Belief in God in an Age of Science


I wave my hand. Can my mind move matter, or am I merely atoms in motion? ........ I clench my fist. Am I a free agent, who could have done otherwise, or do I merely transmit the push of the past? ........ I prick my finger. Are my subjective experiences real, or are the painfulness of pain and the redness of red merely characters in stories I tell myself about myself? ........ I lie awake in the dark. Why should there be something rather than nothing? Not simply the empty vacuum of space, but not even space, and no vacuum?

The monotheistic worldviews of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) respond positively to such metaphysical questions, affirming agency, subjectivity, and purpose for finite minds whose nature reflects the infinite mind of God, the creator of the universe. Their emphasis on the rationality and contingency of the world nurtured the birth of modern science. Yet, today, they are challenged by the belief that science is the only legitimate way to understand the world.

In this seminar, we will explore a relationship between science and religion that goes beyond conflict to dialogue, interaction, and consonance, in the work of such scientists and theologians as Ian Barbour, Arthur Peacocke, John Polkinghorne, Bob Russell, John Haught, and Keith Ward, for whom belief in God is a rational option that complements rather than opposes the scientific quest to understand the world.

We will be especially interested in the implications for the nature of reality, including: Is consciousness an epiphenomenon of brains, like foam on a wave, or is it a defining feature of the world? Are the laws of physics a closed causal web, or is there sufficient freedom to allow agency, both human and divine? Is an evolving, law-abiding universe God's way of creating life and mind, including subjective agents of otherwise unobtainable value?