Note: This transcript has not been proofread, and therefore its accuracy is not guaranteed.
Wright: Keith Ward is the Regis professor of divinity at Oxford University, a canon of Christ's Church Cathedral and the author of many books on religion including "God, Chance and Necessity" and "Defending the Soul." I interviewed him at Oxford's Christ's Church College and focused especially on his book "Concepts of God." Well first of all thanks very much for letting me intrude here. In your book in your book "Concepts of God" you examine a number of faiths, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism or at least particular thinkers within those faiths.
Keith Ward: Yes.
Wright: And you conclude that that it is reasonable to say that "the same God is worshiped in many diverse faiths." In some sense it's reasonable to say that. What did you mean by that?
Keith Ward: Well it's fairly easy with Judaism, Islam and Christianity because the faiths themselves largely claim they're worshiping the same God, it's the God of Abraham. And that God there might have been different ideas about that God but it is basically the same God so there's no problem about that. The difficulty might be if you go to the Indian traditions and you get Vishnu or Shiva and you say well "Is that the same God?" Well the evidence that it is is that God whether most Indians worship either Vishnu or Shiva two different names of Gods but they're both described by the worshipers as omnipotent and omniscient and good and compassionate and the creator of the universe in some sense. So the description are very similar so that's the reason I would think you should say that all these great traditions are worshiping the same God.
Wright: And what about the concept of -- is it pronounced brahman or..?
Keith Ward: Yes. That's an English way of saying it but that's ok.
Wright: Is that is that does that have some of the properties as the Western God as well?
Keith Ward: The problem that this can be a bit confusing because Brahma -- without an "n" at the end -- is a god, is one of the gods, often called the creator god... one of the gods... but brahman with an "n" is a neuter term which we could translate as something like absolute reality or the ultimately real. Now that's not a concept which you do find in the Western traditions really and that's why some people think the Indian traditions don't worship God. But brahman has a personal aspect so the personal aspect is either Vishnu or Shiva, one of the great gods. But it's true brahman itself is a more impersonal I suppose term for ultimate reality. A bit like Paul Tilley, if you wanted to go into the Christian tradition and find somebody who talked in that way, Paul Tilley could be a good case, he'd talk about the God beyond God... being the power of being beyond the personal image and that... so a similar move is actually made.
Wright: Is the word "godhead" sometimes used to denote this kind of more fundamental dimension of what the Western God or this more abstract dimension or something?
Keith Ward: Yes it is. The word "godhead" is use that way and Thomas Aquinas who is probably one of the best known writers about God in the European tradition describes God not as a person or even a personal being but as being of itself subsistent, pure being, in Latin of course...pure being...actus puris... and that again is a sort of a move to that direction ... something beyond the personal so that even in the Western Christian tradition, God is personal but is also a lot more than personal. So a similar idea is there as well.
Wright: I guess most people would would say that the biggest challenge in arguing that in some sense these various faiths are worshiping the same God would be Buddhism. It's sometimes even called an atheistic religion because the Buddha himself certainly didn't talk about God in the obviously Western sense of the word. What kind of a connection do you make there?
Keith Ward: Well Buddhism is the difficult case itself and it is atheistic or it is not interested in God and I don't claim that Buddhists worship God, that's not something I would want to say. At the same time, there are lots of very interesting similarities. They are looking in the same direction, you might say, as believers in God. They're looking to, Buddhists are seeking to overcome suffering and various sorts of mental disadvantage like hatred or lust or desire and they overcome this by meditation of course but the goal is the achievement of Nirvana which is calm and peace and bliss and knowledge right so the connection is this, so they're not talking about God, if you say what is Nirvana, well the typical Buddhist will not answer that question but if you look at how Nirvana is describe in the texts like that Dharma Pada which is one of the great well known Buddhist texts it's described as compassion, knowledge, wisdom and bliss. And again those descriptions are very like the ones that a Christian theist might use about God. He'd say, "Yes, God is compassionate, God is blissful, God is wise." So while it's not identical there really are similarities between the objects that Buddhists and Christians are seeking. That is the divine object. A state beyond the human and a state beyond suffering. Buddhists don't call that God, it's true but the similarities are there so I wouldn't call them believers in God but I would say they have a something recognizable as a spirituality, a way of approach not unlike the Christian.
