The Road of Science and the Ways to God
Well, the bad news is that I've lost the Kabbalah thread, so we'll have to get back to it later. The good news is that I just finished Stanley Jaki's The Road of Science and the Ways to God, and I'd like to spend a post or two on that. It was originally presented as the Gifford Lectures for 1975 and 1976. In case you don't know, these lectures were established at the bequest a certain Lord Gifford in order to "promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term -- in other words, the knowledge of God."
In the course of writing my book, I read a number of the previous Gifford Lectures, since they are highly relevant to what I was trying to do. Let's see... from the list on the wiki page, I see that I read Josiah Royce, Alfred North Whitehead, Arthur Eddington, Werner Heisenberg, Michael Polanyi, Reinhold Niebuhr, Christopher Dawson, Arnold Toynbee, John Eccles, John Polkinghorne, Holmes Rolston, Charles Taylor, Richard Swinburne, Keith Ward, and Ian Barbour. They are all quite rigorous, nothing remotely like the wooly-headed blather you see in the typical new-age "quantum whatever" books, on the one hand, or in the self-satisfied middlebrow fare of the village atheist crowd, on the other.
Along those lines, this probably wouldn't be the best book to introduce yourself to Jaki's thought. It's quite dense and technical, with well over 100 pages of footnotes. A better recommendation would be his intellectual autobiography, A Mind's Matter, or another synthesis of his thought, Means to Message: A Treatise on Truth.
For those who don't know, Jaki was both a Catholic priest and a professor of physics. Here's a brief synopsis from the wiki page:
"After completing undergraduate training in philosophy, theology and mathematics, Father Jaki gained doctorates in theology and in physics.... He also did post-doctoral research in Philosophy of Science at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Princeton University and Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Father Jaki authored more than two dozen books on the relation between modern science and orthodox Christianity.... Jaki was also among the first to claim that Gödel's incompleteness theorem is relevant for theories of everything in theoretical physics. Gödel's theorem states that any mathematical theory that includes certain basic facts of number theory (and is computably enumerable, i.e. whose formulas can be explicitly listed) will be either incomplete or inconsistent. Since any 'theory of everything' will certainly be consistent, it must be either incomplete or unable to prove basic facts about the integers."
In The Road of Science, Jaki endeavors to prove beyond doubt that science developed (which is obvious), and only could have developed (a more subtle point), in the Christian West. At the same time, he shows that the road of science and the way to God are anything but incompatible. Rather, they go hand in hand; in a rightly ordered mind, the one should facilitate the other.
We joke around a lot about our uneducable trolls, or the idiocy of vacuous demagogues like Charles the Queeg, but seriously, the reality of the situation is 180 degrees from the latter's childishly dogmatic and authoritarian view, for science can only function with a background of certain distinct metaphysical assumptions, which are Christian to the core. Sever science from this core, and you immediately end up with an incoherent metaphysic that can never be made "whole," and has all sorts of unintended consequences -- not just for science, but more critically, for the soul of man, for man cannot properly function without a rational and rightly oriented faith in reality.
Even the most confused atheist must acknowledge that science was developed by Christian men, and that their Christianity was not "peripheral" but central to the pursuit. To point out that the order of the cosmos could only have come from a transcendental source does not repel a normal person from science. Rather, it only make them more fascinated by it. Conversely, if scientism tells us that we inhabit a meaningless cosmos with no possibility of objective truth or morality, then this is hardly a spur for normal people to take an interest in it beyond the technological goodies it makes possible.
Jaki writes that there is but "a single intellectual avenue forming both the road of science and the ways to God." It is an indisputable fact that "Science found its only viable birth within a cultural matrix permeated by a firm conviction about the mind's ability to find in the realm of things and persons a pointer to their Creator."
Furthermore, even if the individual scientist is unaware of the fact, "all great creative advances of science have been made in terms of an epistemology germane to that conviction" about the intelligibility of the cosmos and the mind's ability to disclose it. Thus, "wherever that epistemology was resisted with vigorous consistency, the pursuit of science invariably appears to have been deprived of its solid foundation."
Pseudo-intellectuals and anti-Christian bigots will no doubt bring up ancient Greece, or China, or the early Muslim world, but that is indeed the point. It's not that difficult to "discover" reality. The hard part is sustaining the discovery. The essential point is that to truly discover science is to simultaneously discover its self-sustaining nature. It doesn't just mysteriously stop, as it did in those non-Christian cultures.
For to discover science is to discover discovery and to unleash progress. In other words, the mark of true science is a kind of inevitable, self-sustaining progress in scientific knowledge. But for a host of reasons, people are by and large fearful of change, so science (not to mention its close cousin, the free market) has been strangled in its crib. Nothing causes as much radical change as science and free markets, which is why the left opposes both.
And please bear in mind that when I say this, I am referring to science proper, not to the narrow scientism of a Queeg, which is a reactionary metaphysic that can only be embraced by someone who has overt contempt for the truth in all its fullness; for "Scientism is never a genuine reverence for science but a harnessing of science for a nonscientific purpose. Since that purpose is fixed, science can only serve it by remaining fixed, namely, by remaining in its supposedly final stage," and then "taking that final stage to be free of metaphysics."
But God -- thank God -- always takes d'light in shattering our little human containers, because you have to break a few eggheads to make a cosmic omelette.