Cover image for Paths from science towards God : the end of all our exploring
Paths from science towards God : the end of all our exploring
Peacocke, A. R. (Arthur Robert), 1924-
Publication Information:
Oxford : Oneworld, [2001]

Physical Description:
xviii, 198 pages ; 22 cm
Subject Term:
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BL240.2 .P43 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this ground-breaking work, biochemist, priest and 2001 Templeton Prize winner Arthur Peacocke offers a uniquely balanced evaluation of the science-religion debate.

Author Notes

Arthur Peacocke has published over 200 papers and twelve books, including the best-selling Theology for a Scientific Age, for which he received a Templeton Foundation Prize in 1995. He worked in the field of physical biochemistry for over 25 years, is a Priest and Canon in the Church of England, and until recently was Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for the Study of Science and Religion at Oxford University. In 2001 he won the Templeton Prize for Progress in the Study of Religion, a $1 million prize awarded annually.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As a distinguished biochemist who serves as a priest in the Church of England, Peacocke defies the stereotype of the scientist as unbeliever. Indeed, in the current cultural ferment, Peacocke sees the opening for a bold new synthesis of science and religion. Only through such a new synthesis, he asserts, can Christianity regain the plausibility it has lost through centuries of futile resistance to scientific progress. It is to the intellectual leaders (clergy and laity) of the faith that Peacocke addresses himself. The language (ontological gap, eschaton, dipolarity) and the dense reasoning may leave the average worshiper in the pew without a prayer. Even among the cognoscenti, Peacocke's open theology will provoke some resistance, since it imposes radical limitations on God's omniscience and undercuts the authority of both Scripture and ecclesiastical tradition. But among the liberally minded, Peacocke's work will be hailed as a theological breakthrough offering a genuine faith for our times. Sure to be much debated among those with a serious interest in religion and science. --Bryce Christensen

Publisher's Weekly Review

After four decades of leadership in science-and-religion dialogues, biochemist/theologian Peacocke expresses and embodies a deep weariness with bridge-building between science and religion. Peacocke's rhetorical powers shine undiminished, but this volume is not among his best works. Evocative imagery is insufficient to enliven the dated atmosphere of the book, in which Peacocke advocates for a "radical" and "global" theology while defending quasi-reactionary views of scientific progress. Concerned with the problem of God's action in the world, Peacocke labors to rehabilitate a concept of providence, without introducing God into the causal story of particular events a familiar notion of divine intervention that Peacocke deems inconsistent with science. Instead, he proposes a "whole-part influence" in which God's action trickles down through the entire universe (itself seen as part of God's being) to individual phenomena, yet without any interruption of the natural order. Peacocke's sketchy explanation will leave readers struggling, as well as skeptical about whether his alternative is as scientifically licit or theologically satisfying as he claims. Similar problems accompany his heavy reliance on the method of "inference to the best explanation" to establish theological principles as "public truth" to the extent that dogmatic claims based on divine revelation or religious tradition are discarded as outdated and unnecessary. Nonbelievers will likely be unimpressed with Peacocke's inferences about God's existence and attributes, and many believers will be puzzled by his dismissal of what many regard as the foundations of faith. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A former biochemist and an Anglican priest, Peacocke won the 2001 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He is without a doubt the most significant voice on science and religion in the English-speaking world. With this intellectually compelling and readable work, he greatly adds to the dialog. "We are stardust," he announces. "Every carbon atom in our bodies, every iron atom in our blood's hemoglobin was made in stars and scattered by supernovae explosions before the earth existed as a planet." The complexity and contingency of all that has come to be, particularly the human, lead Peacocke to posit a creator who is not the master designer. Creation is the result of chance and law; within the process of creation, God (who is the ultimate ground of chance and of law) is an improviser of unsurpassed ingenuity. For Peacocke, our creator-God is not blissfully apart from the world but intimately involved in it, enduring the evils of nature and of humankind along with us. God communicates with humans through the constituents of the world by imparting meaning and significance to particular patterns of events. In view of this, Peacocke argues that theology must not retreat into fortresses of biblicism or traditionalism but must understand its task to develop concepts, images, and metaphors that represent God's purposes and implanted meanings for the world, which we are still discovering through the sciences. Highly recommended for all seminary and academic libraries as well as larger public libraries. David I. Fulton, Coll. of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Prologue: Genesis for the third millenniump. 1
Part I The Spiritual Quest in the New World of Science
1 The contemporary challenge of science to religious beliefsp. 5
The 'two cultures' and the dominance of sciencep. 5
The spiritual life of scientistsp. 6
The rise of sciencep. 9
The forging of Christian belief through past challengesp. 12
The challenge of the scientific culture to religion todayp. 15
2 Science and the future of theologyp. 18
The intellectual reputations of science and theologyp. 18
Science withstands the postmodernist critiquep. 22
Evolution and human rationalityp. 24
Reasonableness through inference to the best explanationp. 26
Theology at the crossroadsp. 30
Part II Exploring from Science Towards God: New Vistas, Challenges and Questions
3 The world as it isp. 39
That the world isp. 39
God and timep. 43
The world: one and manyp. 48
Whole-part influences in the worldp. 51
The flow of information in the worldp. 53
The world-as-a-whole: a System-of-systemsp. 54
A lawlike world--no interventionp. 56
A world containing inherently unpredictable eventsp. 58
Brains, minds and persons in the worldp. 59
Communication between persons in the worldp. 62
4 The world in processp. 65
The epic of evolutionp. 65
The physical origin of the universep. 67
The origin of lifep. 68
The anthropic principlep. 70
The duration of evolutionp. 72
The mechanism of biological evolution--natural selectionp. 73
The process of chance and law (necessity)p. 75
The emergence of humanityp. 78
Human behaviourp. 79
Trends and directions in evolution?p. 81
The ubiquity of pain, suffering and deathp. 83
The evolution of life and our exploration towards Godp. 84
Evolution: a risky process?p. 88
5 God's interaction with the worldp. 91
The problemp. 91
Predictability and causalityp. 95
'Chaotic' systems and divine actionp. 99
Quantum events and divine actionp. 104
Whole-part influence and God's interaction with the worldp. 108
God as 'personal agent' in the worldp. 114
6 The sound of sheer silencep. 116
God, human experience and revelationp. 117
How does God communicate with humanity?p. 121
Part III The End of All Our Exploring
7 An open theologyp. 129
8 'In him we live and move and have our being'p. 135
Immanence: a theistic naturalismp. 135
Panentheismp. 138
9 The world as sacramentp. 144
The instrumental and symbolic relation of God and humanity to the worldp. 144
The world as an instrument of God's purposesp. 145
The world as a symbol of God's purposesp. 146
A congruence between the scientific and sacramental perspectivesp. 148
10 Arriving where we startedp. 154
The Wisdom of Godp. 154
The Word, the Logos, of Godp. 158
The uncreated energies of Godp. 160
11 Knowing the place for the first timep. 163
Vistas of the end?p. 163
A global perspectivep. 168
Epiloguep. 172
Appendix A contemporary Christian understanding of sacramentp. 175
Notesp. 177
Glossaryp. 185
Supplementary readingp. 188
Indexp. 193