Priest and accommodationist John Polkinghorne, previously a physicist at Cambridge University, and author of some of the most muddled apologetics I’ve ever read, gets interviewed by In Character.
And he reveals that quantum physics has been just great for theology, because a stupid old Newtonian universe would testify only to a deistic, wind-up-the-universe-and-let-it-go kind of God. Quantum physics, however, provides a theistic God, one who changes the world by tweaking electrons. You have heard this before, of course, from Kenneth Miller, Francis Collins, and many other souls desperate to find evidence for a personal, interactive God in a world that appears to behave materially, predictably, and deterministically on the human plane.
If the world were simply mechanical, as people thought in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it would just be a gigantic piece of cosmic clockwork, and its creator would be an unseen cosmic clockmaker. That’s the creator who just makes the clock and lets it tick away. Quantum theory is something more subtle than that. We can believe a world in which we ourselves interact — we’re not clockwork at all — and we can believe in a world in which God interacts. We can believe in a God who doesn’t just sit and wait for it to happen but is involved in the unfolding of creation.
Isn’t this the worst sort of conflating science with superstition? Quantum physics as evidence for a theistic God! Even Ayala, I think, would diagnose Polkinghorne as mixing his magisteria.
And don’t these people ever, ever consider that they’re grasping at straws here—making a virtue of necessity by demoting their God to someone who changes the world by messing with subatomic particles? Isn’t it incumbent on them to explain why God would act this way instead of on a more macroscopic level? Is he trying to hide himself?
It’s hardly necessary to add that Polkinghorne won the Templeton Prize in 2002.