Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Crack In The Edifice?

Confronting the big questions

For thousands of years, people have gazed in wonder at the world about them and asked the big questions: How did the universe come to exist? What is it made of? Where do human beings fit into the great cosmic scheme? Is there a meaning to it all?

Such questions have mostly been restricted to religion and philosophy. Now, scientists are addressing them too.
On every front, science is transforming our world view and challenging age-old assumptions about the nature of the physical universe and our place within it.

Though the the above may sound like some kind of public relations announcement for a Christian Apologetics seminar. Though it may even sound like something I wrote to promote the view I've touted here concerning what I believe to be the proper relationship between faith and science -- it is neither. But in my opinion it is better than either. Read on ...

BEYOND is a pioneering international center at Arizona State University specifically dedicated to confronting the big questions of existence raised by these stunning scientific advances, and facilitating new research initiatives that transcend traditional subject categories.

Did you catch that?! This is actually the home page for BEYOND: The Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, a new think tank that has proudly published the following:

Our Vision for BEYOND

  • To create new and exciting ideas that push the boundaries of research a bit "beyond"

  • To conduct research that transcends traditional subject categories

  • To answer foundational questions in science, and explore their philosophical ramifications - what might be called "the big questions"

  • To present science to the public as a key component of our culture and of significance to all humanity
As the BEYOND introduction puts it, these are the kinds of questions that "are a key component of our culture and of significance to all humanity." The answers we find to those kinds of questions transcend the science and point us toward its ultimate cause -- toward the teleological destination that most scientific endeavors deny even exists.

Now I don't want to sound like too much of a Pollyanna here. This is by no means an announcement that will declare the end of the reign of the assumed Naturalistic paradigm that dominates the scientific community. It is not the death knell of the methodological naturalism that rules the scientific enterprise. For instance, in BEYOND's listed of stated "research themes" we find that, with regard to the origin of life issue:

We are pursuing an approach based on the hypothesis that life originated with quantum replication of nanostructures.

In this case the same old presumptions seem to be in place. That's fine. But if the monolithic acceptance of certain presuppositions represents the wall that naturalistic scientists demand separate science and faith, maybe BEYOND represents the first tiny crack in that wall.

Time will tell. But though the existence of BEYOND may represent only a microscopic crack, it is nonetheless a crack. And for that we theists should at least be sporting a smile.

{I want to give credit to Tim Boyle of Tsukuba, Japan for making me, and other Reasons To Believe volunteer apologists, aware of this story. Tim is an alumnus of ASU where he majored in Physics}

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