Monday, October 12, 2009

Principe on Science and Religion

Happened upon a blog that recounts the overview of Lawrence Principe, a historian of science, regarding the relation, the "intimate partnership," of science and religion. In a series of lectures Principe did for The Teaching Company, Augustine comes through as a key interpreter who aimed at harmonizing the book of Nature with the book of Scripture:
St. Augustine warned against the danger of embarrassing the reputation of Christianity by being ignorant or dismissive of the demonstrated scientific knowledge of the day. From the viewpoint of traditional Christian theology, science is essential for full understanding of the “literal” meaning of divinely-inspired scripture (and vice versa).
Among other things, what Augustine did was put in place a working definition of a "literal" understanding of the Bible that would appear to be far more subtle and sophisticated than what passes for understanding among some current Fundamentalists:

Much to my surprise, St. Augustine claimed that the literal meaning is the hardest to get right. The surprise comes from our modern notion of biblical literalism as “believing every word of the Bible”—the surface meaning of the words. Prof. Principe points out that for St. Augustine and all theologians until recently, “literal” means “interpretation of a passage in such a way that it maintains its connection to the topic it seems to be describing and assigns meanings to the individual words so that the passage makes sense in relation to other sources of knowledge.” link
The blog by Chris Dunsford is entitled Darwin Watch.

No comments: