Excerpt: 2002 Templeton Prize Winner John Polkinghorne’s Book

Do we live in a world that makes sense not just now, but totally and forever? In his most recent book, THE GOD OF HOPE AND THE END OF THE WORLD (Yale University Press), Templeton Prize winner John Polkinghorne writes that “Christian belief provides the essential resource for answering this fundamental question.” Read an excerpt from his new book:

There are scientists who are endeavoring to apply quantum theory to the whole universe, despite our current ignorance of how to combine quantum theory and general relativity into the single account that would be needed for a true quantum cosmology. Speculations of this kind are interesting but uncertain and not much should be built upon them. Yet one proposal is of some interest from our present concern. It supposes that baby universes are continually bubbling up from fluctuations in the primeval ur-state, which is the quantum gravitational vacuum. Many such bubbles just fade away, but some are blown up, by a process called inflation, into entities of cosmic dimensions, enjoying cosmic lifetimes. We are believed, but those who espouse this view, to be living in one such long-lived fluctuation. In the end our particular bubble will burst, but others “elsewhere” will come into existence as its successors. The cosmic pot will boil away “forever.” Even if something like this proposal were to prove to be correct, it would only present a scene of occasional islands of transient meaningfulness erupting within an ocean of absurdity.

From its own unaided resources, natural science can do no more than present us with the contrast of a finely tuned and fruitful universe which is condemned to ultimate futility. If that paradox is to receive a resolution, it will be beyond the reach of science on its own. We shall have to explore whether theology can take us further by being both humble enough to learn what it can from science and also bold enough to hold firm to its own