Wright: So, I mean, a Buddhist in seeking Nirvana seeking that state of being is doing in someways what a Christian would doing if he or she aspired to a kind of union with God in a sense. Is that saying too much?
Keith Ward: I think that's entirely true and the more you read in the Christian tradition people would be called the mystics, Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross, now they do have a very devotional relationship to Christ but also they speak very much about the darkness beyond that devotional relation, the divine darkness, the cloud of unknowing as one 14th Century English mystic called it and that's a cloud of unknowing is not unlike Nirvana which you don't speak of because it's silence but you have some sort of acquaintance with through contemplative prayer. So again I think not claiming they're doing the same thing but they are similar enough in description to say well they're looking in the same direction, walking the same path sort of.
Wright: Ok. There are two categories that you use for looking at all of these religions. One is what you call the iconic vision and the other is called self transcendence. What do you mean by the iconic vision?
Keith Ward: Well the word icon is a Greek word which means "image" and the orthodox church the Eastern orthodox churches have icon all over their churches which they venerate and the icon is an image in the sense not just of being a representation or a duplicate but of somehow conveying the power of the sacred reality which it images. So an icon is something finite some finite thing which somehow both represents but also communicates becomes a vehicle of a real spiritual reality. In the New Testament Jesus is called the image of the invisible God, the icon of the invisible God. And the icon vision is a way of is a term that I've used anyway of thinking of seeing finite things as vehicles of the infinite spiritual reality.
Wright: And what about self-transcendence which is also a kind of quest that you seem to find in all the religions?
Keith Ward: Self-transcendence is a term not original original of me, it's a term which tries to find it's way between two things. One is self-denial, that you give up yourself. Some people object, oh well that doesn't value the human enough, you're just giving things up, giving them away. The other is self-fulfillment which is the Californian dream I suppose really and then people object to that, oh well it's just lying around in a jacuzzi all day and that's self-fulfillment. So self-transcendence is an attempt to get something between those ways, it's a sort of giving of self which is also a fulfilling of self. But the two have to go together and the idea is well you've found a grace from actually in giving but not just in pure enunciation for it's own sake but in the joy you get from helping other people or being compassionate and that has it's own sort of fulfillment. So self-transcendence is a sort of non-egoistic delight in being and the connection between the icon vision and self-transcendence is that if you manage to overcome self-regarding passion you would find a fulfilment in being then able to see all things as images of the infinite reality ... Christians put this sometimes by saying, "You should see Christ in all things. you should everybody as Christ." And that's a way of putting that.
Wright: And the basic idea is that the ego biases our perception, distorts our perception in reality.
Keith Ward: Yes.
Wright: And and you find that idea in in all the religions to some extent.
Keith Ward: Well in all the developed religions. Yes I mean there are some...
Wright: In all the in all the so called great religions or the modern...
Keith Ward: That's right. Yes. I mean I wouldn't deny that some religions are horrendous and human sacrifice is not something that I'd be in favor of. I don't think all religions are good but all the great traditions that we have in the world now in their best representations are certainly concerned with that overcoming of ego and self-regard.
Wright: Now I in a way I associate that most strongly with Buddhism because Buddhism councils letting go of the self entirely and achieving ultimate enlightenment that way but you're saying that that this is this dimension is really a fundamental to all the great faiths?
Keith Ward: Oh yes. I mean Christianity I mean Jesus says, "Unless you take up your cross and follow me you cannot be my disciple" and "He who loses himself will find himself." So I mean the teachings are pretty central to Christian faith.
