Over the next few weeks (hopefully not too many of them!), I will be making my way through Arthur Peacocke's Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming — Natural, Diving and Human.  During this time, I hope to leave some brief thoughts on Peacocke's conclusions, commenting about the significance which his writings have for many of the discussions that are currently engaging the hearts and minds of the Church.  

I have long been fascinated by the relationship between theology and science, and over the course of my past research into these issues, Peacocke's writings have factored heavily in the development of my tentative conclusions.  While many of Peacocke's writings focus on exploring the meaningfulness of theology and science on specific levels (e.g., evolutionary theory), this work seeks to establish a more fundamental link between the two.  In a nutshell, Peacocke argues that as both the sciences and theology engage many of the same properties of the human search for significance, knowledge and meaning, so too are they inextricably related to one another.  To the chagrin of many antagonists, Peacocke argues that the notion that each pursuit operates within easily bifurcated realms of discussion is the height of naivety and signifies a lack of intellectual honesty about the integral part of each to the being and becoming of the human person.

In the introduction to this quest, Peacocke strives to define what he understands as a necessary rubric for approaching the study of both science and theology.  Simply put, Peacocke argues that what is needed in both is a critical realism.  What this means to scientific pursuit is that the objects of study–whether theoretical or observational–are prima facie understood as signifying some bit of reality.  However, no idealism is taken for granted, as if the objects of study (and there subsequent linguistic, theoretical metaphors) are rigidly and dogmatically asserted to encompass reality within themselves; rather, a realism is assumed that allows for signification of reality while concomitantly permitting revision of metaphor in light of modification of understanding.  In exactly the same way, Peacocke suggests that a critical realism is precisely what is needed in theological study.  While the truths asserted are still understood to signify reality, they are also posited in such a way as to incorporate a humility and acknowledgement concerning the limits, finitude and falibility of human epistemology.

What Peacocke hopes to do in the application of critical realism to both science and theological study, ultimately, is to remove any fabricated heirarchy between the two.  Such critical realism removes the "primacy of observability" from science as well as the exclusivity of spiritual purity from theology.  Each are infused with a dose of humilty and realism so as to prevent either from making grandiose and unsustainable claims about their precision of their metaphors and the realities which they attempt to signify over and against the other.  And in the wake of such deconstruction, each can find a symbiotic place in the human search for truth, meaning and significance.