Chapter 26 » 26.24

Ways of seeking

It is often supposed that science and religious belief are incompatible. Indeed, a dichotomy does exist between some traditional views of God’s interaction with the universe and science’s perception of natural laws. If we only use God to fill the gaps wherever a rational explanation has not been found, God’s role must diminish as scientific understanding grows. A ‘God of the gaps’ is inevitably a rather small God. However, the immanence of God in our world may be appreciated through Science as vividly as through the Arts. Many scientists daily experience God through their work: in the elegance and sophistication of natural design or the beauty and harmony revealed in certain theories. The growing body of scientific knowledge demands a continuous re-thinking of what is meant by ‘Creator’ but our greater understanding magnifies rather than diminishes our appreciation of God.

Science and religion have much in common. They are communal activities and involve a search for some greater truth. The sharing of ideas is fundamental to both. The discipline of science can make a valuable contribution to religious thought; critical honesty, the willingness to abandon old ideas and modes of thought when fresh insight demands it and the centrality of experience as an arbiter of truth are as important in one as in the other. In both the scientific and religious searches for truth, the implications of current beliefs are explored to see where they lead. Beliefs are not just safe ledges in an uncertain reality, but rather handholds from which further heights can be reached.

Eleven Quaker scientists, 1989

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