Wright: Yes that last phrase in particular is strikingly almost Eastern I guess.
Keith Ward: Well Jesus was Eastern of course... good Palestinian.
Wright: Well certainly by American standard.
Keith Ward: Yes. Yes we soon not forget that I mean Christianity is a Middle Eastern religion.
Wright: You talk about the evolution of religions. The idea that whether you look at religion East or West as the millennia have passed, the doctrines have moved, there's some generalizations you can make about the directions in which the doctrines have moved, right?
Keith Ward: Yes I think so.
Wright: What would you say by way of generalizing?
Keith Ward: Well as far as we know the history of early religion, of each of our religious traditions, it was pretty brutal and violent and there was human sacrifice. There are records, remembrances, of human sacrifice in the Old Testament itself. And there were fertility rituals of orgiastic ... fertility cults, orgies... and there were superstitions of various sorts. Now those things have on the whole been controlled, modified, or exterminated by developed religion. I mean there has been a growing perception I think in the religious traditions that religion is not about those things, as matter of fact, this happened in principle a very long time ago, and it was in the 8th Century B.C. that the great prophets of the Old Testament who like Isaiah and so on said God doesn't require sacrifices of animals but does require justice and mercy. I mean that was a breakthrough and I think those sorts of breakthroughs are still happening, breakthroughs of seeing that religion requires a transformation of personal life rather than bribing or (()) the gods with various sorts of rituals. It's an evolution towards inwardness and self-transformation and away from external ritual. But you can't guarantee that it's always going to get better in that way but I think you can trace a development of that in religious history. You see it in the Bible fairly clearly really.
Wright: And in the West you see movement toward monotheism but you wouldn't necessarily say that about the East.
Keith Ward: Yes I would I think the Indian traditions are very often misunderstood in the West. They're almost all monotheist, that is to say there are lots of God's but if you're a worshiper of Vishnu, one of the gods, you'd be a monotheist, that is God. And if you're a worshiper of Shiva, another god, you might say, that is god. It's not they think there really are lots of different gods, they would rather say, if they're reasonably sophisticated which very many are they would rather say these are different images of God and this is the image we follow but it's the one God. So most Indian believers are actually monotheist.
Wright: And then with Buddhism you might you might almost argue that it has evolved beyond monotheism in the sense that it's moved to a higher level of abstraction.
Keith Ward: That's right and the interesting thing that in practice on the ground, a lot of Buddhism is highly devotional. You might think it ought not to be since there's no God but in practice people would make offerings to a Buddha image or they would pray and they will ask for the Buddha to help them. So although it ought not to happen in theory there is that devotional side.
Wright: Oh yes and I think people in the West have a somewhat kind of sterilized view of what actual Buddhism is in the East because the variant that people might practice in America is say is devoid of a lot of that ritual and devoid of a lot of the supernatural belief that you find in ...
Keith Ward: Yes.
Wright: ... Buddhism.
Keith Ward: Yes I think most practicing Buddhists in Buddhist countries would actually accept the existence of lots of gods, lots of supernatural beings with whom you can have relationships.
Keith Ward: It's just they're sort of devalued a little bit and not as important...
Keith Ward: ... so there you might even say, but this is pushing it really, but as you put it rather well I think, they've transcended both polytheism and monotheism into looking at what reality is like ultimately.
Wright: In fact, this is maybe a heretical argument to present to someone is a member of the clergy here at Christ's Church College but in a certain sense if you look at the trajectory of religious evolution in a certain sense could you argue that Buddhism is more highly evolved in the sense that it has followed a trajectory further. First of all in that sense in the sense of the conceptualization of God going kind of beyond monotheism into abstraction but also in the sense that in the intensity in the emphasis on surrendering the ego I guess.
Keith Ward: Yes. Well I am a Christian minister so I am probably not going to say that Buddhists have evolved further than Christians.
