Dialogue between science and faith in the face of the philosophical questions of physics today.
Author: Archbishop Józef Zycinski. Archbishop of Lublin. Chancellor of the University of Lublin, Poland.
Lecture given at: meeting on Faith and Culture, Seville, Spain.
Date: 14 March 1998
One of the disturbing phenomena of today's culture is the gulf between the human sciences and the natural sciences. C. P. Snow described the classic form of this phenomenon in the pages of "The Two Cultures". Since his work was published, the phenomenon of the gulf between the two cultures has deepened as a consequence of the growing anti-intellectual atmosphere in today's culture. In the radical versions of today's postmodernism, both the Christian worldview and the heritage of the Enlightenment, in which the fundamental theses of modern science were formed, are criticised. This has fundamentally changed the climate of dialogue between science and Christian thought. In the past, Christianity was repeatedly criticised from the perspective of the natural sciences; today, both Christianity and the natural sciences are subject to criticism, carried out in the name of the search for a new scientific paradigm, of radical social slogans, or in the name of a cultural pluralism that is understood in a peculiar way and in which the authority of reason is disrupted.
Half a century ago, when the rules of positivist methodology were followed, the search for a holistic synthesis by natural scientists was regarded as a dangerous intellectual business . In criticising metaphysics, sceptical natural scientists expressed their aversion to holistic studies, regarding them as a kind of replacement activity of retired people who have nothing more to say in science. In these circles, the slogan was repeated with sarcasm: First sclerosis, then synthesis.
Today, in the circles of the sympathisers of postmodernism, there is an attempt to frighten with analysis and physics, in the same way as there was once an attempt to frighten with synthesis and metaphysics. All the exact disciplines are presented as a danger in which the imperialism of language and the rules of logic can lead to the enslavement of man, from agreement with the famous motto that Michel Foucault, in his speech at the Collège de France, expressed: "The truth will enslave you". In the new proposals to escape from slavery, a kind of poetics of science is attempted; in it, elements of private mysticism merge with New Age ideology, while, in the proposals to develop a "new physics", or a "new biology", the counterculture slogans close to the 1968 generation are given a radical form. Examples of such an attitude can be found in the work of Fritjof Capra or, later, David Bohm. One way of protesting against the poetics of these works - which lack the most elementary methodological critical spirit - is the turn towards scientific schemes in which an attempt is made to combine some forms of methodological positivism with the strong version of a private metaphysics. We can consider the work of Stephen Hawking as representative of such a style. The works of Hawking and Capra indicate the Scylla and Charybdis of current philosophical attempts to explain nature. Nowadays these attempts have gained such popularity that John Brockman has even written about the qualitatively new phenomenon of the "third culture", which is to combine, within the scope of the same theories, physical, metaphysical and even theological elements in the interpretation of nature* (1).
Between Hawking and Capra, therefore, a wide field of interpretations extends, in which both new premises of the natural sciences and the classical versions of metaphysics and theology must be taken into consideration in order to elaborate a great synthesis, which would make it possible to overcome the painful phenomenon of the fragmentary knowledge and the atomised culture. It is in this direction that we find numerous intellectual inspirations undertaken by John Paul II. Already as Bishop of Krakow, he organised interdisciplinary colloquia in which he brought together natural scientists, philosophers and theologians to discuss the great questions of metaphysics. The tradition of these meetings can be found today in the summer symposia at Castel Gandolfo. At the same time, the Pope - both in his messages to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and in his meetings with academic circles - underlines the value of interdisciplinary research in order to react against the phenomena of the atomisation of today's culture. This interdisciplinary orientation of research is not the result of a passing fad, but is the necessary condition for discovering the full truth about the world and mankind. John Paul II emphasised this last fact in the speech addressed to scientists during his last pilgrimage to Poland, where he said: "Man transcends the frontiers of the particular disciplines of knowledge, to direct them towards (...) the supreme Truth and towards the realisation final of his humanity".
