1. SCIENCE & RELIGION
From time to time new academic disciplines emerge. We may recall, for example, the emergence of philosophy of science in the 1920s in the hands of the neopositivists, and the consolidation of scientific cosmology from 1964 onwards as a consequence of the discovery of microwave background radiation.
A new academic field is emerging now, which concentrates on the dialogue between science and religion. Contrary to the positivist's expectations, the overwhelming progress of empirical science in the twentieth century has been accompanied by an increasing interest in the relations between science and religion. Let me offer only one example. We will finish our meeting on Sunday, July 26, 1998. On the next day the South African Science and Religion Forum '98 will begin. It is scheduled for the period 27 July to 7 August, mainly in Pretoria-Johannesburg but also in Cape Town and Durban. It is a project of the Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, Pretoria. In an announcement for this conference we read: "The aim of SASRF '98 can be stated as to increase significantly the number of people interested in contributing to the development of Science & Religion studies in South Africa, and to raise the general level of knowledge and understanding of the S&R interaction in order to prepare the ground for future development of this new interdisciplinary field." In the description of one of the guest lectures we are told that the speaker will try to explain the following question: "Why are there so many physics books with the word 'God' in their titles?"
Indeed, the number of influential scientists who deal with the Science & Religion topic is surprisingly high. In recent decades we can think of authors such as Jacques Monod, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Francis Crick, Roger Penrose, John Barrow and Paul Davies, to quote only some of them. This list also shows that these authors are not always favourable to religion; some of them are rather contrary to it.
One might perhaps suspect that people who engage in this new interdisciplinary field are willing in the main to change religious doctrines by adapting them to changing perspectives derived from science or from philosophy of science. I dare say that many religious people would prefer to distinguish science and religion, avoiding extrapolations in either of the two fields. I am most sympathetic to this view. I am deeply convinced that, when we speak of dialogue between science and religion, we should take as our point of departure the fact that both ambits correspond to different levels of human experience: they have different aims, methods, and results. Therefore, this dialogue is not a simple affair, mainly because a gap exists between both ambits that cannot be filled easily.
In spite of this, I am going to present an attempt at building a bridge which can serve to connect science and religion. Needless to say, I take for granted that there exist two different fields which I wish to connect: this is why a bridge is necessary to connect them.
I will concentrate on a bridge which I consider especially promising. It is based on the analysis of the general presuppositions of science and the feedback from scientific progress on them. In 1992 I published an essay on this topic (1), and afterwards I continued to try to articulate my ideas. This project took shape in 1996 with the help of an award granted by Sir John Templeton and has resulted into a book entitled "The Mind of the Universe". I am going to comment on its main lines in four sections that correspond, in the same order and under the same title, to the four parts of that book.
First of all I would like to remark that the title I have chosen for my book is deliberately provocative. I have chosen it in spite of its pantheistic flavour because I find in it important advantages. Above all, the contemporary scientific worldview suggests thatthe universe is permeated in its innermost being by a kind of rationality whose explanation requires the authorship of a personal Mind. I have borrowed the expression "The Mind of the Universe" from the stoic Seneca. Fifteen centuries later, Fray Luis de Granada, one of the Spanish classics of Christian spirituality, quoted them almost literally. These are his words:
"What is God? The mind and reason of the universe. What is God? Everything that we see, because in all things we see his wisdom and assistance, and thus we confess his magnitude, which is so great that we cannot think of a bigger one. And if he alone is everything, it is he who sustains his great work from within and from without" (2).
I intend to show that our present scientific worldview provides a most suitable basis for a perspective which includes purpose and religious values, and I also want to explore the implications of this worldview for our ideas about the universe as God's creation, man as God's collaborator, and God as the ground of being, creativity and values. Nevertheless, considering the gap that exists between the scientific and the religious perspectives, one may doubt that these aims can be achieved at all. Therefore, first of all I am going to comment on my own way of bridging this gap.
2. SCIENCE TRANSCENDS ITSELF
Nature is very complex. Science is possible because we have learnt to study particular phenomena in isolation. The methods used in empirical science are very effective. However, when we try to build a unified picture of the real world, including ourselves, we can obtain a misleading image unless we adopt an adequate perspective which integrates the sciences with other dimensions of human life. In my book I explore a perspective of this kind, which is based on the general presuppositions of the natural sciences.
Empirical science contains not only factual knowledge, but also its necessary conditions, which can be considered as presuppositions whose analysis constitutes a philosophical and theological task.
There are three kinds of such presuppositions. The first refers to the intelligibility or rationality of nature; it can be labelled as ontological, and is closely related with natural order. The second one refers to the human ability to know natural order; it can be labelled as epistemological, and includes the different forms of scientific argument. The third one refers to the values implied by scientific activity itself; it can be labelled as ethical, and includes the search for truth, rigour, objectivity, intellectual modesty, service to other people, cooperation, and other related values.