Wright: I was expecting ascent I just thought I might provoke an interesting answer.
Keith Ward: Yes. I think that that that Buddhist tradition of stressing that which is beyond the personal in the divine and also the emphasis on overcoming greed, hatred and delusion is something Christians can very profitably learn from. But as a Christian I would say well what Buddhists really don't have a place for is the idea of a Creator God who is also a Redeemer God and they don't have any place for that and I would have thought that in modern science for example the idea of a Creator God is an advance of the idea of just things happening to be there. I mean if you say to a classical Buddhist, "Why does the world exist?" He'd just say, "Well it does. It's not an interesting question it's just you're in suffering and you want to get out but don't ask these theoretical questions." Whereas monotheism will press the theoretical question and say "Why does the universe exist? Does it have a purpose? Is there one underlying wise beautiful goal which is there, does that make sense?" And I would think the strength of monotheism is that it actually does relate very well to modern science in its quest for underlying intelligibility and purpose. If you can make that quest out then monotheism is going to be a desirable goal and in that sense well I want to say this as a Christian you might think but in that sense I think monotheism is not a less evolved view but one that is deeply consonant with some of the best scientific insights.
Wright: But a final word I might say on behalf of Buddhism is if you look at what the Buddha actually said he I wouldn't say he so much confronted science as avoided conflict with it by virtue of which questions he chose to address and which questions he didn't choose to address. He specifically said "I don't get into you know really deeply metaphysical you know whether there's whether there's a God what the nature of the nature of the afterlife is and so on..."
Keith Ward: Yes. That's right. That's true, that's quite true. But at the same time I'm not wanting to have a competition in which I win...
Wright: I'm not a Buddhist by the way so I can't win regardless of what happens.
Keith Ward: What I'd say here is Buddhism is quite strongly bound up with belief in rebirth, reincarnation. Now a lot of people do believe that in the West, Christians on the whole don't and I think a good grasp of science and genetics makes it quite difficult to believe in rebirth and I think it's something you either believe in or you don't. If you're a Buddhist you on the whole would believe in it or that would be a major plank. So that is a doctrine about the nature of human destiny and life which I would find it difficult to accept and so I wouldn't say it's quite true the Buddha have no interest in doctrines at all. He does assume that it's true that there are millions of rebirth for every human being. And if you don't think that, if you think that every human soul is created once and new at birth and that that it is then offered eternal life with God but doesn't reincarnate on Earth well there again you've got a you've got a difference. That's one of the differences between the faiths and you just have to say "This is the one I think is more true in my very limited appreciation of these faiths." And well now I myself I don't think rebirth is a very convincing alternatives. But that would be a consideration you know you have to say "That's one of the things I have to consider." Do I really take the world view, including rebirth or not?
Wright: I mean some people have the same kind of trouble with the Christian notion of the afterlife.
Keith Ward: Oh absolutely. Oh yes certainly. Yes. All religions have their problems.
Wright: One reason I am pressing you about Buddhism and Christianity and all the great faiths is it does seem to me that in the modern world more than before there is a need to kind of talk about these things. It seems to be one of the... you talk about challenges to religion in the modern world, one challenge that is often talked about is science absorbing the scientific world view. But the other is that in a globalized society you are more and more conscious of the existence of other faiths. It seems harder to defend the idea that one particular part of humanity has been privy to all the deep insights into the nature of things and so it's important to kind of talk about what what kind of validity they might all have. And I am wondering, although you are a Christian minister, if someone converts to if someone who had no religion at all before becomes a practicing Buddhist do you think in some sense they have kind of entered your fold?
Keith Ward: I think they've certainly entered the spiritual fold and I would think that that's rather good and most of us in Britain and probably in the States too know people who are Buddhists and they're libel to be very good Buddhists because they are choosing to do this and they're going to take it seriously, otherwise they wouldn't bother. They're not just going to be convention Buddhists. They're going to take the life of meditation very seriously and I think that was wholly a good thing. I wouldn't try to convert them to Christianity. I mean I wouldn't conceal my own beliefs and if we talked, I'd say what my beliefs were but I wouldn't consider it necessary for their salvation that they become Christian.
