John Polkinghorne 1930- UK
is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. A prominent and leading voice explaining the relationship between science and religion, he was professor of Mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He served as the president of Queens’ College, Cambridge from 1988 until 1996.
Polkinghorne is the author of five books on physics, and 26 on the relationship between science and religion; his publications include The Quantum World (1989), Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship (2005), Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (2007), and Questions of Truth (2009). The Polkinghorne Reader (edited by Thomas Jay Oord) provides key excerpts from Polkinghorne’s most influential books. He was knighted in 1997 and in 2002 received the £1 million Templeton Prize, awarded for exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.
Polkinghorne said in an interview that he believes his move from science to religion has given him binocular vision, though he understands that it has aroused the kind of suspicion "that might follow the claim to be a vegetarian butcher." He describes his position as critical realism and believes that science and religion address aspects of the same reality. It is a consistent theme of his work that when he "turned his collar around" he did not stop seeking truth. He believes the philosopher of science who has most helpfully struck the balance between the "critical" and "realism" aspects of this is Michael Polanyi. He argues that there are five points of comparison between the ways in which science and theology pursue truth:
· moments of enforced radical revision,
· a period of unresolved confusion,
· new synthesis and understanding,
· continued wrestling with unresolved problems,
· deeper implications.
Because scientific experiments try to eliminate extraneous influences, he believes they are atypical of what goes on in nature. He suggests that the mechanistic explanations of the world that have continued from Laplace to Richard Dawkins should be replaced by an understanding that most of nature is cloud-like rather than clock-like. He regards the mind, soul and body as different aspects of the same underlying reality—"dual aspect monism"—writing that "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 describe how, when several outcomes are possible, there may be higher levels of causation that choose which one occurs.
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 writes that he knows this is something he could never do.