Last night we had our first Introduction to Science and Religion class. We talked about methods of knowing, the natures of truth, philosophy, science, and religion. It was just a snapshot of each, but the students have readings to take them a little deeper if they’re interested.

We also watched a requisite Matrix clip.

I have read a good deal in science and theology and the intersection between the two, but if I’m honest with myself I must admit that my understanding of philosophy, and importantly, it’s history, is rudimentary at best. That’s what is good about constructing from scratch an interdisciplinary class like this, you become familiar quickly with where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

And my weakness is philosophy.

We talked briefly last night about the two types of truth (necessary and empirical), the three theories of truth (correspondence, coherence, pragmatic), the basic schools of philosophy (rationalism, empiricism, and skepticism) and the issue generated by the latter when we separate the outer or external world from the inner world of thoughts and mind (from Ch. 5 in this book). In our focus on the latter, I mentioned that we can go one of three ways regarding the most important philosophical questions (this is oversimplified, but was based upon our reading for the night). We can go with Descartes the rationalist and say “I think therefore I am” and work down from there to ground our presuppositions and argue that we can find answers to our questions. Alternatively, we can follow empiricist Hume and say that our presuppositions are not grounded and as such, we cannot hope to find answers to these most important questions. Lastly, we can agree with Kant that their is nothing that supports our presuppositions but say, “Who cares, there is no other way to live.”

Those who are philosophers that can explain the above better and deeper, AND in plain English (!), are encouraged to chime in and correct me. For the purposes of this class, the above was good enough as it provided nothing more than a lead in to the natures  of science and religion. And I most certainly qualified it as being introductory and over-simplified. As the science and religion discussion becomes more predominant at my school and this course expands into one that is more in-depth and spans a full-semester  (and additional courses are created), I will certainly look to bring in a philosopher and theologian to make the discussion fuller. But we’re not there yet.

One of the questions I posed to the students was whether there was any basis for the presuppositions they had regarding philosophical questions. And also if they could live without having at least some presuppositions. This was discussed rather briefly as the point of the intro lecture, in my mind, was to get them out of “memorizing facts” mode and into “asking questions with many or perhaps no answers” mode. Mission accomplished.

That being said, I want to dig deeper in this area. What basis do I have for my presuppositions? How could I convince someone else we weren’t living in the Matrix? Is it possible to formally prove this? Most of us scientist don’t spend much time philosophizing like this, so my bookshelf is bare in this area. So I appeal to you, the reader. Where should I, a scientist with an interest in theology, look (other than the book linked to above)? Am I going to be happy with the outcome?

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