Listen up: A physicist/priest on science and religion

This week on Speaking of Faith ("Public radio's national conversation about belief, meaning, ethics, and ideas"), host Krista Tippett's guest is Sir Rev. John Polkinghorne. Polkinghorne is Canon Theologian of Liverpool Cathedral in England and author of many books, including Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity. He served as Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, and is a Fellow of The Royal Society. I wrote about Polkinghorne a few weeks ago and his comparison of prayer to a laser (See, "Prayer like a laser".)

About Polkinghorne, Krista Tippett writes in her weekly essay,

"I first heard John Polkinghorne’s voice on the BBC in the late 1980s, at a time when I lived in England. Late one night, he presented a riveting radio essay. It couldn’t have lasted more than five or ten minutes, but it had a tremendous, lasting effect on me.

Polkinghorne spoke about reason and faith, science and prayer — subjects I was pondering deeply at that point, after a good decade in which I had dismissed religion and religious sentiments out of hand. He described connections between quantum physics and theology in inviting, commonsense terms. He applied chaos theory to make prayer sound intellectually intriguing. This week, I was able to talk with John Polkinghorne about the ideas he inspired in me 15 years ago and about many related questions I have accumulated since."

She concludes her essay by saying that Polinghorne's "scientific notions give me new, creative ways to imagine the credibility of religious modes of thought. They underscore John Polkinghorne’s personable and passionate message that we need the insights of science and religion together to 'interpret and understand the rich, varied, and surprising way the world actually is.'"

You can listen to this week's show, Quarks and Creation, on your local affiliate of American Public Media or online. Go to the Speaking of Faith home page to find a station in your area or to listen at anytime via free streaming audio using RealPlayer. You can also read a complete description of the program, including some quotes and book excerpts from Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity, at the program's page.

"A scientist can pray. We can take with absolute seriousness all that science can tell us and still believe that there is room left over for our action in the world, and for God's action, too. Of course, this does not mean that prayer is just filling in a series of blank cheques given us by a heavenly Father Christmas. This is why I could not expect all those patients I prayed for simply to recover, much as I hoped they would. Prayer is not magic. It is something much more personal, for it is an interaction between humanity and God." Sir John Polkinghorne, from "Can a Scientist Pray" in Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity