Rebuilding the Matrix: Science and Faith in the 21st Century (book)

Denis Alexander book



Publisher: Lion Publishing PLC
ISBN#: 0745912443
Author: Denis Alexander
Year: 2001



Description: In this book, two decades in the making, Denis Alexander, a molecular immunologist at St. Edmunds College, Cambridge University, presents a comprehensive, closely argued, and well written historical, sociological, philosophical, and metaphysical-theological analysis of the relations between science and faith in the Western world in support of his thesis that the critical realism of biblically-based theism provides a solid, intellectually coherent, and morally inspiring framework, or matrix, for both science and religion. Science he conceives as “an intellectual endeavor to explain the workings of the physical world…by empirical investigation…carried on by a community trained in specialized techniques.” Religion he defines as “organized systems of belief in God as practiced by communities and not just by individuals.” The word “faith” incorporates personal systems of belief.

As a historian Alexander develops fully the argument suggested earlier by Alfred North Whitehead and Sir Michael Foster that the Judaeo-Christian doctrine of creation paved the way for modern science by demythologizing nature, by conceiving nature as a contingent phenomenon intelligible only by empirical investigation, by raising the status of the manual trades essential to Bacon’s experimental method, and by glorifying natural philosophy and natural history as the study of God’s works. How, then, does Alexander explain such widespread and persistent ideas as that science and religion have always been in conflict, that science is responsible for the secularization of Western thought, that scientists are cold-blooded, amoral problem solvers quite unlike emotional, sentimental religious people? These misconceptions, Alexander argues, are generated by badly informed historians, biographers, and novelists and perpetuated by the media–witness the images of Frankenstein and Star Trek, Berthold Brecht’sGalileo, Washington Irving’s picture of Columbus’s sailors trembling lest they sail off the edge of the earth, and the perpetuation of this and other historical myths by John W. Draper and Andrew Dixon White. Witness also the extent to which scientists accepted and implemented groundless notions about “race” in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.

Turning sociologist, Alexander writes that “many of our beliefs are absorbed imperceptibly as a result of our upbringing, from the media, and from our general cultural milieu. These beliefs feed into the Paradigms (courtesy of Thomas Kuhn) which act as the ordering overarching principles of our lives and at the same time support a broad array of more focused paradigms that hold sway over more specific subdomains of our beliefs, profoundly influencing the way we interpret the world around us.”