In addition, there is feedback from scientific progress to these presuppositions, because it retro-justifies, enriches and refines them. Indeed, in so far as these presuppositions are necessary conditions for the existence of science, the progress of science can be seen as a sufficient condition for their existence. Besides, the progress of science enables us to determine the scope of those presuppositions because it discloses new aspects of them; in fact, it provides us with a new knowledge of natural order and also of our abilities to know it, and it provides new means to fulfil the aims of science. This is why the analysis of each one of these presuppositions can provide a clue to the philosophical meaning of scientific progress and, therefore, to its theological relevance.
The three presuppositions correspond to three levels of empirical science. In fact, empirical science is a complex reality that includes many branches, methods and results. Nevertheless, it is possible to describe it in a very general way as including three main features. First of all, science is a goal-directed activity, that is, a human activity directed towards the achievement of two specific goals which are the knowledge of nature and its controlled dominion. Then, in order to achieve these goals we must use some specific means which can be labelled as the scientific method. Finally, considered as a body of knowledge obtained by using the scientific method, science contains theoretical constructs which are concepts, statements and theories. Using this framework, I will distinguish now the three main general presuppositions of empirical science in connection with the corresponding three dimensions of the scientific enterprise.
First of all, if we consider science as a goal-directed human activity, we can easily notice that if it is to exist at all, we must presuppose that its goals can and should be achieved. Therefore, the first general presupposition of science is that the scientific goals can be achieved and also that they possess a value, so that scientific activity is a worthwhile enterprise that deserves our efforts. Trivial as this may seem, it is most important. It can be labelled as an ethical presupposition, because it refers to values. Today, the magnitude of scientific achievements, which can be applied in both a good and a bad direction, has provoked a renewed interest in the relationship between science and values.
In the second place, the use of the scientific method supposes the existence of some specific human abilities, namely that we are able to transcend our ordinary knowledge through the formulation of hypotheses that can be submitted to empirical tests. This is an epistemological presupposition. Actually, a fully developed scientific method is anything but trivial. It took many centuries to develop it. The progress of science clearly shows that we possess an astonishing ability to transcend our immediate experience and to reach the deepest levels of nature by using extremely subtle methods.
In the third place, the success of the scientific constructs that are the result of using the scientific method of construction and control supposes, as a necessary condition, that they reflect in some way a natural order that cannot be reduced to the order that we impose on our own theories. This is an ontological presupposition. The empirical testing of our theoretical models is only possible if there exists some kind of natural order in an objective sense. We can even say that the more the sciences progress, the more we can be certain of the existence and characteristics of an objective natural order.
I shall therefore concentrate on these three kinds of general presupposition of science, namely scientific goals, human abilities and natural order. I am now going to examine briefly some characteristics of these presuppositions.
My presuppositions are scientific insofar as they belong to empirical science as its necessary conditions, and are philosophical insofar as their study requires that we adopt a philosophical perspective. They can even be considered theological in two respects: first, because from the historical point of view they were partly derived from theological ideas, and also because their study may eventually have a theological import. On the other hand, they are not scientific as if they were statements of the same type as a usual scientific statement, and are not philosophical as if they were metaphysical principles needed to provide a foundation to the sciences.
My presuppositions are not constitutive, as if they were a part of science among others, but regulative, as they provide a clue in order to understand science itself and to reflect on its meaning. In some way, they participate in the regulative character of metaphysics such as it is expressed in the introduction by Thomas Aquinas to his commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics when he wrote:
"As the Philosopher teaches in his Politics, when several different things are ordained to a single one, one of them has to be regulative or directive, and others regulated or directed... But all sciences and arts are ordained to a single thing, namely the perfection of man, which is his happiness. Therefore one of them has to be directive of all the rest, and this one rightly should be called wisdom, because it is a character of the wise man to direct others" (3).
Nevertheless, I do not develop my argument taking metaphysical principles as a point of departure. Rather, I focus on some states of affairs that should be considered presuppositions of science because they are its necessary conditions, and I reflect on them in order to show that they are most coherent with a metaphysical and religious perspective in which divine agency and human spirituality provide the deepest meaning for the scientific enterprise.
My presuppositions are not particular, but general, because they refer to the entire scientific enterprise. Instead, we could speak of particular presuppositions that are only the basis of particular branches or theories of science. Nevertheless, when we consider the feedback of scientific progress on its presuppositions, we have to examine the implications of many particular scientific achievements.
My presuppositions are necessary conditions of the scientific enterprise, not only psychological assumptions. Actually, scientists can work in their specialised field in complete oblivion of them, and these scientists can even deny their existence when they reflect on their research; however, considered from an objective point of view, these presuppositions are the basis of the whole scientific enterprise and of every one of its parts.
