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SCIENCE, FAITH, AND HUMAN NATURE C. JUDSON HERRICK Ph.D.* I. The Natural and the Supernatural Did God make man or did man make his gods? This is the sort ofquestion that theologians and naturalists have wrangled about for hundreds of years. The fires of controversy have usually produced more heat than light, and still do, in part because the appeal from both sides is often to traditional dogma and emotional prejudice and in larger part because of failure to define precisely the things we are talking about. It is, for example , silly to debate about the "supernatural" without first explaining just what we mean by the "natural." It should be emphasized at the start that this essay is not a briefin defense ofeither the natural or the supernatural. It may be claimed that the natural needs no defense, for most ofour common affairs and all ofnatural science deal only with unequivocal natural things and events. There is no such agreement about what the supernatural is and its influence (ifany) on human conduct. It is certain that beliefin the supernatural does influence behavior. The visions ofthe mystics are real events. However they may be explained, they often have consequences as obvious as the one which converted Saul ofTarsus into a Christian evangelist, and the supernaturalism indoctrinated by the metaphysicians and theologians motivates the behavior ofmultitudes ofpeople. Let us look at these facts from the standpoint ofthe student ofbehavior. It is not my purpose here to try to give a definite answer to the question set at the beginning or to any other question about what we should believe or what faiths we should entertain. What I want to do is clear the air of some smog arising from fuzzy definitions and to suggest some considerations that may help to heal the schism between the naturalists and the supernaturalists (i). * Professor Emeritus of Neurology, Department of Anatomy, University of Chicago. Present address: 236 Morningside Drive, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan. 46 C. Judson Herrick · Science, Faith, and Human Nature Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Autumn 1958 It will be shown that faith plays an indispensable role as a common denominator in both science and religion. It is, then, pertinent to ask, What is the appropriate role ofknowledge and offaith in all human affairs, as well as in science and religion? Critical examination ofour definitions and of the behavioral significance of both knowledge and faith, from the naturalist's standpoint, will show, I am convinced, that rigorously mechanistic science may keep the peace with a rational supernaturalism stripped ofthe crude mythologies and traditional dogmas with which it is usually garnished. Let us, then, first try to agree upon some definitions, not as final or absolute truths, but as necessary instruments for profitable approach to these problems. II. Definitions In common usage the term "unnatural" is applied in so many diffèrent ways that the word is practically meaningless, and this implies, ofcourse, that the word "natural" is no better off. What, then, is nature? A classical definition was written by T. H. Huxley in 1872 (2): For myself, I am bound to say that the term "Nature" covers the totality ofthat which is. The world ofpsychical phenomena appears to me to be as much a part of "Nature" as the world ofphysical phenomena; and I am unable to perceive anyjustification for cutting the Universe into two halves, one natural and one supernatural. Most scientists and naturalistic philosophers accept Huxley's last statement without qualification; but does it follow that nature as science views it comprises "the totality ofthat which is"? A revised version ofHuxley's definition is given by Van Rensselaer Wilson (3), who writes: "The whole domain of the possible must be included, along with the domain of the actual, when we speak ofthe natural in this inclusive sense." I grant that science can and does deal theoretically with the possible, including the "superactual," but the question remains whether there may not be domains of the actual that are forever inaccessible to human science. Natural science is a human construction derived from human experience , and it can go no further than the range ofpossible or conceivable experience. The totality ofthat which is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 46-61
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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