It would be difficult to point to another pontificate in modern times in which the dialogue with the world of science was as intense as that conducted by John Paul II * (2) A very significant manifestation of this openness is the message addressed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 22 October 1996, concerning the theory of evolution. This message brings an important clarification to the controversies in which philosophers and theologians have been embroiled since Charles Darwin formulated his theory of natural selection. Without linking himself to Darwinism, which is one of the possible forms of evolutionism, John Paul II determines the interpretative horizon in which Christian thought and various forms of evolutionism can constructively cooperate. In describing evolutionism as a "meta-scientific theory" and not as a "natural-scientific" one, John Paul II indicates that he is not referring to one of the existing versions of the theory of evolution, but speaks of evolutionism as an interpretative paradigm. Within this paradigm, the theistic philosopher can treat the billions of years of cosmic evolution as the revelation of the Divine Logos, whose presence is not revealed in the gaps of our knowledge, but in the mathematical description of nature, in its symmetries, or in the possibility of effective forecasting.
Poetry instead of methodology
Today's physics, especially in its most developed branches, among which are quantum field theories and relativistic cosmology, cannot be cultivated according to the radical prescriptions of the methodology offered in the past by logical positivism. Abandoning the narrow rules of positivism has led to a radical softening of the former rules of methodology. In practice this led to a style of research that was already practised in the studies of so-called "physico-theology". This latter way of dealing with things once inspired the discussions of natural scientists, in which the use of differential calculus and the question of the conditions of gravitation went hand in hand with considerations of the perfection of the world machine and the role of God in mathematized nature. In these analyses, the new discoveries of physics were combined with a daring philosophy, and also with the ideological commentary that expressed the conviction of common sense dominant at the time. The works, very different in style and content, in which elements of physics, philosophy and even theology are brought together, now bear surnames such as Davies, Wheeler, Barrow, Sagan, Gribbin, Penrose and Tipler. In these works, we very often find innovative proposals to bring together physics, meditation, aesthetics, philosophy and mysticism. The authors of these works gladly address discussions on creation ex nihilo, on the nature of time, on the necessity of finalistic categories in physics, and on God as the end of the processes of cosmic evolution.
The authors just cited represent such an enormous diversity of styles, that it may be unfair to formulate general opinions on the metaphysics proposal by them. However, looking at the matter from a statistical point of view, one can note an interesting regularity: the representatives of the "new" physics who are philosophising do not shy away from quick "solutions" to complex philosophical questions. As a negative consequence of this amateurish interest in metaphysics, there often appear works in which, by concentrating mainly on digressions and analogies concerning nature, the questions of the existence of God, the soul, the problem of the meaning of life, etc., are definitively solved in one and the same paragraph. Some of these natural scientists who are philosophising seem to be paying the intellectual debts incurred in the past by those philosophers who tried to solve "ex catedra" the complex scientific questions about nature, without first taking the trouble to understand its character. If this stance is accompanied by a previously possessed scientific authority, a suggestive style and a certain panache, we find ourselves in a situation in which a para-intellectual metaphorism offers itself as the modern equivalent of the rational analyses belonging to the group of the big questions of classical philosophy. The works announcing this theme already speak in their titles of "new physics" or "new biology". This terminology expresses a kind of convenience, since in each of the disciplines being developed, old and new theories must coexist. The "new" physics, since the time of Planck's and Einstein's revolution, is constantly developing, while the controversies surrounding its many problems are still far from reaching unambiguous solutions.
Physics and mysticism in Capra's formulation
The current that propagates the widely understood poetic humanisation of physics is represented by the works of Fritjof Capra, among which "The Tao of Physics" and "The Crux of the Matter" stand out. The author, in a conversation with Renée Weber, acknowledges that the first of these two books has been received with scepticism by physicists and, at the same time, states that before the English publishing house Wildwood House decided to publish it, twelve other publishers had already rejected it*(3).
Speaking about the genesis of his intellectual interests, Capra tells us that his youthful encounters with Heisenberg awakened his interest in the poetry of Rabindranaz Tagore and in the thought of the Orient. The rest was completed by the cultural revolution of 1968, which he experienced between the Parisian Sorbonne and the counterculture centres of California. The university campus , where every day the search for alternative ways of thinking was encouraged, created a favourable environment for the search for new models of interpretation, also in physics. The result of these fascinations, searches and considerations is the book published in 1972, graduate "The Tao of Physics", the contents of which attracted the attention of many philosophers and cultural critics. On the other hand, most physicists assess this work in a laconic way: what can be accepted in it does not contribute anything new to physics or philosophy, and what appears to be new in it is highly controversial.