One major objection to my presuppositions would be to say that they do really exist, but are trivial and are not worthy of serious study: just as a fisherman must suppose that there actually are fishes in the river or the sea and also that they have such and such characteristics, but his presuppositions are only hypotheses or guesses that can fail. I would answer: yes, it is true, these presuppositions are in some sense trivial; but the philosophical and theological reflection on them is anything but a trivial matter.
It is important to underline that my presuppositions refer to the progress of science. They are the necessary conditions for science to progress in every particular case. This means that, although each one of them has a general character which does not change, they also possess a changing part which evolves with scientific progress. In this sense, they are evolving, not fixed presuppositions.
That the presuppositions evolve also means that my argument about them is useful insofar as science continues to progress. If there were no perspectives of further progress, my talk about the presuppositions of science would cease to have any interest. Actually, the end of science has been announced several times, especially at the end of the nineteenth century and also at the end of the twentieth century: my presuppositions would cease to work only if those predictions were correct. I do not think, however, that this is the case now, and I cannot conceive that we may reach in any future time a complete knowledge of the world.
So far I have spoken of the general presuppositions of science. But this is only the beginning. My argument concentrates on the feedback of scientific progress on them. The idea which serves as the skeleton of my argument has two aspects: on the one hand, I assert that there exists a feedback of scientific progress on its presuppositions as it retrojustifies, enlarges and eventually refines them, and on the other hand, I add that this feedback provides a most interesting basis for reflections in the philosophical and theological ambits.
I do not assert that empirical science by itself has any philosophical or theological implications. My argument has a philosophical character, and it is open to theological reflections.
That the analysis of scientific progress provides us with clues which are interesting from the humanistic point of view is the central idea of many anti-metaphysical and anti-religious doctrines such as positivism, neopositivism, scientific materialism, and the different versions of scientific naturalism which are widespread in the contemporary intellectual arena. My argument neither has its origin nor has been developed as a reaction against those pseudo-scientific ideologies; it has a positive character and stands on its own feet. Nevertheless, it can be used to clarify the misrepresentations of science and of scientific progress that are used by those ideologies.
I am going to examine the three general presuppositions of science and the implications of scientific progress for them one by one in the following order: I shall examine first the ontological level, then the epistemological one, and finally the ethical one. The reverse order would perhaps conform better to the nature of the issues, because scientific goals are the first determinant feature of empirical science, followed by the methods used, and only then do the results come out. Moreover, epistemological considerations apparently should be placed before ontological ones. Nevertheless, I think that the order that I have chosen permits a clearer exposition, because the worldview is easier to explain than epistemological or ethical issues, and at the same time its analysis provides an initial perspective which will be of great help in order to reflect on the nature of our knowledge and of our goals. Also, considerations about goals raise ethical issues that can be best seen as the coronation of the entire argument.
3. SELF-ORGANISATION AND DIVINE ACTION
The ontological presuppositions of science refer to the existence of nature and natural order, because empirical science studies natural patterns.
Insofar as natural order is considered to be a pre-condition for science, it is often equated with the "rationality" or the "intelligibility" of the world. Actually, these terms mean that the world is structured or organised in such a way that it can be grasped by our intellectual constructs. They are quite similar to the classical concept of "ontological truth". In classical metaphysics it is said that ontological truth or intelligibility is a transcendental property of being as such, which amounts to saying that no real being exists that is unintelligible. Of course, full intelligibility can only exist with respect to divine knowledge. However, the concept of ontological truth clearly fosters a confidence in the intelligibility of nature also with respect to human beings created as image of God and as participants in God's perfection.
If we consider natural order in a strict sense as a presupposition of empirical science, we are not obliged to assume a strong idea about ontological truth. We only have to assume in every particular case that there is some kind of order in nature which is yet unknown and can be known. It is precisely this evolving feature of our presupposition which provides the basis for my argument, which is based on the feedback of scientific progress on the presuppositions of science: if natural order were a changeless presupposition, that feedback could hardly exist.
We should remember that the concept of order is mainly a relational concept, insofar as it refers to relations rather than to absolute properties. Therefore, it always depends on some criteria that are chosen as a reference, so that a state that is very ordered in some respects may be very disordered in others. Also, this relational character explains why the concept of order is a very general concept that can be applied to any conceivable natural state of affairs. Actually, a completely disordered state of affairs would mean a state where no relation existed between its components, which can be considered impossible. It is hardly thinkable that in the natural world a state might exist that would not exhibit any kind of order at all. Certainly, we speak about chaos and chaotic states in some branches of science that are rapidly expanding now. But we should not forget that the chaos studied in the sciences does not correspond to completely disordered states but follows some rules.
