Julian Long: Uncertainty?

Religion / Science

Julian Long, in an overly complimentary note on his blog, raises among other things, a question about a point that I’ve made here on Entangled States and recently restated in my most recent essay on Episcopal Cafe.

He writes:

” As a now-superannuated English prof, I’ve always been convinced that physicists really do know more than the rest of us. Still, I’m not sure that uncertainty in physics and epistemological uncertainty have the same basis, though I accept them both as facts. I’m working on some thoughts about some of the Pope’s teaching statements, and I’ll publish them in a bit.”

Read the rest of Julian’s post here.

In other words Julian is asking a basic question of any one who tries to connect the insights of modern physics and theology (and/or philosophy); “Should an understanding of the nature of reality in one field have to be accepted in another?”

The short is answer is that I believe they need to be. There’s a pragmatic reason for this answer – and that is that I don’t believe the Church is well served when it decides to live in an intellectual closed compound (ghetto). I think the same holds true for other disciplines as well.

But my answer comes from an examination of the implications of deciding otherwise. A real convincing answer has still not been found, though the Pope’s point, which I agree with him about btw, is that there is an answer, and it is “yes.”

I’m planning on unpacking the next to previous paragraph in my next Daily Episcopalian Essay. So stay tuned. You can argue with me (and I hope you will) then.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. “Should an understanding of the nature of reality in one field have to be accepted in another?”
    That depends in part on what’s meant by ‘understanding’ and by ‘accepted.’ Blindly accepted as Ultimate Truth? No. Accepted for whatever it’s worth, in the service of always striving to develop better models and make better predictions? Absolutely. Indeed, if we posit that the Creator isn’t capricious (not an unreasonable working hypothesis), then we can never categorically dismiss data from the reality he wrought.
    (Or, to rehearse what’s becoming a personal mantra, the First Commandment requires us always and everywhere, as best we can, to face the facts — to seek to live in the reality that the Creator wrought, and to guard against the temptation to confuse that reality with our conceptions thereof. Which sounds pretty post-positivist to me….)
    Good piece at the Cafe, BTW; I hadn’t read it before now.

  2. Thanks D.C.
    By accepted, I guess I mean taken seriously enough that one field must become concerned if it’s epistemology is “orthogonal” to that of another. Concerned is probably the right word – it may be that the difference is unavoidable, but it should be troubling.
    My reason for saying that is much the same as you suggest. I believe that our belief in a Creator God’s actions in creation should lead us to expect a certain harmoniousness between all experience.

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