What advice would C S Lewis offer us in today’s world? The 21st Century is the setting wherein powerful forces are set to meet and perhaps to clash. Self and the search for meaning are at the heart of these putative clashes. They include, but are not limited to, (a) the emerging of so called intelligent information technology, (b) the impact of psychological theories on everyday life and (c) the continuing thirst by people for a spiritual dimension to their lives, including the search for some meaning in life and for satisfaction with life. Take each in turn. This is a dialogue between a cognitive scientist (RA) and an arts scholar (MG) who both share the same communion at St Edward’s King & Martyr, Cambridge, England.
As the literature for this Oxbridge 2005 conference notes, “C.S. Lewis once said, ‘the sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.’” Lewis is not alone in his quest. While one might expect such company as writers, artists, musicians, and philosophers it might be surprising to discover a stellar contingent of Nobel Prize winners and other significant physicists along for the journey. It appears, as we will see in the following accounts, that beauty has long been the unsung companion of great discoveries in the physical sciences. Taking a look at the role beauty plays in the realms of both physics and theology could point the way to a place where Christian theology and the modern science of physics might have a conversation profitable to both disciplines.
The popular image of the relationship between science and Christian faith is one of antagonism, conflict, and even warfare. By contrast, I will attempt to show that despite some episodes of tension, the overall relationship between science and biblical theism has been largely cooperative and fruitful. We’ll look first at the origins of modern science and the origins of the conflict thesis; then at the Galileo affair and the reactions of Christian scientists and theologians to the theory of evolution. Finally, I’ll make a few remarks on the complementary relationship between science and Christian faith.