John is a former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge who in his mid career became an Anglican priest. He is one of the leading thinkers on the compatibility of science and religion. His books include Science and Creation, Science and Providence, Belief in God in An Age of Science, Serious Talk: Science and Religion in Dialogue, The Faith of a Physicist, The God of Hope and the End of the World, Exploring Reality, and Quantum Physics and Theology. John won the Templeton Prize in 2002. He describes his view of the world as critical realism and believes that there is One World, with science and religion both addressing aspects of the same reality. Because scientists work very hard to eliminate extraneous influences in their experiments, he believes that they are thus highly atypical of what goes on in nature. He suggests that the mechanistic explanations of the world should be replaced by an understanding that most of nature is cloud-like rather than clock-like. He also regards the mind, soul and body as different aspects of the same underlying reality -- "dual aspect monism" -- "there is only one stuff in the world (not two - the material and the mental) but it can occur in two contrasting states (material and mental phases, a physicist might say) which explain our perception of the difference between mind and matter." He believes that standard physical causation cannot adequately describe the manifold ways in which things and people interact, and uses the phrase "active information" to indicate his belief that when, energetically, many possible outcomes are possible, there may be higher levels of causation that choose which occurs. He does not have a totally untroubled faith. Sometimes Christianity seems to him to be just too good to be true, but when this sort of doubt arises he says to himself, 'All right then, deny it' and he knows this is something he could never do. Polkinghorne considers that "the question of the existence of God is the single most important question we face about the nature of reality." He addresses the questions of "Does the concept of God make sense? If so, do we have reason for believing in such a thing?" Polkinghorne is "cautious about our powers to assess coherence," pointing out that in 1900 a "competent ... undergraduate could have demonstrated the 'incoherence'" of quantum ideas. He suggests that "the nearest analogy in the physical world [to God] would be ... the Quantum Vacuum." He suggests that God is the ultimate answer to Leibniz’s great question "why is there something rather than nothing?" The atheist's "plain assertion of the world's existence" is a "grossly impoverished view of reality," he says, arguing that "theism explains more than a reductionist atheism can ever address." He "does not assert that God's existence can be demonstrated in a logically coercive way (any more than God's non-existence can) but that theism makes more sense of the world, and of human experience, than does atheism." He cites in particular: The intelligibility of the universe: One would anticipate that evolutionary selection would produce hominid minds apt for coping with everyday experience, but that these minds should also be able to understand the subatomic world and general relativity goes far beyond anything of relevance to survival fitness. The mystery deepens when one recognizes the proven fruitfulness of mathematical beauty as a guide to successful theory choice. On the anthropic fine tuning of the universe: He quotes with approval Freeman Dyson, who said "the more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming" and suggests there is a wide consensus amongst physicists that either there are a very large number of other universes in a “multiverse” or that "there is just one universe which is the way it is in its anthropic fruitfulness because it is the expression of the purposive design of a Creator, who has endowed it with the finely tuned potentialty for life.
- Arguments for God (John Polkinghorne)
- What is God Like? (John Polkinghorne)
- Why Anything at All? (John Polkinghorne)
- Immortality and Personal Consciousness (John Polkinghorne)
- What is Time? (John Polkinghorne)
- Why Science and Religion Think Differently (John Polkinghorne)
- What's the New Atheism? (John Polkinghorne)
- How does God Relate to the World? (John Polkinghorne)
- Can Science Provide Ultimate Answers? (John Polkinghorne)
- What is the Stuff of Mind and Brain? (John Polkinghorne)
- Why a Fine-Tuned Universe? (John Polkinghorne)
- Is God Temporal or Timeless? (John Polkinghorne)
- Is There a Judgment? (John Polkinghorne)
- Why the Cosmos? (John Polkinghorne)
- All Things New? (John Polkinghorne)
- How is God the Creator? (John Polkinghorne)
- How Could God Interact with the World? (John Polkinghorne)
- Does God Make Sense? (John Polkinghorne)
- Arguing God from Natural Theology? (John Polkinghorne)
Can Religion Be Explained Without God?
Most people believe that God exists and religion is God’™s revelation. But some claim that religion needs nothing supernatural; that religion, without God, can flourish because personal psychology and group sociology drive religion.
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