Capra expresses his fascination with Eastern thought, even when the tradition he refers to is dominated by trivial generalities. Thus, for example, he describes his meeting with Krishnamurti in 1969 as a great intellectual event. When this very famous protégé of the Theosophical Society visited the University of Santa Cruz to give lectures, Capra was fascinated to hear several variations on the topic, such as: stop thinking, abandon what you knew before, empty yourself, in order to find fulfilment. In these remarks, Capra discovered the profound contents that inspired his later achievements. In the meantime, it should be noted that the observance of these indications causes certain problems for natural scientists: how can one cultivate physics by forgetting the contents of previous studies and ceasing to think? Capra approached Krishnamurti with his doubts, presented them to him and heard in reply: First you are a man and then a physicist, cultivate physics, but be aware that outside it there is another, much wider reality and that the concepts of science are approximate in character.
It is difficult to argue with Krishnamurti's committee , but it is also difficult to regard it as particularly innovative. Most natural scientists know the limits of scientific concepts, although they did not have to use the wisdom of the East for this. It may come as a surprise that, before the aforementioned meeting in Santa Cruz, Capra was not aware that before being a physicist you have to be a man. It is doubtful whether the best way to overcome such ignorance is the advice of subject: "stop thinking". The aversion to both thinking and Cartesian precision makes Capra use concepts imprecisely, and this is perhaps what connects with the intuition of people who appreciate mystery and ambiguity. subject This takes place, for example, in expressions such as the following: "form is emptiness and emptiness is form", "the way of grasping reality is an illusion..., but it is approximate" * (4). The programmatic critique of the rational tradition of the West, and above all the contempt for the Cartesian care of the "ergo" - elementary relations of logical implications - lead Capra to construct theses that may seem sympathetic to a certain subject of addressees, but have a weak point, namely that they do not derive from the premises that are considered to be justified.
There are many similar theses in Capra's work. It is said, for example, that physicists who practise Zen Buddhism carry out their work for six hours, while their colleagues, for the same work, need ten; that physicists who appreciate intuition, such as Einstein, Bohr or Bohm, must be politically committed; that the paradigm of the new science leads to questioning the Structures achieved so far, in science as well as in social life and even in religion; that the hierarchical organisation of academic life showed clear analogies with the religious hierarchy, which took into account the relations between God, archangels and archbishops. Without specifying what the mutual relations between the angels and the episcopate consist of, Capra stresses that the rules of feminism were not understood in this hierarchy, since God, the Pope and the bishops are all male. When Renée Weber notices that Mary is a woman, she receives the following explanation: "What a curious thing! Mary comes from the pre-patriarchal religion. Mary is an ancient goddess, because God was a woman before he was a man" * (5).
Such a style of argumentation means that the vision of a new paradigm in Capra's work is regarded by natural scientists as "simplistic, naïve, programmatically anti-rational". Using similar adjectives, Stephen Jay Gould writes the following, referring to "Turning Point": "This book irritated me more and more by its facile analogies, its distrust of reason, its use of fashionable ideas. From one point of view, I feel closer to Cartesian rationalists - at least we have common grounds of discord - than to Capra's Californian ecology. Maybe because I'm a New York holist...".
To do justice, it must be acknowledged that there are many reasonable theses in Capra's work: the critique of Cartesian dualism and the mechanistic style of thinking of subject , the care for ecology, and the accentuation of aspects of reality that are beyond physics. These are undoubtedly positive elements. However, in order to qualify these elements as positive, it is not necessary to construct a Taoist physics. A critical reflection on the relationship between physics and philosophy, on the limitations of the scientific method, or on the social reception of the discoveries of science is sufficient. From the fact that the physicist, on leaving the Institute, listens with pleasure to Mozart, one cannot draw the conclusion that we are entering a new epoch of Mozartian physics. The weakness of Capra's bestseller publications lies in the fact that the ideological commentary is decidedly more dominant than the justified conclusions.
Metaphysics and mysticism in Hawking
In 1970, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose jointly demonstrated a very important thesis concerning singularities in cosmological models. This achievement brought them into the circle of the classics of today's cosmology, because since then, in the works dealing with the initial stages of the evolution of the universe, the relationships expressed in the Hawking-Ponrose thesis have been cited. The union in studies and research, in interests and achievements, did not, however, lead them to elaborate the same philosophical views. The works published by them in the 1980s in the field of cosmological philosophy show that Hawking represents the position close to positivism; Penrose, on the other hand, is clearly in favour of Platonism. In both authors we find the expression of faith in the rationality of nature and in the rationality of the scientific method. Such faith is a natural phenomenon in the cosmologist. Without its acceptance, no discussion of the universe as a whole, considered in the perspective of twenty billion years of cosmic evolution, could be undertaken. However, the conception of rationality is in the two cases radically different.
