Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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32 / Dialogue literally, physically true. It is this concept which marked for him the final break with both ancient science and the carefully rationalized theology of the Catholic Church. And only in this context can we understand Ricardi's instructions to Galileo's Inquisitor, "that the absolute truth should never be conceded to this opinion [the heliocentric theory], but only the hypothetical, and without Scripture."55 (Italics added.) Perhaps Ricardi had a premonition that analytical mechanics might one day become sufficently cogent and appealing to convince scientists that only such knowledge of the external world could be truly satisfying. At any rate, that is precisely what happened: Inspired by Galileo's success in saving the appearances with abstract mechanical models, others following him began the erection of a hollow, lifeless image of the universe, which was declared to be Reality itself and was, indeed, worshipped after a fashion (witness the talk of "the temple of science"). Small wonder Barfield speaks of the "idolatry" of modern science! This might not have happened if scientists had paused to consider the metaphysical underpinnings of their work. But the peculiar circumstances surrounding the birth of modern science—the sense of revolt against the monolithic world-view of Scholasticism, and its early alliance with technology—conspired against that kind of meditative thinking. Modern science began as and "has remained predominantly an anti-rationalistic movement, based upon a naive faith," declared Alfred North Whitehead. "Science repudiates philosophy. In other words, it has never cared to justify its faith or explain its meanings."56 This disdain for philosophy gave physicists a false sense of security about the epistemological foundations of their work, and, ultimately, made the transition to atomic and molecular physics an emotional as well as an intellectual shock. But metaphysical conundrums were of little concern to science until the beginning of the twentieth century. Through three hundred years of magnificent achievements, the stubborn scientific faith of Galileo hardened into a dogma epitomized in Laplace's contention that he could "embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atom."57 Henry Power, one of the first members of the Royal Society, felt that "the infallible demonstrations of Mechanicks" would "lay a new foundation of a more magnificent Philosophy never to be overthrown."58 So, from its beginnings as a physical theory, analytical mechanics came to be considered the physical theory, and "it was as such that classical physics superseded organismic physics, tried to rule philosophy, and influenced even sociology and politics."59 However, when physicists actually moved to incorporate the "lightest atoms" and the phenomena of electricity and magnetism into the all-encompassing vision of mechanics, Laplace's creed could no longer be sustained. Between 1855 and 1926, almost every fundamental concept of mechanics was discarded or altered beyond recognition. Mass, length and time were redefined in Einstein's special and general theories of relativity. Planck, Bohr and Schrodinger developed a theory of quantum mechanics to describe atomic phenomena, with probability distributions replacing the simple mechanical causality of classical physics. From the laboratory came experimental data describing particles with wave-like behavior, and light waves which looked like beams of particles. The story has been told well elsewhere.60 What is important for us is that relativity and quantum mechanics explicitly deny the possibility of a complete causal description of a