Arbiter of metaphysics: science?

By Dave Henning / February 10, 2024

“To make science the arbiter of metaphysics is to banish not only God from the world, but also love, hate, meaning. . . .  I returned to the central values of Christianity — sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness — because I found them so compelling.”- Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

As Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 1 of Making Sense of God, he acknowledges the truth that we are looking for a changed heart.  However, as Paul Kalanithi once affirmed, secular reason, all by itself, fails to give us a basis changing our hearts.

Therefore, Pastor Keller presents the second good answer to the question of why religion continues to persist and grow.

2.  Awareness of the transcendent.  First, Pastor Keller describes this second reason as more existential than intellectual in nature.  Because it involves the sense that we are more — and life is more — than what the material world reveals.

Above all, sometimes this intuition triggers a protest against the way secularism seems to flatten out and reduce life.  As a result, as Andrew Delbanco writes in The Real American Dream: Meditations on Hope, “all our getting and spending amounts for nothing more than fidgeting while we wait for death.”

Yet, English author Julian Barnes finds himself moved by Mozart’s Requiem.  Although Barnes believes that death = extinction, both Mozart’s music and words move him.  In fact, Barnes states, the Requiem presents a haunting hypothetical for nonbelievers.  Thus, Barnes wonders, what would it be like if the Requiem’s words were true?

In conclusion, writer Kristin Dombek maintains her disbelief in God.  Even though she cannot account for her experience of fullness in a rational way.  In the Paris Review, she comments:

“I have been an atheist for more than fifteen years, and I have been able to explain almost everything about the faith I grew up in, but I have not been able to explain those experiences of God so real he entered the bedrooms of his own accord, lit them up with joy, and made people generous.”

Today’s question: What do you see as science’s shortcomings as an arbiter of metaphysics?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The persistence of faith”

About the author

Dave Henning

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