John Polkinghorne, the Cambridge physicist turned Anglican Priest, has a new book that just came out titled ‘Questions of Truth: Fifty-one Responses to Questions About God, Science, and Belief.’ It is based on a Polkinghorne’s Question and Answer forum online, so you can check it out there if you are interested.
In a review posted at the New Humanist by AC Grayling you get a taste of the self-fulfilling hermeneutic imployed by the New Athiests when reading articulate scientists who likewise have faith. After complaining about Plokinghorne’s use of the strong anthrophic principle (a legitimit criticism) and Christians who continue to interpet scripture in light of best scientific and historical data, Grayling shoots straight with his readers:
Thus in short, on the religious side of things you make up truth as you go along, by interpreting and reinterpreting scripture to suit your needs and to avoid refutation by confrontation with plain fact; and thus it is that Beale-Polkinghorne can claim that both science and religion seek truth.
Now if you don’t see a scientific fundamentalist heremeneutic being used let me rewrite it as if I was a Biblical Fundy.
Thus in short, these dimwit scientists keep making up truth as they go along. They just keep interpreting and reinterpreting so-called evidence and data to suit their needs and to avoid refutation by confrontation with plain facts of scripture. Today we got a warming planet, but when I was in school they told me my areosal hair spray was going to lead to a global freeze…..
The point is not that science or religion should or shouldn’t impose on the other, that relationship can be handled elsewhere. What bothers me is a form of science or religion that sees the truth it seeks to speak of as above or prior to interpretation. I actually think science is privileged above other forms of knowledge because of its verifiability, but we shouldn’t forget that the interpretation of the data today can and will be different in fifty years. It will be different because it is committed to truth. This continuing interpetive process is in fact how we make and keep our ideas clear.
I would call this dishonest if I did not think it is in fact delusion, which, since a kind of lunatic sincerity is involved, it rather palpably shows itself to be. And it happens that ‘lunatic’ is appropriate here, for the painful experience of wading through this book gave me an epiphany: that religious faith is extremely similar to the kind of conspiracy theory that sufferers from paranoid delusions can hold: the faithful see a purposive hand in everything, plotting and controlling and guiding, and interpret all their experience accordingly.
From my reading of Polkinghorne he is not attempting to reject or manipulate the eye towards scientific data, but to demonstrate the possibility of there being ‘more much more than meets the eye.’ Like many of his New Atheist counterparts, Grayling’s inability to tolerate a religous interpretation of the data leads him to avoid actually debating where the scientific data eliminates this interpretation.
Popular Science interviewed Polkinghorne and you can find that here.