That the concept of order is relational implies that we may distinguish as many types of order as different types of relations can exist: this means there are many of them. I shall soon examine some of them, but I am most interested in underlining that there are two types of order which play a unique role in empirical science, namely "patterning" and "organisation". The relevance of patterning in empirical science is easy to notice if we realise that empirical control is achieved through experiments whose possibility depends on the very existence of patterns in the natural world. We could even say that empirical science is centred around the study of spatial and temporal patterns, as far as experiments suppose the existence of regularities that are repeatable, at least in principle. On the other hand, patterns are closely linked to organisation, which is a specific and very important kind of order. Organisation includes the idea of parts that are related because they play a role within a whole, and this could be taken as a sign of rationality and, therefore, of the existence of a plan.
Actually, scientific progress underlines the existence of a continuous process of patterning which leads to patterns that possess a considerable degree of organisation. It is easy to notice that the corresponding worldview, centred around patterning and organisation, will represent a considerable refinement of our knowledge of natural order and of its implications. Besides, that new worldview may facilitate the recovery of some central ideas of the ancient worldview that seemed lost forever. This holds especially in the case of ideas associated with purpose or natural teleology.
Many authors coincide in speaking about three great worldviews that have dominated our history. The first one was the ancient worldview which represented the world as a huge organism, underlining the existence of an all-pervasive teleology which was the guarantee of the unity between man and nature and, at the same time, provided a clue for the discovery of the divine dimensions of the natural world. The second worldview corresponded to the period of classical modern science and represented the world as a mechanical machine; it provided a road towards the Maker of this highly ordered machine, but it favoured a naturalist view that prevailed in the long run and discarded the relevance of spiritual and supernatural dimensions that were seen as artificially superimposed on the natural ambit. Then, in the second half of the twentieth century a new worldview has emerged which is centred around the concepts of pattern, evolution, information and self-organisation.
There exists a generalised agreement regarding the fact that a new worldview is emerging which is at least as important and powerful as any other worldview in the whole of history. Paul Davies and John Gribbin have written in this line:
"In fact, as we approach the end of the twentieth century, science is throwing off the shackles of three centuries of thought in which a particular paradigm -called 'mechanism'- has dominated the world view of scientists. In its simplest terms, mechanism is the belief that the physical Universe is nothing but a collection of material particles in interaction, a gigantic purposeless machine... The movement towards a 'post-mechanistic' paradigm, a paradigm suitable for 21st-century science, is taking place across a broad front: in cosmology, in the chemistry of self-organising systems, in the new physics of chaos, in quantum mechanics and particle physics, in the information sciences and (more reluctantly) at the interface of biology with physics... This monumental paradigm shift is bringing with it a new perspective on human beings and their role in the great drama of nature... We have no doubt that the revolution which we are immensely privileged and fortunate to be witnessing at first hand will for ever alter humankind's view of the Universe" (4).
Indeed, for the first time in history, we have a scientific worldview which provides a unified picture of the world, including ourselves, because it includes all natural levels (micro- and macro-physical, as well as biological) and their mutual relations. This worldview is centred around a dynamic process of self-organisation. Our world is the result of the deployment of a dynamism that produces different natural levels with new emergent characteristics, and therefore with new kinds of dynamism, in such a way that we can see natureas creative in a real sense.
When I say that the present worldview is complete I do not mean that it contains all that can be known about our world, which would be obviously false. What I mean is that it includes all natural levels, some of the basic features of each one of them, and their mutual connections as well.
The new worldview includes not only the synchronic perspective but also the diachronic perspective as well. Although some evolutionary ideas about the physical universe had already been proposed earlier, the evolutionary perspective reached its scientific maturity in the field of biology first in the nineteenth century and then in the twentieth century when it was completed with genetics and molecular biology. On the other hand, cosmic evolution became the focus of attention when some of its empirical consequences were successfully tested in the 1960s. If we combine cosmic and biological evolution, we obtain a big global process that supposedly started some ten billion years ago from a primeval state in which all matter and energy were concentrated at enormous density and temperature.
The general scheme is accepted today by the vast majority of scientists. Nevertheless, there are many holes in the explanation of the successive steps of that gigantic evolutionary process. This is why great attention is devoted to morphogenetic theories that try to explain how new forms of order can emerge from more disordered states. Such theories are, for instance, thermodynamics of irreversible processes, catastrophe theory, synergetics, and deterministic chaos.
One of the main features of the new worldview is that the concept of matter is deprived of some of the connotations that it had in the mechanistic picture of the world. More precisely, the knowledge of the composition of matter and of the fundamental interactions shows that matter should not be thought of as something passive and inert, but rather as something that possesses an inner dynamism at all natural levels. Besides, this dynamism is closely related to structure and patterns, insofar as it deploys itself according to temporal patterns and its deployment produces spatial patterns that are the sources of new kinds of dynamism. This scheme, repeated once and again, explains how our world has been built up. This does not mean any kind of return to the ancient hylozoism that attributed life to every piece of matter. Nevertheless, it implies some changes in the usual notion of matter such as it has been employed in modern times in the West. Dynamism is a basic characteristic of natural entities at all levels of nature.
