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Regis Nicoll Christian Blog and Commentary

Searching for the Theory of Everything

The Holy Grail of science is the Theory of Everything (TOE)—a creative and unifying principle from which all laws and phenomena follow, from the formation of stars to the emergence of intelligence and altruism. In effect, TOE is the scientific materialist’s substitute for God.

Over at the Harvard Crimson, staff writer Madeline Ross has a favorable review of a book by particle physicist-turned-Anglican-priest John Polkinghorne, called Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship. Ross writes of Polkinghorne’s conclusion:

"Polkinghorne rejects the possibility of science providing a complete “Theory of Everything,” saying, “if [scientists] want to pursue the search for understanding through and through…they will have to be prepared to go beyond the limits of science itself in the search for the widest and deepest context of intelligibility. I think that this further quest, if openly pursued, will take the enquirer in the direction of religious belief.”

(Coincidentally, the same conclusion reached in the BreakPoint series "Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe," part 1, part 2, and part 3.)

While one would expect such a conclusion to receive a cool reception from an institution that has become a bastion of secular thought, Ross closes with this:

"In the end, Polkinghorne has to choose a side in the debate, and for him, religion, not science, is the best path to truth. However, to discard the first 108 pages of insightful analysis of method because of the opinion in the last two pages would be hasty at the least. 'Quantum Physics and Theology' succeeds in its ultimate goal: it provides an engaging comparison of the different ways humans search for truth."

Maybe there are a few remnants of the fabric of critical thought that once was the hallmark of this revered institution.

(What are your thoughts about TOE? Post them here.)