Wright: The of these kind of two challenges to religion in our modern world, one being the manifest presence of other robust faiths, you know from the point of view of Christianity say or from the point of view of Buddhism; the other being scientific world view. You've also paid attention to the second challenge quite a bit I think.
Keith Ward: Yes.
Wright: What what's your general feeling for how a religious sensibility survives the onslaught of modern science?
Keith Ward: Yes. Well I don't think there's been any onslaught in modern science. I think that contemporary science grew out of a theistic world view and most of the great scientists have been believers in God and have been explicitly driven by that. I mean the crucial cases that are very well know, Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday and so on. That religious motivation is very important because you are looking to see the intelligibility and the beauty of God's universe, so you have the belief that you can understand it, it's mind like, it's mathematically structured, the mind is suitable for understanding it. So I mean I just see the scientific way as part of a theistic approach to the universe and so there's no onslaught. The rather contemporary and very minority view of scientific atheism is I think just a blip on human consciousness which won't last very long and it's because people are fed up with organized religion. It's got nothing to do with their science. Even I know very well some of the great scientific atheists of the modern world and they're driven by something deeply emotional, if I can say that rather than by strict scientific evidence which doesn't at all show what they say it does.
Wright: Well I guess the reason I use the word onslaught is because you titled one of your books "Defending the Soul." And the idea that it was the notion of the soul was under attack from a certain variant at least of scientific materialism or a certain ...
Keith Ward: Yes... materialism... that's right. Yes. And I talk about people like Freud and and Marx and a number of different various... and certainly yes there has been a sort of onslaught on religious belief, particularly in Europe since the 17th Century but I don't think it's scientifically based. In fact, it's I suppose the anti-science. If you look at Freud and Marx, two of the main people I talk about, a lot of people today would say they aren't scientists at all they were just ideologists. They had these ideologies and were determined to force science into. But scientific evidence for Freud or for Marx? It just doesn't exist, it's just not there.
Wright: Well let me ask you this: do you think that there are people who are immersed in the scientific world view who have a naive idea about how much it can explain? About how many questions are left over after you've answered the questions you can answer scientifically...
FWD: I suppose there are some people who think there are no questions left over. I know that E.O. Wilson in his book ... what did he call that again?
Keith Ward: "Consilience." Said tongue in cheek I think really ... I think of it as skating on thin ice that all questions were scientific questions and once you'd answered them there would be nothing left. But I can't think for a moment he really believes because he doesn't get on with his own personal life in that way. The question of importance of value, meaning a purpose just don't come within the sciences so I mean I would have thought no reasonable philosopher takes this view. I mean no body who's thought about what science is and what it can do takes the view that all questions are scientific questions.
Wright: I do think E.O. Wilson has made a point of not ruling out a kind of deistic interpretation of evolution. The idea that evolution was set in motion to achieve some larger goal.
Keith Ward: I'm sure that's true. He's got a number of levels of increasing tongue-in-cheekness and the lowest level he gets to is oh well it's all scientific questions so if God is a scientific question you could give it a scientific answer.
Wright: But is he I guess there are other exemplars of the problem of as you see it of people kind of over extending science's power of it's range.
Keith Ward: There certainly are yes and one of the best known of which is Dawkins in this university with whom I've I had quite a number of public debates.
Wright: Oh have you?
Keith Ward: Yes.
Wright: How did you find him?
