Outline of an Unknowable God, question five

In 2010, Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, said in response to Hawking and his mind of God comment that

Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. They are different intellectual enterprises. They even occupy different hemispheres of the brain. Science – linear, atomistic, analytical – is a typical left-brain activity. Religion – integrative, holistic, relational – is supremely a work of the right-brain.

In other words, science has limits to what it can say, especially about human interaction based on human values. An earnest idea in an ironic age?


Scientists Jewish, Christian and Muslim once strived to bring greater glory to God through revealing things about His world. During the Enlightenment, the idea of natural theology developed, with God as designer of the marvelous world around us. Even after Darwin and Wallace and their theory of evolution destroyed the premise of natural theology, many scientists continued to pursue knowledge of the world and our universe to enhance the glory of God. Now most science seems to get done for the glory of science. Perhaps that’s an inevitable secular shift. Albert Schweitzer, medical missionary, gives way to secular non-profits. Mission schools and hospitals yield to professionalized institutions.


Now we can seek knowledge for the glory of ourselves, or its own sake. Both are easier to know and experience than God.


“Humans have this extraordinary capacity for propositional knowledge, objective knowledge and it’s enabled us to make huge advances,” says Fraser Watts, lecturer in theology and science at Cambridge University. “Our kind of excitement about that can distract us from knowing God.”


Is the rise of the left brain, analytic, incisive, a moral hazard for morals? Watts thinks so. He thinks the left brain “is not a good way of knowing God.”


He’s also worried that the left brain is subsuming the more expressionist right brain. He says art and religion are being distorted into left brain work. “Left-brain dominance that is a threat to our society and the human race,” he says.


Apocalyptic language, applied to religion itself. What will it mean for our morals?

Something to contemplate as we sit down to Easter supper. Perhaps at some point I’ll work on a piece that answers these questions.


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