Moreover, the components of matter behave in a cooperative way, even at the physical level, producing new structural patterns. This means, of course, that those components are not merely passive entities: on the contrary, they behave in a highly sophisticated way. Dynamism pervades all natural levels and it produces very sophisticated results.
Patterns are closely tied to the ancient concept of form, which was used to refer to the modes of being of the different entities. In one way or another, the concept of form continues to be present in the development of empirical science. The present worldview stresses that dynamism and patterns are closely connected and in some way interwoven. Recent progress shows, indeed, how synergy works even at the microphysical level. As Paul Davies puts it:
"The unusual property for matter and energy to self-organise into coherent structures and patterns is only very recently becoming appreciated by physicists... Of course, biologists have long studied self-organisation and pattern formation. Today, however, physicists and chemist are joining in, and self-organisation has become a distinctive branch of the New Physics" (5).
Expressions like "universal miracles" and "unusual property" show the amazement that this kind of phenomenon produces in the scientist who reflects on the new achievements of physics. Obviously, microphysical particles do not know anything of physics at all, but they behave in a way that makes possible the formation of increasingly complex patterns at the different natural levels.
Self-organisation has become the metaphor commonly used to account for the present scientific worldview. Self-organisation is obviously related with natural tendencies and cooperativity. There are good reasons to think that many cooperative features of nature have yet to be discovered. Our knowledge of self-organisation has probably only just begun. This is easy to see in the field of evolutionary theories. Despite the claims of orthodox Darwinians who consider natural selection to be the chief cause of evolution, other scientists continue searching for new structural laws that may help to bridge the many holes that exist within the evolutionary explanations. I would not deny the relevance of natural selection in the process of evolution, but I would also underline that, at the moment, scientists are searching for principles of self-organisation that wait to be discovered. When speaking of such principles one must not think of something extra-scientific. I would dare say, for instance, that the well-known principle of exclusion, introduced by Wolfgang Pauli in quantum mechanics in the first half of the twentieth century, provides a very good example of this kind of principle.
The development of physics and chemistry has provided the basis for a new biology which uses some basic concepts which apply also on the physico-chemical level, especially the concept of "information". Information is materialised rationality. It includes plans that are stored in spatio-temporal structures and guide the successive deployment of natural dynamism and the corresponding formation of increasingly complex patterns.
Information can be considered one of the most important explanations of many sophisticated natural phenomena. Aristotle spoke of potentialities, and over the centuries people have discussed how these potentialities could be interpreted, for instance in the case of the development of living beings. Preformationism seems unacceptable, and mere epiphenomenalism seems to explain nothing at all. Now, information provides a clear account of the preexistence of a plan that makes unnecessary the existence of something similar to the final result but, at the same time, explains how that result is produced.
If the concept of information is closely related to that of "potentiality", it is also linked to that of "plan". In some cases, the plan is so specific that, if the necessary external circumstances obtain, the result will be produced: this is the case of the development of living beings. In many other cases, potentialities are much more open. And in general we can say that we live in a world structured in levels of emerging complexity which is always open to the appearance of novelties.
Self-organisation is sometimes considered as the last link in the chain of a naturalised worldview. Nevertheless, naturalism must face the insurmountable difficulties inherent to a self-contained world. Instead, as the new worldview underlines natural dynamism connected with patterning, information and directionality, it is most coherent with a renewed teleological picture of the world which provides a new basis for a renewed natural theology. The corresponding idea of God is that of a Creator who has conceived the natural dynamism and uses it to produce, according to the natural laws, a world of successive levels of emerging innovations. Our world does not exhaust the possibilities of the creation. God usually acts respecting and protecting the natural capacities of his creatures, and He has given them great and marvellous potentialities which are never exhausted, so that new results can always be produced or expected. Natural order is contingent, as it is the result of singular circumstances. However, nature is full of organisation, directionality, synergy, and very sophisticated activities. All this is most coherent with the "continuous" activity of divine wisdom.
All this means progress in our religious understanding. Scientific progress retro-justifies, enriches and refines the ontological presuppositions of science, turning order into self-organisation, and shows the central part that natural and divine creativity play here.
4. SCIENTIFIC CREATIVITY AND HUMAN SINGULARITY
There is also a feedback from scientific progress to the epistemological presuppositions of science, which are connected with the human ability to know nature's order.
Indeed, nature does not speak, and natural science is possible because we are able to build specific languages which allow us to pose questions to nature and to interpret the answers provided by our mute partner. This shows that, although we are a part of nature, nevertheless we transcend it.
Scientific creativity is necessary to form new hypotheses which transcend available data; to plan experiments in order to test such hypotheses; to interpret the results of experiments; and to decide by arguments the value of our constructs.
