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The Science and Religion Dialogue

Past and Future

Edited By Michael Welker

This book documents the conference on The Science and Religion Dialogue: Past and Future, held at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, October 25-29, 2012. The conference commemorated the 100 th anniversary of the birth of Sir John Templeton and the 25 th anniversary of the establishment of the John Templeton Foundation. It brought together about 60 active participants, all of them prominent scholars from many countries and many academic fields. Most of them have been engaged in the Science and Religion Dialogue for the last two or three decades. This book reports on multi-year international and interdisciplinary research projects at leading institutions. The contributions start with presentations by Hans Joas, Martin Nowak and John Polkinghorne and range from Astronomy, Mathematics, Physics and Biology to Philosophical Theology and Religious Ethics. Special topics of the dialogue between Science and Religion are also dealt with, such as Eschatology and Anthropology; Cosmology, Creation, and Redemption; Evolutionary Biology and the Spirit; and The Role of Thought Experiments in Science and Theology.
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The Search for Truth

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In a common quest for truth, the natural conversation partner for science in interaction with religion is the discipline of theology. Theology’s character as intellectual reflection on human encounter with sacred reality parallels science’s intellectual reflection on human encounter with physical reality. I believe that the two great enterprises of science and theology bear a cousinly relationship to each other in that they share in a search for truthful understanding that is to be achieved through the attainment of well-motivated belief.

In this truth-seeking quest, neither discipline will be able to claim that it achieves absolute certainty beyond the possibility of any further refinement or correction. Rather, its achievement will be gaining a degree of understanding which is sufficiently insightful in its explanatory character for its acceptance to be something to which it is entirely rational to commit oneself. In the case of science, this kind of judgement has been carefully analysed and defended by Michael Polanyi in his important book Personal Knowledge1. Polanyi was someone whose career as a distinguished physical chemist meant that he knew science from the inside. In his account of science he said that he was seeking to understand how he could commit himself to what he believed to be true, though he knew that it might eventually prove to be false. The best we can achieve is a kind of convergent realism, making maps of domains of reality which are adequate for some, but not for every, purpose.

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