When Hawking published his ideas on the quantum creation of the universe together with Hartle in 1983, he linked an atheistic interpretation to it. In his opinion, if a physical phenomenon can be described by means of mathematical formalism, then God is unnecessary, and one can speak of his expulsion from the world picture by means of development of experimental science. In this opinion it is seen that Hawking unfoundedly identifies the God of Christian theism with the God of Clarke, the God who in the polemics of the 18th century was introduced to fill the gaps of scientific ignorance. Clerke's God appeared as the proverbial "deus ex machina", when in the theories of physics important questions could not be scientifically explained. Leibniz warned against such a naive theology, which patches up the gaps of scientific ignorance by means of the God hypothesis, pointing out the simplifications, both methodological and theological, of such theology. His opponents took the opposite view, saying that God leaves us the cognitive gaps so that, thanks to them and through them, we can more easily discover his presence in the universe; and that the frontiers of knowledge were to form the ground where God's presence was discovered. And, although no one in theology today treats such an interpretation seriously, Hawking writes his work as if the correspondence in which Leibnitz criticises Clarke's approach did not exist.
In a manner similar to the positivists of the end of the 19th century, Hawking admits the possibility that current physics is coming to an end and that, after finding the unification theory, we will know all the laws that govern nature. In an article devoted to this problem, graduate "Is the end of theoretical physics in sight?", he approves of the possibility of elaborating "a complete, coherent and unified theory of physical interactions, which would describe all possible observations". Equally radical formulations can be found in the works of many other authors, who suggest that the physical Theory of Everything will provide the scientific solution to the totality of the problems that torment mankind. In the solutions of these authors concerning the future unification, or the so-called Theory of Everything (TOE), there appear categorical assertions of this subject: "For the first time in history we have a rational and scientific theory of all existence" ("scientific theory of all existence"), thanks to which "all natural phenomena can be put in a descriptive outline ". * (6)
Psychologically it is easy to explain the fact that in the following generations of researchers one hears again the positivist nostalgia for an orderly system of knowledge, in which for every question an unambiguous and rationally justified answer could be obtained. Hawking's rationalism finds its further justification in his personal fascination with mathematics and his aversion to Capra-like poetic mysticism. Already during his studies at Cambridge, the future creator of black hole physics was called the "perfect brain" by his colleagues. Later illness and its accompanying limitations meant that his sensibility was directed towards the beauty of mathematical formalism, rather than towards the perception of mystery or the aesthetics of nature. The metaphysical formulas about the contingency or harmony of the world could not be translated into mathematical language, and were therefore regarded as a form of nature poetry devoid of cognitive value. The basic openness towards the mysticism of nature, characteristic of present-day science, is considered by him to be the characteristic feature of the intellectual stance of people who did not complete their knowledge of mathematics and therefore prefer to take refuge in a rhetorical commentary full of vague generalities * (7).
Hawking directs accusations of "sloppy mysticism" not only at Bohm, Capra or sympathisers of "alternative" physics, but also directs a clear criticism against Einstein's "cosmic religion", together with its characteristic component referring to the mysticism of nature. Ironies of fate: one of the walls of his university office is adorned with a quote from Einstein, in which the author of the theory of relativity states: "The most beautiful sensation we can experience has a mystical character. It constitutes the strength of every true art and science. The man to whom this feeling is foreign is in a certain sense dead. This feeling, this knowledge constitutes the essence of true religiosity" * (8).
One cannot respond to Einstein's reflections with Hawking's simple suggestion that Einstein was hiding in poetry because he did not understand mathematics. The mathematical beauty of the field equations appeared in Einstein's cognitive perspective as a manifestation of a more fundamental beauty, which we can perceive in the supra-rational relationship with nature. Biological conditions have, in Hawking's case, caused the relationship of researcher to the cosmos to be reduced to the rational component. The drama of the illness he experienced necessarily limited his sensitivity to the aesthetic aspect of nature. Consequently, in Hawking we find a philosophical conception of nature that is different from those of Einstein or Dirac. Moreover, it is not easy to employ effective means to react to the existing differences. An unequivocally sceptical assessment of this situation was expressed, among others, by Paul A. M. Dirac, who - in his interview for Newsweek - at the same time emphasised the role of beauty in science: "We must try to imagine what the universe is, just as we make the beauty of a painting or of music accessible to us; you cannot describe it. If you can't feel it, you simply have to recognise that we lack the sensitivity for it. No one is capable of explaining it to us" * (9).
