Thoughtful Quotes from Faith & Wisdom in Science by Tom McLeish
Faith and Wisdom in Science presents science as the current flourishing of a very old and deeply human story. Weaving material from the modern science of the unpredictable together with ancient biblical and historical material it takes a fresh approach to the ‘science and religion’ debate – taking a scientist’s reading of the enigmatic and beautiful Book of Job as a centrepiece, and asking what science might ultimately be for. It makes the case for a story as human as any other – pain, love, desire, reconciliation, risk and healing emerge as surprising ingredients without which science is rootless. Rather than conflicting with faith, science can be seen as a deeply religious activity. There are urgent messages for the way we both celebrate and govern science.
McLeish delivers a picture of science as a questioning discipline nested within a much older, wider set of questions about the world, as represented by the searches for wisdom and a better understanding of creation in the books of Genesis, in Proverbs, in the letters of St Paul, in Isaiah and Hosea but most of all in that wonderful hymn to earth system science known as the Book of Job.
“This unique book is for those who are tired of the usual debates over science and religion. It is an intriguing read that includes stories from the lab about the quirkiness of scientific discovery, a deep meditation on the book of Job, and reflections on the current role of science in society. McLeish offers a thought-provoking view of the place of chaos and suffering in a universe under God’s control.” ~Deborah Haarsma, President of BioLogos
“Tom McLeish’s engaging passion for science is matched by his unique ability to help the reader locate science in a complex and enriching relationship with ancient texts and stories, contemporary culture and the big questions of human existence.” ~David Wilkinson, Durham University
- Doing science is very old [search for wisdom about natural things].
- Science is a deeply human activity.
- Science is more about imaginative and creative questions than it is about method, logic or answers to those questions.
- Science can be painful.
- The relationship between ‘faith’ in all of its connotations and ‘science’ is a long and rich one. Faith in newly formed and still awkward ideas is indispensable if we are to see further below the surface of our world. Faith in other members of the community of searchers after natural wisdom is equally vital, whether these are collaborators, readers or, as in Robert Brown’s case, those hoped-for scientists of the future who would one day answer the questions that he was painfully unable to resolve. (52, 53)
The exact pressure of a gas, the emergence of fibrillary structures, the height in the atmosphere at which clouds condense, the temperature at which ice forms, even the formation of the delicate membranes surrounding every living cell in the realm of biology…all the beauty and order becomes both possible and predictable because of the chaotic world underneath them. Nature, it seems, operates on a statistical foundation, finding ways in which new levels of order can emerge from a chaotic substrate…. Even the structures and phenomena that we find most beautiful of all, those that make life itself possible, grow up from roots in a chaotic underworld. Were the chaos to cease, they would wither and collapse, frozen rigid and lifeless at the temperatures of intergalactic space. The creative tension between the chaotic and the ordered lies within the foundations of science today, but it is a narrative theme of human culture that is as old as any. (101)
We know better than to swallow an inadequate narrative that portrays science as simply replacing an ancient world of myth and superstition with a modern one of fact and comprehension…. Science is ‘the love of wisdom of natural things’.…. Its primary creative grammar is the question rather than the answer. Its primary energy is imagination rather than fact. Its primary experience is more typically trial rather than triumph—the journey of understanding already travelled always appears to be a trivial distance compared with the mountain road ahead. (102)