Theologian, author, and former U.S. ambassador, Michael Novak currently holds the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. He is the 1994 recipient of the million-dollar Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
He graduated from Stonehill College (B.A., Philosophy and English) and the Gregorian University (B.A. Theology). He continued theological studies at Catholic University and then at Harvard, where he received an M.A. in 1966 in History and the Philosophy of Religion. Mr. Novak has written 26 influential books on the philosophy and theology of culture, especially the essential elements of a free society. His writings have appeared in every major Western language, and in Bengali, Korean and Japanese. His masterpiece, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, was published underground in Poland in 1984, and after 1989 in Czechoslovakia, Germany, China, Hungary, Bangladesh, Korea, and many times in Latin America. His latest book is No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers.
We certainly have waded into some deep waters here, Karl, but I do believe our postings have enabled each of us to more fully understand our respective positions.
First, I want to clarify one thing in case there might be a misunderstanding: I love science. In fact, AiG employs a number of scientists (and works with others), all of which obtained their doctorates from secular institutions. Across the hall from me, for example, is Dr. David Menton, who earned a PhD in biology from an Ivy League school (Brown University).
As we both know, the etymology of the word “science” has the basic meaning of “knowledge.” Today, when the word “science” is used, we are usually referring to observational science–such as the example you gave concerning medical science.
Science is a wonderful tool that God has given us. But because science is imperfect, and changing, and because different scientists disagree on what the evidence really means, science cannot serve as an ultimate, infallible standard. It can certainly be a secondary standard by which certain types of claims are evaluated. But science is not the limit of possibility, and thus is not in a position to judge the Bible upon which it depends.
I am enjoying our exchange very much and appreciate the civility of our conversation, which is on an often hostile topic that generates ad hominem attacks. I believe we are successfully exploring representative positions rather than simply having a contest to see who can out-argue the other.
Let me start with your most interesting question: You ask me how I can be “absolutely certain” when I say “I don’t believe we have absolute certainty anywhere….” I think I am obligated to say here that I am not “absolutely certain” about this! What I would say, rather, is that there is no evidence that humans have access to any absolute sources of truth. And absolute truth is such an extraordinary and even dangerous claim that we should have some compelling motivation before we assume we have it in our grasp.
Thank you for your kind comments.
First, you have enabled me to better understand where “you are coming from” and see more clearly how you view the creation/evolution issue. That background is so important for the both of us so we don’t (even unwittingly) talk past each other.
As I see it from your most recent posting, there are four major topics I need to address:
1. Philosophical issues
2. Ultimate authority
3. Biblical interpretation
As best as I can in the short space we have agreed to for these postings, I will attempt to deal with all four.