Past and Future
The Search for Truth
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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