- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Templeton Foundation Press,U.S. (1 April 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1932031340
- ISBN-13: 978-1932031348
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,042,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Creative Tension: Essays on Science and Religion Paperback – 1 Apr 2004
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The voice of a renowned professor of philosophy in Poland, who is also a Roman Catholic priest, is introduced in this collection of his provocative essays on the interplay of science and religion. Michael Heller progressively outlines systematic steps that might lead to a peaceful coexistence of these traditionally separate fields of study. Some essays have their roots in the author's work in physics and cosmology, while others present his theories on the language of God, creation and transcendence, inspired by his work in the applications of so-called non-commutative geometry, an emerging field of study.
About the Author
Michael Heller is professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow, Poland, and an adjunct member of the Vatican Observatory staff. He is an ordained Roman Catholic priest, and has earned a master's degree in philosophy and a PhD in cosmology. His current research is in relativistic cosmology and the application of noncommutative geometry to physics andcosmology."
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The section I found most challenging, and most interesting, was that concerning Fr. Heller's area of expertise, namely, working towards integrating general relativity and quantum gravitation by way of noncommutative geometry. While Heller is merciful for boneheads like me, and kept the exposition of this new field of mathematics at a very lay level, I did appreciate learning that noncommutative geometry renders points, and the time in which they are traversed, meaningless, which, in turn, renders the talk (à la Hawking, Hartle, et al.) of fundamental singularities meaningless. Once we cross the Planck threshold (i.e., above 1 x 10^-33 cm, 1 x10^93 g/cm^3, 1 x 10^-44 sec), we are able to work with points in Poincaré fields, but beneath that threshold, the proto-singularity is atemporal and aspacial, terms that certainly render the Augustinian and Thomistic views of creation as timeless more palatable for modern theology (as against the objections by process theologians that timelessness renders God inactive and static). Noncommutative geometry allow for dynamic progression, but not in classical or even quantum terms.
The care with which Heller delineates noncommutative geometry is driven by his explicit differentiation, in the spirit of St. Thomas, between creation qua ontological dependency and the cosmos's beginning qua empirically analyzable event. It is precisely this care in delineating the methodological boundaries between science and theology that avoids what Fr. Heller calls "methodological anarchy". In their proper bounds, science cannot ground or refute theology, while theology cannot simply refute, nor vampirize, science. A key point Fr. Heller makes is that, because science cannot go beyond itself, it is the privilege and task of theology to see science in a larger metaphysical, and indeed moral, perspective, "from the outside" as it were.
The moral privilege of theology in allowing science to find a home in the complete metaphysical cosmos ties in with a crucial point Fr. Heller makes, namely, that rationality is a moral choice, because it is a free choice. As the empirical method cannot account for, much less ground, itself, rationality amounts to a free, moral "faith in reason" (as Popper called in *The Open Society*). Hence, Heller calls the Greeks' logical ethos their moral code. (You can see how potent this insight is during a conversation, on [...], involving Fr. Heller and R. Dawkins: when Heller asked Dawkins whether he believed in rationality, Dawkins said of course, and when asked why, he replied, because it works, at which point Fr. Heller smiled. If rationality is "right" because it works, how do we know it works? Because it is self-evident? No. Because it works? In what terms? Etc.)
The basic message Heller has for theologians is twofold. First, take the science seriously, not only in terms of "going along with" the current "scientific world-image", in order to avoid complete communication failures, but also in terms of true competence in the field one wants to examine. Second, while science cannot "explain" or "prove" religion, it can teach by analogy. For example, if we can fathom atemporal, aspacial dynamics via noncommutative geometry, can we not also gain further insight into the aspacial, atemporal God? And if we can see the failure of ordinary language in increasingly rarified sciences, can we not also take more seriously the nuances of "God-talk"?
CT is a fine primer for Fr. Heller work, but the interested reader really will want more, as apparently can be found in his other woks in the past couple decades. I was disappointed to see Fr. Heller did not cite Fr. Stanley Jaki's work, as Jaki argues for much the same methodological strictures on the "impassable divide" between theology proper and science. Related books of interest would be A. Nesteruk's *Light from the East* and pretty much anything by T.F. Torrance and Wolfgang Smith.
Heller starts out with a cautionary note on the misuse of scientific theories by theologians. Later, there is a soft yet stinging rebuke of the works of Teilhard de Chardin. Yet these rebukes to theologians are accompanied by wry asides about science, and a sense that science is not immune from the problems of over-generalizing.
This series of connected essays grows stronger in tone and voice as the book continues. Heller asks why this Universe is explainable, and why both mathematics and questions are able to probe to the core of how the Universe works. This analysis forms a subtle rationale for faith, not over-stated.
A reader gets the sense that these essays are carefully drawn, and have been adjusted over the years to reflect the comments of many. As a result, Heller never goes beyond what a scientist might say, unless there is an accompanying philosophy of rationality that would lead him to go beyond. In parsing this question, one begins to see in the limits of both science and theology a sense of the limits of what a human being can understand.
One also begins to see an order in the Universe, whether spiritual or not.
(Finally, there is explicit within this book a physical theory of the Universe and God, that under the Planck constant and within the descriptive world of non-commutative geometry, we find the timeless and spaceless place wherein God exists. Below the Planck constant, in the timelessness of quantum particles, there is no past and future, there is a now. This dovetails strangely with medieval theology. Heller makes no large claims, but he does not resist the imputation that God exists outside of time, in a way that modern physics is finding mathematically acceptable.... This is so over the average reader's head that my explanation here stretches me too far. A reader wonders, is this bunkum or sound science, bunkum or sound theology? His is a careful and seemingly trustworthy voice, but???)