Faith in science

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In last June’s Crosslight (255), I reviewed Melbourne academic Prof David Tacey’s Beyond Literal Belief: Religion As Metaphor. Prof Tacey’s book characterised the Bible as ‘a tapestry of stories designed to challenge and enhance life’s meaning’. The author also acknowledged the work of ‘fundamentalist Atheists’ like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens as misapprehending the symbolic nature of faith in favour of literalism.

The latest in cultural historian Catherine M. Wallace, PhD’s ‘Confronting Fundamentalism’ series, Confronting Religious Denial of Science, Christian Humanism and the Moral Imagination explores similar notions of metaphor and symbolism in an attempt to reconcile the opposition between science and religion, which dates back to the Enlightenment.
 
 As informed by the work of natural philosopher Isaac Newton, the Enlightenment framed God as the Engineer Almighty, orchestrating all earthly events. Wallace suggests that, when Frederich Neitzsche famously declared “God is dead”, he was actually referring to the death of moral absolutes as evolving scientific thinking rendered the Engineer Almighty concept redundant.

Citing anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s concept of religion as ‘an evolved disposition to create symbolic structures that motivate pro-social behaviours’, Wallace examines the ways in which this approach can help rationalise the contradictions between science and belief.

Championing an evolving, dynamic approach to scriptural engagement, Wallace suggests a humanist paradigm in which Christianity is eternally evolving ‘source code’, with the notion of ‘God as love’ at its core. This approach allows science and religion to cohabit, while also trusting that logic would finally consign the regressive contradictory dogma of fundamentalist and far right Biblical literalist thinking to the past.
 
 Confronting Religious Denial of Science, Christian Humanism and the Moral Imagination is a slim tome, a stimulating series of vignettes designed to encourage further investigation and scholarship.

Steeped in approachable language, Wallace includes warm, personal anecdotes to help illustrate her thesis. The author has a frustrating tendency, however, to reference as-yet unpublished volumes, giving the impression of an incomplete work.

Passionately advocating for an embrace of humanism as Christianity’s primary ethos, Christine M. Wallace’s Confronting Religious Denial of Science is a thought-provoking work which will increase in value as subsequent volumes are released.

This article will appear in the September 2016 edition of Crosslight.