I will comment on one particular point which is especially important in the present context. I mean the possibility of attaining truth and certainty in empirical science. The general trend now is to deny that we are able to speak meaningfully of truth in empirical science; this is the position of many instrumentalists and relativists, sometimes welcomed by philosophers and theologians that seem to consider this as a way to avoid threats coming from the sciences: nevertheless, they do not realise that, if we undervalue human reason in empirical science, we will hardly be authorised to affirm it in other fields of knowledge and experience. On the other hand, even those who admit that the pursuit of truth is the main goal of the scientific enterprise and admit the existence of objective truth and true knowledge, usually add that, due to logical reasons and to our limitations, we are never able to know that we have reached true knowledge, even though we may have reached it.
The last position is represented by a fallibilism of the Popperian type which underlines the logical asymmetry between verification and falsification, adding that pure logic forbids us to consider any theory as verified. Moreover, everyone agrees today that it is we who construct the concepts, statements and theories of science in such a way that we cannot claim that they correspond to a real world independent of our conceptualisation.
In spite of these difficulties, which are completely real, I assert that we can meaningfully speak about truth and even certainty in empirical science, provided we realise that this truth will always be contextual, namely dependent on our theoretically and pragmatically constructed contexts. Therefore, it will also be a partial and perfectible truth. But, at the same time, when it is well confirmed, it can also be an authentic truth in the classical sense of correspondence with reality. Only, this correspondence will adopt different modalities in the different cases. Even though the basic idea of truth as correspondence is always the same, this correspondence is different in kind when we think, for example, of empirical laws, of general principles, of the existence of entities, of the existence of spatial patterns, of entire theoretical systems, and so on.
We can also explain the peculiar reliability that we find in empirical science without denying its real value. In every new epoch, scientism tries to exploit the progress of science in order to undermine the value of metaphysics and religion. To face this claim we only need to remark that it is self-defeating because it is contradictory; indeed, in so far as scientism denies the value of any knowledge claim outside the ambit of empirical science, it fails to notice that this thesis remains itself outside the scientific ambit and, therefore, is untenable according to its own standards. Moreover, we can explain the reliability of empirical science in a positive way, noticing that its great success is due to the fact that it concentrates on the study of repeatable spatio-temporal patterns which can be related to repeatable experiments; no wonder,therefore, that when we deal with ambits of reality that involve metaphysical, s piritual and religious dimensions we cannot apply the same method (at least, not exactly in the same way) and, therefore, we cannot obtain a knowledge reliable in the same sense as the one provided by the empirical sciences. We can add that the very same reason that explains the value and the success of empirical science also explains its limits.
We can safely assume, as a result of contemporary epistemology, that empirical science is not based on pure facts and induction. It rather requires a very high dose of creativity and interpretation, which is a form of creativity. And scientific creativity is a proof of our singularity. It shows that we possess dimensions which transcend the natural ambit and can be labelled as spiritual. The very existence and progress of the natural sciences is one of the best arguments that show our spiritual character. But, at the same time, the success of scientific method shows that our spiritual dimensions related to creativity and argument are intertwined with our material dimensions, so that we are a single person constituted by both aspects.
All this is coherent with the view that man is a co-creator who participates in God's plans, and has the capacity of carrying the natural and the human ambits to more and more evolved states.
Also on this level we can appreciate that scientific progress retro-justifies, enriches and refines the epistemological presuppositions of science. Thanks to this progress, we know better our own capacities and we are able to develop them in a line of increasing creativity which corresponds to God's plans.
5. SCIENCE AND VALUES
The meaning and relevance of science reach their highest peak when we consider its ethical presuppositions. Empirical science is, above all, a human enterprise directed towards a twofold goal: a knowledge of nature that can be submitted to empirical control and, therefore, can provide a dominion over nature. Therefore, the meaning of science is also twofold: the pursuit of truth and the service to humankind. In this case, it is obvious that scientific progress retro-justifies, enriches and refines these goals, and provides better means for their implementation.
Besides, scientific work requires an entire set of values, such as love for truth, rigor, objectivity, intellectual modesty, cooperation, interest in solving practical problems (medical, economic, and so on), so that scientific progress contributes to the spread of those values.
The progress of science and of science-based technology always creates new problems of a humanist character. Therefore, their progress is a source of new challenges which require basic moral values as well as ethical responsibility.
The new worldview presents a creative universe which has made possible the existence of creative intelligent beings who are, at the same time, carriers of insignificance and of grandeur. This worldview is entirely consistent with the emphasis on God's respect towards creation. The resulting model of God and divine action underlines God's involvement with creation and God's respect for human freedom.
God can also be viewed as an artist. The universe and, in a personal way, intelligent beings such as ourselves, participate in his creativity. This is most consistent with the self-organisation of nature and with human freedom. Our world does not exhaust God's creativity and perfection. Any representation of God will always be partial and imperfect. Nevertheless, we can know and experience those features of divine wisdom and love that we need to find the meaning of our lives.
