A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology

Article excerpt

A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology. By Alister E. McGrath. The 2009 Gifford Lectures. (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010, Pp. xv, 262. $39.95.)

Natural theology no longer commands the respect that it once did. Heavily influenced by the Enlightenment and a new reading of Paul's "Areopagus" speech, seventeenth and eighteenth-century Anglican scholars sought to base dieir apologetics on the best science of die period. They fell short, and popular works such as Richard Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker (1986) are often cited to suggest that their approach was simply wrong. As Alister McGradi argues in tfiis new series of lectures, die apologetic approach to natural dieology is also inadequate even when considered on strictiy dieological terms. It does not take into account post-modernist insights about our relationship to what we observe. It promotes heterodox notions of God, most notably Deism, and, as Karl Bardi observed, it undermines die necessity for revelation. Nonedieless, McGradi argues die field is not a dead end. In die 2009 Gifford Lectures he proposed a new way of thinking about natural dieology, one which emphasizes "seeing" nature from a uniquely Christian perspective.

McGrath 's argument should not be taken as a scientific defense of "intelligent design." Design, he notes, is an inference one makes, not an observation proper. The inference, in turn, derives from faith. He does, however, suggest diat such inferences are a legitimate subject of dieological inquiry. Modern natural theology must accept die post-modernist suggestion diat nature is not some objective whole that is separate from us. Instead, scientists and tiieologians view nature through an interpretive lens diat allows them to make sense of die world. Following die insights of die American pragmatist Charles Pierce, McGradi suggests that die scientific enterprise should best be viewed as a process of abduction , or a leap to die best inference or explanation of our observations. Trinitarian dieology has much to contribute to such an enterprise because Christian dieology offers a worldview with considerable explanatory power.

Using Augustine's commentary on Genesis as a guide, McGrath suggests several ways diat dieology can offer useful interpretations to scientists and vice versa. …