In formulating such assessments, the subjective factor of feelings plays an important role. Feelings differ from researcher to researcher and can evolve over time B . Nature, which fascinated Einstein with the beauty of mathematical description, appears to Hawking to be devoid of beauty; for Monod it was above all the cosmic play of chance and necessity; for Leibniz or Whitehead the field of the intriguing harmony of events. The unity of interpretation, which is present in the understanding of the formula E=mc2 , disappears the moment we try to determine the philosophical and aesthetic aspects of Einstein's theory.
The currently popular works of Drees, Penrose or Davies show that the same mathematical formalism describing the quantum creation of the universe can be associated with philosophical interpretations profoundly different from those proposed by Hawking. The open question is: Which of the alternative proposals appears to be the best justified? Undoubtedly, it would be a methodological error to attribute the same weight to both Hawking's physical proposals and his naive philosophy, which he associates with those proposals.
The Christian vision of the cognitive integration of the cosmos
A vision of great intellectual integration, which takes into account both theological reflections and new discoveries in the experimental sciences, is developed in detail in John Paul II's letter to Father George Coyne, written on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the publication of Newton's "Principia". The Holy Father underlines in that document that his great wish is "that the dialogue between science and faith should continue and be deepened and broadened. In this process we must overcome any regressive tendency towards unilateral reductionism, fears and self-imposed isolation. It is of particular importance that each discipline enriches and inspires others, so that, on the one hand, they realise themselves in the Degree more plenary session of the Executive Council becoming what they can be, and on the other hand, they contribute to our vision of who we are and who we become" * (10).
At the beginning of our century, Claude Bernard advised that the biologist arriving at his laboratory should leave not only his coat in the cloakroom, but also his conceptions of the world. This suggestion was appropriate from a methodological point of view. However, in its realisation it turned out that it is much easier to leave the coat in the wardrobe than the meta-scientific convictions. The latter are formed in mutual contact with scientific discoveries, lead to new questions and cannot be separated from the many questions that are essential for our philosophy of life. In traditional methodology, the need to isolate religion from science was emphasised, in order to avoid naive physical-theology or simplified pseudo-explanations, which are symbolised by the name of Samuel Clarke*(11). Today, the awareness of the epistemological difference between theology and physics should be accompanied by a dialogue between them, forming an integral and coherent picture of the world. As the Holy Father underlines in his letter to Coyne: "People, if they want to grow and mature, can no longer live in mutually separate groups, limiting themselves to cultivating totally different interests, within which they would carry out the evaluation and assessment of their world. The divided society is inclined to a fragmentary view of the world. In contrast, the sharing society encourages its members to broaden their partial perspectives and to create a new, unified vision. As we have already stressed, the unity we seek is not identity. The Church does not propose to science to become religion, nor to religion to become science" * (12).
John Paul II's message, addressed on 22 October 1996 to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, concretises these words in the evolutionary image of nature. The Pope emphasises that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is the "scientific senate" of the Church, whose vocation is the service of truth which makes possible an authentic and sincere dialogue between the Church and present-day science. On the threshold of the third millennium, Christians cannot ignore the exceptional role of science in the transformations of today's civilisation. He must seek constructive answers to the questions about the relationship between scientific and religious worldviews, which preoccupy many minds. In these questions it is difficult to avoid reference to the problem of evolution. John Paul II, referring to the earlier statements of Pius XII, stresses that the theory of evolution can no longer be treated as a hypothesis alone. Scientific research, developed independently of each other in various disciplines, leads to a common conclusion: it shows the evolving universe as a reality, and the various theories of evolution attempt to explain this reality. The variety of such theories depends both on different scientific assumptions (e.g. in determining the mechanisms of evolution) and on different philosophical assumptions, which inspire a unitary world view.
