Science and Faith: Seeking Mutually-Enhancing Engagement

27 Feb 2020

Oxford nanophysicist Andrew Briggs joins his Oxford colleague, physicist Andrew Steane, and Princeton philosopher Hans Halvorson in a scholarly, yet also personal reflection on how scientific inquiry into the natural world is compatible with transcendence, meaning and purpose.

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It Keeps Me Seeking: The Invitation from Science, Philosophy and Religion, is Andrew Briggs’ latest contribution to the science-faith discussion.

While not a work of Christian apologetics, this work expounds on the mutually enriching relationship between science and Christian faith. Belief is a given, and science is understood as a valued component of the life of faith. The three authors – two physicists (Briggs also has a degree in theology) and a philosopher of science – bring different personal experiences to the mix. The work offers personal and theological reflections and science-focused chapters. The result is a picture of how science and religion engage – in a broad sense, and specifically in the lives of these three scholars.  “When we approach the natural world,” they write, “we wish to do our science as diligently as we can, but we don’t want to close down our receptivity to the possibility that the natural world is also a work of art.”

Four themes underscore the varied chapters: a particular approach to God (“God is a being to be known, not a hypothesis to be tested”); A self-proclaimed “high bar” for convincing argument: the assertion that uncertainty is acceptable; and the freedom to “open the window on the natural world.”

Oxford University Press published the work, which they describe like this:

Here is a fresh look at how science contributes to the bigger picture of human flourishing, through a collage of science and philosophy, richly illustrated by the authors' own experience and personal reflection. They survey the territory of fundamental physics, machine learning, philosophy of human identity, evolutionary biology, miracles, arguments from design, naturalism, the history of ideas, and more.

The natural world can be appreciated not only for itself, but also as an eloquent gesture, a narrative and a pointer beyond itself. Our human journey is not to a theorem or a treatise, but to a meeting which encompasses all our capacities. In this meeting, science is the way to find out about the structure of the physical world of which we are a part, not a means to reduce ourselves and our fellow human beings to mere objects of scrutiny, and still less to attempt the utterly futile exercise of trying to do that to God. We have intellectual permission to be open to the notion that God can be trusted and known. The material world encourages an open-hearted reaching out to something more, with a freedom to seek and to be received by what lies beyond the scope of purely impersonal descriptions and attitudes.

A preview is available here. Buy it here.