Tuesday, 12 December 2000 22:57 (ET)
Interface between science and faith
By UWE SIEMON-NETTO, UPI religion correspondent
NEW YORK, DEC. 12 (UPI) -- Can science corroborate the Apostle
This might sound a little far-fetched. However, at the latest encounter
between some of the world's most powerful minds of science and religion,
reports of a remarkable discovery seemed to support this idea.
Saint Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Romans, "Ever since the
of the world his (Gold's) invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and
deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made"
During the second one-week conference on Science and the Spiritual
(SSQ II) that ended Tuesday in New York, Oxford University psychologist
Olivera Petrovich revealed preliminary research data suggesting that the
knowledge of a creator might be intrinsic to human existence. Prof.
Petrovich tested the ability of British and Japanese children to
distinguish between physical and metaphysical explanations for certain
images. For example, she would show the four- to 14-year old children a
picture of a book on a table and ask, "Who put this book there?" The kids
Then she put a picture of the sun in front of them and asked,
placed the sun in the sky?" The young Britons answered, "God," and to
Petrovich's surprise their Japanese contemporaries said "Kamisama (God)!
He did it!"
As Petrovich pointed out, "Japanese culture discourages speculation
the metaphysical because that's something we never know. But the Japanese
children did speculate, quite willingly, and in the same way as British
In an interview with the journal, Science & Spirit, the British
scientist gave another example. The European and the Asian children were
to look at the photograph of a dog and then asked, "How did the first dog
every come into being." Again, both groups replied, "God did it." "This
was probably the most significant finding," Petrovich reported. "But
where did these Japanese kids get the idea that creation is in God's
hands? This is absolutely extraordinary when you think that Shintoism
(Japan's predominant religion) does not include creation as an aspect of
God's activity at all.
"My Japanese research assistants kept telling me that thinking
as creator is just not part of Japanese philosophy." The SSQII series of
symposia and workshops organized by the Center for Theology and the
Natural Sciences in Berkeley, CA, will stretch over four years, with
further events scheduled in France, Korea, Pakistan, Israel, Australia and
Its predecessor, SSQI held 1998in Berkeley, prompted Newsweek
in a cover story, "Science finds God." As the news magazine wrote, "The
achievements of modern science seem to contradict religion and undermine
faith. But for a growing number of scientists, the same discoveries offer
support for spirituality and hints of the very nature of God."
According to Newsweek, 40 percent of America's scientists believe
personal God. During these SSQ workshops biologists, computer scientists,
physicists and other scholars of world renown meet in small groups behind
closed doors to explore, guided by theologians, how their work interfaces
with their faith. Last week in New York, Piet Hut, a professor of
astrophysics at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, talked
about his Buddhist beliefs and his meditations with the Dalai Lama.
William Newsome, an evangelical Christian who is also one of
leading neurobiologists, discussed the consonance and dissonance between
what scientists are learning about the human brain and the traditional
Christian views of the human person. What, if anything, have his
discoveries to say about the soul?
Carl Feit, a cancer biologist at New York's Yeshiva University
Talmudic scholar, reminded his audience that, according to the Bible, God
made man in his image and that there was therefore no contradiction
between body and soul.
Feit powerfully pressed the point that God created man to participate
the ongoing process of creation. (Contemporary theologians led by Prof.
Phil Hefner of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago even speak of
man as the "created co-creator").
In this vain, Yoshio Oyanagi, professor of information science
University, described the computer as just another tool to help man to
"fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28).
Oyanagi, a Roman Catholic, warned religion therefore not to interfere
with computer science, which was inherently neither good nor evil but just
another instrument of human activity. "Instead, theologians should take
its existence into account," he said.
Participants in the New York workshops raised the question if
might become so much like humans that they will one day have to be
baptized. In an interview with United Press International, Oyanagi laughed
at this suggestion, "I doubt that computers will ever become
self-conscious and behave like human beings. As I said, they are tools,
and they will remain tools, no matter how sophisticated."
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