God can be referred to as "the mind of the universe" not in a pantheistic sense, but to express the idea that our universe exhibits rationality, information and creativity; that it makes possible the existence of human beings who are strictly rational and creative; and that all this requires a divine foundation: a participation in God's creativity.
If we compare this theistic perspective with other positions, we realise that it stands the criteria which we apply in the natural sciences. Its explanatory power is very high, while atheism and agnosticism leave everything unexplained. It has also a very good predictive power because it provides a rational basis for human responsible and creative activity, while atheists and agnostics, if they are coherent with their position, have no basis at all for a moral way of living: they can be honest in spite of the fact that they are atheists or agnostics. It has the support of independent proofs and can be integrated in a chain of mutual support with other generally accepted views: mainly with those of science, as they have been developed jointly with an analysis of the present scientific worldview, but also with the central core of most religious views and with the basic human aspirations. Here we can find a common ground which could be accepted by most religious people and could foster religious views.
The new scientific worldview presents a creative universe which has made possible the appearance of creative intelligent beings who are, at the same time, bearers of insignificance and of grandeur. John Paul II writes:
"The scientific disciplines too, as is obvious, are endowing us with an understanding and appreciation of our universe as a whole and of the incredibly rich variety of intricately related processes and structures which constitute its animate and inanimate components. This knowledge has given us a more thorough understanding of ourselves and of our humble yet unique role within creation. Through technology it also has given us the capacity to travel, to communicate, to build, to cure, and to probe in ways which would have been almost unimaginable to our ancestors. Such knowledge and power, as we have discovered, can be used greatly to enhance and improve our lives or they can be exploited to diminish and destroy human life and the environment even on a global scale" (6).
Obviously, the progress of science and of science-based technology solves problems and also creates new problems of a humanist character. Therefore, this progress is a source of new challenges which must faced with a sense of ethical responsibility. All this reinforces the idea that man cooperates with God and has an ethical responsibility towards himself and other people.
Only a personal and creator God can provide the radical foundation of being, creativity and values. Neither nature nor human beings possess the capacity of creating in an absolute sense; nevertheless, they can be considered creative in an analogous sense: indeed, in both cases effects can be produced that are truly new.
On the natural level, natural creativity plays a central role in the current worldview. Self-organisation implies creativity. New creative processes may occur through the integration of different kinds of information, and we are able to produce them; technological advances lead precisely to produce new kinds of beings that previously did not exist, some of which are completely artificial, because their production and their modality of being are both artificial, whilst others possess a modality of being that is similar in unity and consistency to that of natural beings. We do not know where we will get to in this direction, but we know that now we are already able to bring about the appearance of very important innovations even in the ambit of living beings.
On the human level, creativity plays a central role in the progress of science. In contrast with earlier ideas, contemporary epistemology points out that creativity is an essential ingredient of the scientific enterprise: we need it every time that we formulate a new hypothesis, or propose a new experiment, or perform an experiment and interpret it, or establish new stipulations. Scientific creativity has to be adapted to the constraints imposed by coherence and experience, but it is indubitably a central feature of science.
Scientific creativity is one of the most astonishing capacities we possess. Empirical science steadily progresses in spite of the fact that, on purely logical grounds, we could never be sure of having obtained true knowledge. We are able to build on foundations that, even though they are not completely firm, are good enough to build impressive skyscrapers.
Creativity is a central feature in nature and in human life. I do not mean, however, that it always leads to success. Novelties in nature, as well as in human life, may fail. Karl Popper represented all living beings as searching for a better world, and used to comment that one of the greatest differences between other living beings and human beings is that other living beings die if their innovations fail, whilst we have learned to build up theories that can be submitted to empirical testing and eventually can die in our place. Creativity may lead to blind alleys. Nevertheless, it is a most powerful force that plays a central role in human life.
To recognise the role of creativity may prevent us from becoming prisoners of our own creations. Scientism is self-defeating because it means that we become prisoners of one of our most impressive achievements, namely empirical science. If we always remember that it is we who create science, interpret its results, and use them, it will be much easier to behave in a truly human way, according to the ethical principles that should guide our entire creativity. Indeed, ethical behaviour is the highest level where creativity can be displayed in the form of personal responsibility, in the fulfilment of our tasks and in the service of mankind.
Natural and human creativity are rooted, in the last resort, in the radical foundation provided by God. We can represent our world as an unfinished symphony where we have a role to play. We can even understand that God permits the existence of evil so that we may really play our role with freedom, responsibility, and merit. Actually, if we live a divine life, we will live with God forever. But this is another kind of argument.
(1) Mariano Artigas, "Three Levels of Interaction between Science and Philosophy", in: Craig Dilworth, editor, "Intelligibility in Science" (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1992), pp. 123-144.
