, and by extension, to all sciences. He was ever reticent, even unwilling, to express or promulgate "laws of nature", and resistant, even opposed to the notion that physics [science] might actually be able to arrive at absolute truths or principles. Instead, he preferred to refer to "viewpoints" or "lines of reasoning", and refused to "carry argument beyond physical evidence", placing strict limits on abstraction. He rejected the idea that physics could afford to be authoritarian, "rigidly governed by mechanistic cause and effect". Thus predisposed, he worked out (beginning in 1911 and 1912) his discoveries about the nature of the atom that led to the establishment of the theory of quantum mechanics and to his 1922 Nobel Prize (ref to Rhodes, ch 3). Even today this foundational approach to science is not widely appreciated outside the ranks of professional scientists, and not always even then.
It is perhaps remarkable then that the Orthodox Christian faith reflects a parallelism of such attitude within religion. It views God Himself as the authority, the only real authority, the only absolute, these things therefore not being abstractions but characteristics of the infinite being of God, and indeed, manifestations of His action. But finite humans, unable to grasp the infinite but only to apprehend it in a limited fashion, are restricted to an experience of portions: the concrete, the practical, the example, the situation, the life of change and growth. The ultimate authority Himself is not authoritarian, nor rigid, nor abstract, nor legalistic, but relational, within Himself, and with people. Humans do not arrive at absolute truths, but the absolute God comes to be with humans. And people respond with all those qualities that humans have, viewpoints, perceptions, lines of reasoning, intuitions, and relations in community. Thus, Orthodox theology and doctrine depend first on God and what He reveals, but are not themselves the whole of Him, nor absolute. His revelation of Himself is true and does not change. But it is wrong to think that the task of Orthodox theology is to describe (much less find out) what God's nature is. Orthodox theology concerns what we can say about God.
This compatibility of outlook is but one example of how science and Christianity are not fundamentally opposed to each other. Most conflicts have within their germinations a certain rigidity of posture, the assumption of mechanistic principles that can drive adherents towards the proclamation of absolutes. Neither science nor religion are free of this very human, though flawed, tendency to carry argument beyond evidence, even beyond revelation. But the tendency can also continue, carrying intuition beyond those boundaries, leading us to draw unwarranted conclusions. The remedy in science is as Bohr described, to adhere to the physical evidence (and also to pursue experiment to obtain more evidence). The remedy in Christianity is to adhere to God, in relationship and community, so that our personal perceptions do not outrun God's revelations to His Church. In both, the individual is capable of seeking out insights (new to the person, perhaps to others), but the promise of increasing wisdom first means much work, then communication, and also confirmation within the scientific or religious community.