Keith Ward: Oh absolutely charming, brilliant debater, terrible popular unfortunately, he always wins the debate but his views are naive I mean I have to say they're naive. When he talks about biology and genetics, he knows who he's talking about of course, I listen and I wouldn't contradict what he says about that. But when he then goes on to talk about the fact that genetics shows that there can't be any purpose in the universe at all, that it all must be you know what he calls selfish genes sort of tearing up then little wars, that human beings are just machines for carrying genes around. He's not talking science there, he's talking something else. He's virulently anti-religious. And I think that's what you have to say, it's got nothing to do with his science. He just hates religion. Why that is, I wouldn't like to say. But he does hate it.
Wright: You know but won't say or you...
Keith Ward: I've got a pretty good idea.
Wright: I'd love to entice you into talking about it.
Keith Ward: Well the basic idea is quite simple, basic fact is quite simple. There are certain forms of religion which are anti-intellectual and anti-scientific which do say you know the universe was created in 6 days and these were 24 hours each ... and which are also emotionally pressuring. And those forms of religion are not as strong in England as they are in America but they do exist and he's encountered them and he's encountered them personally and his view of religion is molded by that fact.
Wright: You wrote in I think "Defending the Soul" that the sciences point to a spiritual basis for the world. They're not just compatible with that idea but even almost imply that. What did you mean by that?
Keith Ward: I think that. Well again because the idea that the universe is intelligible has elegant structure laws is an amazing idea we have no right to expect the universe should be like that. And I ... people who I talk to here at Oxford who are working in genetics whether they are believers in God or not are just absolutely overwhelmed with awe at the structure of DNA which is necessary to get this thing off the ground. And it just seems so utterly miraculous using that in a non-religious sense that it's bound to make people think there's something going on here but I don't know what it is and I think that's the reaction of any good scientist. It's something amazing. Only the most natural way to take that would be "Well this looks like a universe that was meant to be the way it is." It's not it's got it's puzzle I mean why is there so much waste in evolution and so on so you've got to deal with those. But the general facts of design and organization, integration and complexification are just overwhelming I think. So to me that make a very natural affinity with a religious view.
Wright: Speaking of the waste in evolution, which also which all kind of assumes the form of pain and suffering...
Keith Ward: Yes.
Wright: ... do you have a generic line on the problem of evil as in some ways magnified by the knowledge of evolution because in a sense...
Keith Ward: I do I do. My life is very similar to author Arthur Peacock which is that chance is a necessary factor in any universe which allows creative freedom and that if you didn't have that element of undetermined causality within defined limits there wouldn't be any space for creativity and freedom and so I think for myself I know that not all Christians would accept this but I think it's one of the insights produced by the mergering really of scientific and Christian views in the modern world that the role of chance in the universe is a very positive and creative one. But it has a price and my general approach to the existence of evil is well that price is inevitable. It's just part of the necessity of the way things are. But it is necessary to directional progress which allows creative freedom.
Wright: Suffering is the price of freedom.
Keith Ward: Yes. Really. But we've made it a lot worse I mean than it had to be.
Keith Ward: Yes.
Wright: That's one of the virtues of freedom is you could change the ratio of suffering to freedom if you used your freedom wisely I guess. The although one reply would be a truly omnipotent God could have designed the universe in which there wasn't this trade off, in which there wasn't this price to be paid for freedom.
Keith Ward: I think that's too easy. I mean I don't know whether an omnipotent God could have done that. I mean you could say that but I think we have no idea at all whether an omnipotent God could do that and all I can say about that is well God has more power than any other being could conceivably have. That's the traditional view. But what that is and what the limits on God's power might be in God Himself I haven't the slightest idea. I have no way of knowing. I feel like Job, you know, just bow in wonder. I can't work that out. So I don't think that's a strong argument.
Wright: So your view, to say God is omnipotent is not to say that there weren't in some sense constraints on God's own creative freedom.
