Saturday, February 09, 2008

What's the problem?

I have recently enjoyed Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything, an effort to report the state of scientific knowledge as it existed in 2002 about -- well -- nearly everything. Here's a "once over lightly" tour from the Big Bang through the mysteries of life. The book combats our innumeracy and tells the delightful story of the eccentricities of men (mostly) of science. Not surprisingly, scientific experts have pointed to factual quibbles and even this scientifically illiterate reader knows that some of our understandings have changed in the half decade since (!). But perfect accuracy is not what this book is about -- this is about conveying the scope and wonder of what humans know about the universe, the planet, life and ourselves. At the scale of this project, a few wrong details detract hardly at all. It's a great read.

While listening to Bryson's book (I read this as an audiobook while trudging across the country), I couldn't help reflecting on the supposed "war" between religion and science. I just don't get it.

Why, from the scientific side, should advancing awareness of the improbable (to human animals) immensity and apparent randomness of the universe and its inmates preclude the existence of God? If God is, it is not likely that we understand God perfectly, any more than we understand the universe perfectly. But, as with our insights into the universe, we might get inklings of something greater and grander than what we understand.

Why, from the religious side, must our concept of God preclude the sheer wonder of what we humans are equipped to learn? Who are we to draw a tight little line around what God might do/be/make of the immensity and apparent randomness of the universe and its inmates?

Beats me.

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