Posted by: Kenn Hermann | March 7, 2006

Wise Old Books on ‘Science’ and ‘Religion’

There are many good books on ‘science’ and ‘religion’ on the market. I try to read my share of them. But, perhaps, in the cascading new titles that Amazon pushes at us, we overlook older books that offer wise and penetrating analyses of these issues that can still serve us well. This afternoon while preparing a presentation on this topic, I pulled down some ‘old’ books from my shelves by Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker and Stanley Jaki, two exceptionally wise Christian men. If you have not yet met them, you should by all means make a note to see them at your earliest convenience.

C. F. von Weizsacker, a student of Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, gained an international reputation as a theoretical and astro-physicist before WWII. During the war he worked alongside Heisenberg in Hitler’s efforts to create a nuclear bomb. (Recent research casts doubt on Heisenberg’s claim that German scientists were unsuccessful in their efforts to create a bomb because they feared the consequences.) After the war he turned to peaceful matters, becoming in his words “a politically active professor of philosophy trained as a physicist.” After teaching philosophy at the University of Hamburg, 1957-1969, he founded and served as the director of the Max Planck Institute for Research into the Essentials of the Scientific-Technological World, 1970-1980. He gave the Gifford Lectures in 1959-1960. The first series was published as The Relevance of Science: Creation and Cosmogony(1964). (His second series of lectures, unfortunately, were never published, as far as I can determine.) Numerous other books and articles surround this one.

Stanley Jaki, a Benedictine priest and theoretical physicist at Seton Hall University, holds doctorates in both theology and physics. He has given penetrating attention to the history and philosophy of science in almost 40 books and over 100 articles across a long and active life. His Gifford Lectures, 1974-1976, were published as the magesterial The Road of Science and the Ways of God in 1978.

Weizsacker’s gentle faith and probing analyses of the philosophical and religious entanglements of ‘science’ and ‘scientism’ and Jaki’s steel-trap logical mind and sure-grasp of an astonishing historical and philosophical breadth make absorbing reading, rereading, and reflection. At a time when the ‘science’ and ‘religion’ debate generates much heat, it is good to know these men of strong faith who can still illuminate our path of obedience in a scientistic and technicistic culture. May their numbers increase.

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