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Welcome to project Worldview's Worldview Watch
periodic commentary and analysis on news items from a worldview perspective

 previous issue                                          issue #14,  posted 12 /16 / 2010                       archive of all  issues

Science and Theology: "The Humble Approach" 

in the newsRecently the Templeton Foundation sponsored a conference "Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality" in honor of Cambridge physicist and Christian minister John Polkinghorne to coincide with his 80th birthday.  A Foundation November 3rd press release began "For centuries, Western science and philosophy has been built on the bedrock understanding that there is a clear difference between the material and the immaterial —or, in theological terms, between the natural and the supernatural." It then provocatively asks, "What if new scientific findings hinted that the distinction might present an inaccurate view of reality?"  The press release  goes on to suggest that quantum information theory might "dramatically blur, if not collapse, the distinction between immaterial 'ideas' and material reality."  Along the way it mentions founder John Templeton's book Possibilities for Over One Hundredfold More Spiritual Information. 

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org):  Despite having spent much time on the Templeton website reading papers posted there, I was unaware of Sir John Templeton's book.  Upon investigating, I was immediately intrigued by its subtitle "The Humble Approach in Theology and Science."  Templeton captures the essence of this approach with the phrase: "How little we know, how eager to learn."   Many who spend time on the project Worldview website in an attempt to figure out what we're about soon appreciate the importance we place on humility, and on this attitude so wonderfully expressed in Templeton's phrase.  Of the eighty worldview themes one finds there,  the first is "Humbly Unsure" (theme #1A).  If this theme were meant to apply only to scientific and theological matters it might have been instead named "The Humble Approach."  Rather it is soon followed by "Skeptic" (theme #1B), more tied to skepticism, an attitude important to science, and then "The True Believer" (theme #2A), about believing with certainty, an attitude important to religion.  

In the book's preface, Templeton describes spiritual information as involving "concepts from religion which have proven beneficial...[and] basic invisible realities such as love, purpose, creativity, intellect, thanksgiving, prayer, humility, praise, thrift, compassion, invention, truthfulness, giving, and worship."  No doubt atheistic types valuing Scientific Materialism (theme #5A) will object to the Templeton Foundation's founder's apparent embracing of Vitalism (theme #5B) and Mysticism (theme #7A),and his desire to spend millions of dollars on "rigorous verifiable research" into such things as purpose and prayer.  But, in the spirit of this Christmas season, most will agree the world would be a better place if there were one hundred times more of the "invisible realities" in Templeton's list.

While thinking about the above, I was also pondering an email project Worldview got from "Eric H."  It starts,  "Consider my thoughts in reference to the "world views".  I don't believe in fatalism..." I've cleaned up its informal   grammar, titled it "God and The Way That Is" and linked  to it on the Fatalism (theme #11A) webpage. The part of it that I wish to share here is as follows: "Even though man has NO CHOICE he can still believe. Belief is not choice. Belief is not gained by choice. Belief is given by God. One can not CHOOSE to believe. You can TRY to choose to believe but you can't believe unless you JUST BELIEVE."  

Eric H is seemingly promoting belief without justification. (For a contrast, see the entry for "justification of belief" on our website.)    Sprinkled throughout his email are references to the need for humility. It concludes, "Evil mankind sees choices when there are none, Godly men see belief and believe. God has shown us right and wrong, now we must BELIEVE OR NOT BELIEVE, simply put. To believe demands humility. To choose demands pride."  Along with seemingly embracing a "Moralistic God" (theme #14A), in my mind this ending links humility with Biblical passages that urge us to be like sheep: blindly following, not seeking, not wanting to know why. (For a contrast, see the entry for "seekers vs. believers" on our website.Project Worldview is about encouraging  people (especially young people) to be seekers. In matters of religion and science it is about encouraging "The Humble Approach" built around the attitude "how little we know, how eager to learn."

In closing: One of the papers presented (by physicist Nicolas Gistin) at the Templeton sponsored conference, argues that "any serious scientist has to believe in free will."  He goes on to add, "Determinism is incompatible with free will, but randomness is clearly not sufficient to explain free will. [It] ...seems to emerge from outside space-time, i.e. it is not part of physics.  Nevertheless, accepting free will and true randomness in a realistic world-view allows us to ask new questions..."  Intriguing--I'd say Sir John would be pleased! 

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