Apparently as physicists work on models describing earlier and earlier moments of the Universe, they’re realizing that there might be some worth in talking with theologians. It’s happening in an informal way at an event organized by people from CERN.
The BBC has long report on the meeting, and their post includes this quote by one of the participants remarking on the need for the two disciplines to be in conversation:
“‘We face a problem in our culture of hyperspecialisation,’ says Dr Pinsent.
‘This ignorance of other fields can cause problems, like a lack of social cohesion.’
And although Prof Krauss said the meeting felt at times like ‘people who can’t communicate trying to communicate,’ even he sees some value in this somewhat esoteric exchange.
‘Many people of faith view science as a threat,’ he said.
‘I don’t think science is a threat, so it is useful for scientists to show that they don’t necessarily view it that way.’
As one contributor put it during the meeting: ‘Religion doesn’t add to scientific facts, but it does shape our view of the world.’”
That first line is really quite important. Physics is, at it’s best, the application of philosophical ideas in a way that makes testable claims. Einstein’s work in relativity was motivated by his own fascination of European philosophical challenges to empiricism and determinism. For physicists to decide that they have no need to talk with a branch of philosophy that focuses on the question of the divine is to lock themselves out of an interesting and often fruitful arena of thought.
I’m always nervous whenever any intellectual enterprise decides that it can a priori dismiss an entire discipline. I’m nervous too when theologians dismiss physics, cosmology or biology because those disciplines contradict their axiomatic beliefs. In either case it such actions impoverishes the conversation and denies the possibility that the physicist or the theologian needs to circle back and rework part of their position.