In the Pope's vision, optimistic faith in man's intellectual capacities arises from the conviction that the wisdom of the Creator is the ultimate foundation of human wisdom and creativity, and that the Creator shares with his creatures the richness of his gifts, leading the evolving world towards divine fullness. The Pope's faith in reason and in the cognitive possibilities of man surprises with its optimism in an intellectual landscape dominated by the pessimism of the end of the century. The Holy Father stresses that the Christian, when subjecting the various proposed theories of evolution to criticism, must be guided by the rules for explaining the biblical texts, which are defined in the document "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church" of 23 April 1993. This document emphasises, among other things, that the biblical account of creation cannot be interpreted literally. Therefore, the forms of interpretation propagated in so-called scientific creationism or in various versions of fundamentalism must be rejected. The Pope's interpretation will surely disillusion all those who esteem their private version of traditionalism more than objective truth. The Christian who cherishes comfortable intellectual schemes more than the obligation of the continuous search for truth, thus introduces a dramatic gulf between his intellectual perspective and Christ-Truth personified.
Evolution in the evolutionary conception of nature
In the last half century, under the influence of development of the natural sciences, profound changes have taken place in the philosophical interpretations of nature. It should be remembered that, as late as the 1960s, some representatives of dialectical materialism questioned the theory of the expansion of the universe, considering it to be a manifestation of idealism in physics and radio astronomy. On the other hand, among those authors who on the one hand accepted the expansion theory, but on the other hand wished to avoid the embarrassing question of the absolute origin of the universe, the steady-state theory, formulated by F. Hoyle, T. Gold and H. Bondi in 1948, was very popular. To avoid the metaphysical questions attached to the hypothetical creation of the universe before the Big Bang, these authors suggested that the process of the creation of the subject from nothing is a normal physical process that takes place continuously. The steady-state theory was falsified in practice when in 1964 the background radiation, which is the residue of the early Big Bang, was discovered. Since finding, the attention of cosmologists has been drawn to the search for the physical mechanisms of creation that could explain, on the basis of the laws of quantum cosmology, the formation of the physical substrate. Classical works belonging to this explanatory context are those of R. Brout, F. Englert, E. Gunzig, S. W. Hawking, J. B. Hartle and A. Vilenkin. The main idea of these works consists in the quantum description of the emergence of elementary particles by means of quantum vacuum fluctuations, space-time curvature, etc. In the attempts of these authors, these works aim to describe and explain the creation of the universe "ex nihilo", maintaining the same meaning that the term "nothing" has in classical metaphysics.
Regardless of the scientific difficulties that arise in the physical descriptions of the mechanism of creation, the main controversies arise in the philosophical interpretations of these mechanisms. In all the proposed formulations it is assumed, at least implicitly, that the initial state of the evolution of the universe can be described by mathematical formulae. We use for this state the rules of logic, known to us. We assume the validity of the universal laws of quantum cosmology. None of these assumptions is of a trivial nature. They assume that, along with the emergence of physical particles, there already exists the abstract reality of stable relations, Structures ordered and mutually referenced. This latter reality could briefly be given the name "logos". Its existence is such that without the recognition of its real character, we could not rationally explain the genesis of concrete natural processes and the appearance of physical particles accessible to observation. Thus, the reality of abstract conditions appears as ontologically primary, from which, after determining the specific conditions, the world of physical objects emerges; this last expression must be understood in the traditional sense. It may be that with the development of the experimental sciences the "physical void", which is now described in abstract mathematical terms, will also come closer to our cognitive categories, as has happened for our generation with the "divisible atom", the nature of which aroused so much controversy at the end of the 19th century. Today, on the other hand, this fundamental reality of the abstract logos in philosophical commentaries on the original creation is compared to Platonic ideas, given names like "mind of God", "cosmic Logos", "field of rationality" or "formal field".
The shift of emphasis in the philosophical interpretation of the evolving cosmos is striking. Even 20 years ago, when demonstrating the important theses of Hawking and Penrose, the main emphasis was on the prominent state of the initial singularity, trying to identify it with the moment of the creation of the universe and to search for physical mechanisms of creation. It is now emphasised that the physical description of these processes and mechanisms requires, at least implicitly, the acceptance of assumptions concerning the ontic structure of the world. If nature evolved in a totally irrational way and its processes followed the same logical rules that appear in our dreams, then it would not be possible to cultivate the natural sciences in their present form. We could only look at nature as if it were a work of Dadaist art; however, it would not be possible to formulate the universal laws of nature, nor would it be possible to use the latter in the field of technology. Thus, the very existence of modern science has profound implications, both metaphysical and theological. In this context, the opinion of Michal Heller, who argues that we need a discipline called theology of science, appears particularly important.
