Monday, January 12, 2009

John F. Haught - A God-Shaped Hole at the Heart of Our Being

This is a wonderful interview with evolutionary theologian John F. Haught, by Amy Edelstein for EnlightenNext Magazine.

A God-Shaped Hole at the Heart of Our Being

An interview with evolutionary theologian John F. Haught
by Amy Edelstein

Standing in front of the annual Metanexus conference on science and religion at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006, Dr. John F. Haught cut a quiet and impressive figure. One of the more passionate proponents of an evolved and evolving spirituality, Haught is personally committed to dissecting what he feels are the gross oversimplifications and confusions in Intelligent Design and to postulating instead a vision of our evolutionary trajectory that runs (as one of his books is so aptly titled) “deeper than Darwin.”

A prolific writer, engaged Catholic, and Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, Haught is no ordinary Christian theologian. Profoundly influenced by the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which he discovered when he was just twenty-three, he has spent the last thirty-five years breaking new ground in systematic theology, melding a deep understanding of religion with the wisdom gleaned from cosmology, biology, and ecology. With unusual originality, Haught has focused his attention on the deeper questions, relating natural science to the emerging capacities of consciousness. In his careful efforts to find new ways to define the upward groping of sentience and conscience, Haught deftly teases out a perspective that merges a profound understanding of the principles of biological evolution with a religious sensitivity for the mystery of life.

A God-Shaped Hole at the Heart of Our Being

Haught’s precise mind and inquisitive heart are doing much to encourage a higher level of discussion in the world of evolutionary theology, invigorating the debate between science and religion. After speaking with him for just twenty minutes, my own grasp of where the march of evolution is taking us deepened in ways I never would have anticipated.

Among John Haught’s many accomplishments are the authorship of ten books, the 2002 Owen Garrigan Award in Science and Religion, and the 2004 Sophia Award for Theological Excellence.

What is Enlightenment?: In a recent talk at the 2006 Metanexus Conference, you spoke about the Darwinian recipe for evolution as “random events plus natural selection plus deep time equals evolution.” You said that this was an inadequate explanation. Can you say why?

John Haught: From a scientific point of view, the Darwinian recipe might be considered to be sufficient because when you are a scientist, you don’t ask questions about the meaning of the universe or the value of things. You don’t ask about purpose; you don’t bring in the idea of subjectivity or the idea of God. From the beginning of the modern age, science decided that it would leave these things out of its consideration and focus only on the physical or material causes of things. That’s perfectly all right. That’s the scientific method.

The question is whether through this focus we have left something out, and in fact, most people believe that something has been left out—even scientists. Most of them agree that science does not give the final or ultimate explanation of anything, so that’s the main reason I would say that the Darwinian recipe, since it’s part of science, is inadequate. Any scientific explanation is inadequate to give the deepest understanding of phenomena.

Now you might say that’s a belief on my part. In a sense it is, but so is the belief that science is the only route to truth. So what we have here are two belief systems. The first one is that science is the only route to truth, which is known as scientism. Scientism leads to a worldview that I refer to as scientific naturalism, which is the view that since science can talk only about nature, nature is all there is. If you believe that science is the only way to get to the truth, then the only thing you will find through science is nature.

The other belief is that nature is inexhaustibly deep. This means that there’s a depth dimension to nature: Nature is not all there is; there is infinitely more; there is a great mystery in which nature is embedded; and we get an inkling of that mystery from time to time, especially in religious experience. But even when we’re doing ordinary things, we come up against what might be called limit experiences and limit questions. It’s those questions that open us up to mystery and those questions to which religion is the appropriate response.

Read the rest of the interview.


Ron Pavellas said...

This is essential reading, to be dwelt upon regularly. Such reading and thinking might possibly help us balance the hubris that is being demonstrated in politics, the academy, and as we now see, in fiancial businesses.

Anonymous said...

Every theologian who ever lived is worth less than one garbage man.

Theology is a bunch of words about nothing.