Immensity, Complexity, and Humility

infinite-god-copy-2In the Pensées, at the very moment of the birth of science as we know it today, Pascal prophesied its downfall–which we are witnessing. As men came to grasp the vast extent and complexity of creation, ranging between the minuteness of the atom and the immensity of the universe, they would become, as he predicted, terrified by the “eternal silence of these infinite spaces.” A choice would confront them between seeing the whole future of man locked up immutably in his physical being, in his genes, or accepting with humility and contrition a role in the mysterious purposes of a loving God.

–Malcolm Muggeridge,
A Third Testament

The Sea of Infinite Mystery

ocean-rolling-wavesUltimately, science and religion should serve rather than dominate the human societies from which they emerged. Each, I believe, serves best from a stance of awe and humility that assumes as little as possible. The best from both worlds — the greatest scientists and the most profound religious thinkers and teachers — have always practiced these two qualities. Childlike awe motivated Einstein. “All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren,” he accepted. “The real nature of things, that we shall never know, never.” Similarly, the German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner invoked both humility and awe when he asked, “Which do we love more, the small island of our so-called knowledge or the sea of infinite mystery?”

–Dave Pruett,
Former NASA researcher; Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, James Madison University,
Science’s Sacred Cows,

We Know Very Little About Anything

orange-tulips-2-1024x768-copyI think the important thing to realize is how little we know about anything — how flowers unfold, how butterflies migrate. We have to avoid the arrogance of persons on either side of the science-religion divide who feel that they have all the answers. We have to try to use our intellect with humility.
       –Dr. Joseph Murray,
       Noble Prize winning transplant surgeon

When Bean-Counters Take Over

brainIain McGilchrist in his famous book The Master and his Emissary. McGilchrist, both a brain scientist and a literary critic . . . argues that modern western culture has exhibited large-scale symptoms that correspond to the schizophrenia in which the brain’s left hemisphere dominates and the right hemisphere is under-used or screened out altogether. He insists that this is deeply unhealthy, since the right hemisphere, which handles metaphor, music, imagination, poetry and indeed faith, is designed to take the lead (‘the Master’), and the left hemisphere, which crunches the numbers and works out the details, is designed to back it up (‘the Emissary’). The take-over bid by the left brain produces, in a culture, the same effect as when the bean-counters take over the business. That’s not their job. The beans need to be counted, of course. But that must serve the larger purpose, which can never be glimpsed by merely counting beans.

–N. T. Wright,
Wouldn’t You Love to Know? Towards a Christian View of Reality