Keith Ward: That's right. I mean most Christians most Christian philosophers had said God's being is necessarily what it is. It could not be otherwise. It has it's perfection because God is perfect beauty and contemplates that perfect beauty and as such is perfect. I mean it happened worthwhile for his own sake... maybe it's true that that God has to create and maybe it's true that any creation of free beings has to involve the possibility of suffering. I mean how do I know but it could be true. And in that sense, there could be constraints on any conceivable being. And I think although science knew and it stresses chance more than traditional views, that's exactly what traditional theists like Thomas Aquinas said, I mean that evil is somehow necessary to creation. It's they use to call it a probation in medieval times, probation of being meaning it's a sort of shadow cast in a painting for example. The shadows are necessary to the painting as a whole.. it's an analogy that St. Augustine used. And I think we have to be a little bit humble about knowing what an omnipotent is able to do and thinking we can do better.
Wright: Yes. Oh, I'm sure I couldn't do better.
Keith Ward: Right. And all I have to say then is and nobody could.
Wright: I was just wondering if God could have done better but in your view ...
Keith Ward: Yes I think...
Wright: ... God was doing the best he or she could with the fabric that was available...
Keith Ward: Yes. God is the greatest conceivable being and the greatest possible being but we don't know what that is and we might think there could be a greater being but we're just mouthing babble really. We don't know what we're talking about.
Wright: You've ... I believe you've said in one of your books that all the great religions are about among other thing convincing people that in some sense they are living in a world of illusion. Is that fair?
Keith Ward: Rather appearance. Yes.
Wright: Can you elaborate on that a little?
Keith Ward: Well the way things seem to us very often conceals what they are really like. Science is a very good case of that. I mean we look at the world and it's made of colored shapes buzzing about and we think that's what the world is like but any physicist will say that's not what the world is like, there are no colors actually at all. And the shapes aren't what you think they are that's just a function of what size your eyes are and what you can make out. But actually what you've got are these little perhaps super strings or quarks or electrons all buzzing around without any colors at all and not the shapes you think they have. So the appearance, or how it appears to human beings with our cognitive equipment is very different from the reality but we can tell the difference because we can successfully show how what we seem to see can't be what really is there. And it's the same in religion really that the way we see the world depends very much on our own temperance but it often seems like a mess, a lot of accidents, a lot of chaos, "one damn thing after another" you know as Henry Ford said. But as a matter of fact a theist would certainly say "No, the universe is intelligible, beautiful, elegant, it has deep structures and necessity and purpose." And it has a spiritual reality as the most dominant factor of the whole thing. I mean, the presence of God is the most important thing about life. Now most people don't even recognize that so the appearance the appearance of this rather accidental universe with no spiritual presence at all is very different from the reality which is it's a deeply providential universe guided by an omnipresent spirit.
Wright: So in some ways you would say that it isn't just that people fail to appreciate the limits that science actually has as a means of enlightenment and in terms of what it sheds light on but that science itself is pointing to these limits if you look at what actually modern physics is showing us about the fundamental fabric of reality and the extent to which we can or cannot actually comprehend it, science is in that sense self defines it's own limits almost.
Keith Ward: Yes I think in a strange way although modern science probably began 16th 17th Century by rejecting Platonism, the view that everything is an image of spiritual realities and putting in its place an attention to the empirical and the observable what happened ... contemporary physics has almost reversed that, and said "Well you mustn't attend too much to what actually happens." I mean certainly there are experiments, they're too expensive to do many of them, actually you see the beauty of the universe by doing pure mathematics. So you do have to look at the empirical but nevertheless what's really going on is a deeply intellectual investigation into a structure which none of us can never observe. And that's sort of reversion to a Platonistic or spiritual view of the universe to say well the deepest reality is something mind-like rather than just unconscious and accidental and I think that is a pronounced feature of contemporary physics. So my physicist colleague tell me. I have to say I'm not I'm not the great authority on this I just ask the physicists.
Wright: I generally have to trust physicists when it comes to interpreting physics myself. Well listen thank you very much this has been very very enjoyable and fascinating.
Keith Ward: Good. Thank you.