(2) Luis de Granada, "Introduccisn del Smmbolo de la fe", first part, chapter I, edited by Josi M. Balcells (Madrid: Catedra, 1989), pp. 129-130: "?Qui cosa es Dios? Mente y razsn del universo. ?Qui cosa es Dios? Todo lo que vemos, porque en todas las cosas vemos su sabidurma y asistencia, y desta manera confesamos su grandeza, la cual es tanta, que no se puede pensar otra mayor. Y si il solo es todas las cosas, il es el que dentro y fuera sustenta esta grande obra que hizo".
(3) Thomas Aquinas, "In duodecim Libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis Expositio" (Torino-Roma: Marietti, 1964), p. 1.
(4) Paul Davies and John Gribbin, "The Matter Myth" (London: Penguin Books, 1992), pp. 1-3.
(5) Paul Davies, "The New Physics: A Synthesis", in: Paul Davies, editor, "The New Physics" (Cambridge-New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 4.
(6) John Paul II, "Message to the Rev. George V. Coyne", June 1, 1988, in: Robert J. Russell, William R. Stoeger, and George V. Coyne, editors, Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding (Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory, 1988), p. M 5.
APPENDIX 1. ON NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS
APPENDIX 2. STUART KAUFMANN AND SELF-ORGANISATION
APPENDIX 1. ON NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS
My argument is partly based on a purely logical idea, namely that "P is a sufficient condition of Q iff Q is a necessary condition of P" (Ernest Sosa, "Condition", in: Robert Audi, general editor, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 149: "iff" stands for "if and only if") (1). Therefore, if we are able to identify the three general presuppositions of science, and we know that they are necessary conditions of the entire scientific enterprise, then the very existence of scientific achievements can be considered a sufficient condition for the existence of those presuppositions. This means that any piece of scientific progress may be considered as evidence in favour of them.
Some difficulties may arise because there are different kinds of presupposition: for instance, some are factual conditions of logical arguments, others are factual conditions of real facts, and others are logical conditions of logical consequences. But the uncertainties can be easily solved if we only consider that in my argument I use the term "presupposition" following its common use as it is explained by contemporary English dictionaries when we are told what "to presuppose" and "presupposition" mean. "To presuppose" is explained by saying that "if one state of affairs presupposes another, the first state of affairs cannot be true unless the second is also true." And a "presupposition" is described as "something that you assume to be true, especially something which you must assume is true in order to continue with what you are saying or thinking." ("Presuppose" and "Presupposition", in: John Sinclair, editor in chief, Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary, London and Glasgow: Collins, 1987, p. 1136) (2). These explanations closely correspond to my use of those terms, and they are clear enough to avoid any misunderstanding.
APPENDIX 2. STUART KAUFMANN AND SELF-ORGANISATION
Theoretical research, which is more conjectural, provides new hypotheses that are subject to debate. For instance, Stuart Kauffman has published a rather specialised account of his proposals in this field (Stuart A. Kauffman, The Origins of Order. Self-Organisation and Selection in Evolution, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), and also a more popular one (Stuart A. Kauffman, At Home in the Universe. The Search for Laws of Self-Organisation and Complexity, London: Viking, 1995). In the first book we find a page with Advance Praise comments by first-rate specialists in the field. Manfred Eigen says that that book has most important implications in natural philosophy; Stephen Jay Gould says that Darwinian theory must be expanded in order to recognise other sources of order besides natural selection and asserts that Kauffman's investigations in this line will become a landmark and a classic; John Maynard Smith says that even if he is not sure that Kauffman is right, we should take his ideas seriously; and Richard Lewontin says that evolutionists had better take Kauffman's arguments seriously.
Kauffman intends to include Darwinism in a broader context which would contain new sources of order other than natural selection. His work is directly centred around self-organisation, as he tries to show that there must be some sources of spontaneous order that would provide the material on which natural selection could act. Needless to say, the search for these sources of spontaneous order is not an easy task; rather, it is very difficult at the theoretical level, and it is not easy to test the empirical consequences of the proposed explanations. Kauffman recognises that the subject of his study is new and remains incompletely articulated, but he seriously thinks that some "construction principles" must exist which may explain the formation of natural patterns.
One of Kauffman's central ideas is that, given the physical and chemical properties of our world, the probability of life spontaneously emerging was very high; he adds that this is why we are at home in the universe. In this view, holism and directionality play a central role in patterning and self-organisation. In fact, even if the controversies about the probabilities of life emerging are far from being settled, it seems indisputable that, since life has actually emerged, the corresponding potentialities have existed since the very beginning and in each one of the successive steps that have formed the global process of self-organisation leading to the present state of our world. This implies that the basic features of our world are specific enough to serve as the basis of a huge process of self-organisation that has produced so many increasingly organised outcomes.