I would like to respond to the point of the "Non-overlapping magisteria" of science and religion. I would argue that Christians can recognize no such concept, as long as they believe that God created the entire universe out of nothing; that God had a purpose for the creation and a particular purpose for each particular creature; that God is continually active in the Creation, guiding it toward its purpose; that the visible and invisible aspects of creation interact and intertwine.
It seems to me that, if we accept such an understanding, then examining the creation, even its material aspects, without any consideration of its origin or divinely ordained purpose, is a kind of self-imposed blindness leading to delusion. To say, "we're just looking at the facts" is a veiled faith statement of its own; a faith that our fallen cognitive and sensory capacities can gain a reliable picture of the universe and its natural workings independently of divine revelation.
The spiritual and material (religious and scientific) realms are divided, cordoned off from one another, and they have little to say about each other without overstepping their bounds- if I am not mistaken, this is the substance of the "non-overlapping magisteria" position. I have certainly seen such a position put forth. For example, Archbishop Lazar Puhalo , in this video, actually says that the Bible does not say anything about the creation. He interprets the entire Genesis creation narrative as pure metaphor, an approach the Fathers, as I understand it, rejected firmly. For the Fathers, the realms were not so divided; they frequently drew conclusions about the spiritual realm from the material and vice versa. In a sense, they employed what modern scientists would consider "pseudo-science," as we do today each time we say "The heavens proclaim the glory of God." Christianity rejects the matter-spirit dualism (or, in some cases, materialist monism) in inherent in the modern scientific methodology.
Which leads me to a last point- the non-overlapping magisteria does not really eliminate the "God of the gaps" problem- it creates what I might call a "God of the receding boundary". As modern science offers explanations for more and more questions that previously had only religious explanations, the faith retreats into metaphor and internal spirituality; it becomes introspective and allegorical, to the eventual point that it has very little to say about the tangible world around us.
And this is because the realms really do overlap. It has long been understood in Christian spirituality that honest contemplation of creation leads one to conclude the existence, wisdom, and goodness of the creator, whereas modern theories are putting forward a picture of the universe that develops without any conscious guidance. We are certainly free to believe, scientists will say, that God oversees the various processes being described, but there is nothing in the "facts" to prove it; such a belief is based on "subjective" perceptions of beauty and order.
As I have mentioned before, in my opinion, modern science produces a distorted picture of nature. Distorted does not mean completely wrong. There are obvious benefits (as well as dangers) in modern technology and medicine. But when the findings of modern science appear to contradict the traditional Orthodox teaching, I think that, instead of revising the Orthodox stance into allegory or dismissing it with words like "well, those Fathers were basing themselves off of the science of their day," we should humbly accept that our human faculties are fallen, and that, furthermore, we are looking at a fallen world.
If "the facts" (in the empiricist sense) give us a picture of an eternal, cyclical, and uncreated universe, of an ancient earth doomed to eventual and final destruction by cosmic forces, of man evolved haphazardly over millions of years because of mutations and natural selection, then perhaps we should acknowledge the serious limitations of "the facts". Some pagan philosophers argued that the universe must be uncreated, since heavenly objects had a circular rather than linear motion, and circles have no beginning. St. Basil responded with the point that, when we draw a circle, it appears to be beginningless, but we do actually begin drawing it at a particular point.
Similarly, phenomena that appear cyclical can have a beginning; things that look very old may be very young. Our senses and cognition are prone to misunderstanding. Not only are we fallen beings looking at a fallen and distorted world, but we are constantly ensnared by passions and tempted by demons. Under such conditions, how can we, individually or collectively, expect to get an objective view of the world without constantly praying for divine mercy?
The divine revelation which the saints imparted conveys a far deeper truth about the world around us and about ourselves than anything empiricist methods can produce- we should not be ashamed of it nor should we qualify it in the face of modern theories. The truest understanding of the natural world emerges for the saints in an advanced stage of prayer- it has always been completely independent of technical or theoretical advances in secular science.
Edited by Ryan, 19 March 2009 - 03:09 AM.