Qualitatively new accents appear in the theological reflection on the quantum conception of the creation of the universe, proposal by Hartle and Hawking. Commenting on the model which, in Hawking's intention, was to eliminate God from the process of the creation of the universe, Chris J. Isham writes that exactly this conception sample us God as the ground of being. God here does not dramatically fill in the gaps in the physical picture of the world, as he did in the cosmology that is linked with Clarke's name, but is omnipresent in processes that possess features of order and regularity. He is not a god who reveals his presence in the collapse of known physical laws, but he is the raison d'être of these laws, who makes possible a rational reflection on interrelations of dependence that have a universal and not only a local character. In this context, Isham links the conception of creation "ex nihilo" with the classical version of the "creatio continua" and also metaphorically shows the Creator who encompasses the whole world with his divine hand, and does so in such a way that no interpretative gaps can be found such as those sought by Clarke's sympathisers* (13).
The development of the natural sciences has also caused profound transformations in the philosophical interpretation of anthropogenesis. With the progress in scientific research, it is impossible today to treat the conception of the evolution of species solely as a hypothesis. Instead, what continues are discussions that attempt to determine the mechanisms of evolution. These discussions are free of the metaphysical contradictions that fundamentalist critics of the theory of natural selection have in the past tried to link to the theory of natural selection. Regardless of how nature evolves - from agreement with the conception of Niles Eldredge or Motoo Kimura and Tomoko Ohta - the process of evolutionary transformations is for a theistic philosopher not just a game of blind chance. The ontic reason that conditions the rational development of evolutionary processes is formed by the Cosmic Logos. He is for the Christian the God hidden in cosmic processes, and the transcendental reality not reducible to any set of observed physical-biological processes.
In our understanding of nature in evolution, new mysteries appear in place of the previous ones. The question of the great disproportions between the time of the evolution of the cosmos and the time of the existence of the human species appears to us as something enormously intriguing. Relativistic cosmology sample the cosmic processes of twenty billion years ago. Palaeontology sample the remains of our ancestors only twenty thousand years ago. This disproportion raises the astonishing question: why did the universe, when it passed through the leptonic or hadronic phases in its evolution, lack the human observer in those states, why did rational reflection, characteristic of the species "homo sapiens", appear so late? Attempts to answer these questions are to be found in the so-called "anthropic principle", which, in its weak formulation, indicates that, in order for life based on carbon compounds to form, an old and extensive cosmos was necessary. The existence of human reflection requires specific conditions; man is by no means the necessary result of an evolution that has developed under arbitrary conditions. The discoveries of the natural sciences have radically changed the horizon of this reflection. As late as the 17th century, the bishop of the Anglican Church, Archbishop James Ussher, was trying to prove that God created the universe in October 4004 BC. Our generation has had to multiply this value by five million. The change of perspective could have caused intellectual disturbances, especially when, under the influence of positivism, the relations between physics and theology were tried to be formulated in categories of the Marxist class struggle. Today, on the ground of the Christian vision of the dialogue between science and faith, we receive concrete propositions of an intellectual integration, in which the evolving cosmos reveals the presence of the Divine Logos, both in the processes of cosmogenesis and in those of anthropogenesis.
- John Brockman, "La tercera cultura", Tusquets, Barcelona 1996.
- See the presentations contained in the anthology: Robert J. Russell, William R. Stoeger and George V. Coyne, editors, "John Paul II on Science and Religion: Reflections from Rome", Vatican Observatory, Vatican City State 1990. Coyne, editors, "John Paul II on Science and Religion: Reflections on the New View from Rome", Vatican Observatory, Vatican City State 1990.
- "The Tao of Physics Revisited", in: "The Holographic Paradigm", Shambhala, Boston 1982, p. 216.
- Ibid., p. 238.
- Ibid., p. 237.
- Paul C. W. Davies, "Superforce", Heinemann, London 1984, 5ff.
- See: Renée Weber, "Dialogues with Scientists and Sages: The Search for Unity", Routledge, London 1986, p. 210.
- Ibid. p. 203.
- H. F. Judson, "Where Einstein and Picasso Meet", Newsweek, 17 November 1980, p. 23.
- In: Robert J. Russell, William R. Stoeger and George V. Coyne, eds. Coyne, editors, "Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding", Vatican Observatory, Vatican City State 1988, p. M7.
- It is another problem that Clarke is generally attributed with far more naïve views than he actually held.
- "Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding", p. M8.
- Ch. J. Isham, "Creation as a Quantum Process", in: "Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding", p. 405.