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Pascal’s Fire

Keith Ward (Oneworld Publications: June 2006), 224 pages.

In Pascal’s Fire, Keith Ward reflects on the relationship between faith and the findings of modern science, treating topics such as — among others — chance and necessity, quantum physics and the mechanistic universe, the evolution of order in the universe, leading to life and ultimately to self-awareness and responsibility, the origin and future of the cosmos etc. The existence of an ultimate mind who chose to create a rationally intelligible universe which functions through laws that can be expressed in mathematical terms, but who also freely intervenes in the context of an otherwise autonomous progress of self-organisation of the universe, for which it was originally set up and by which it reaches goals of intrinsic value, are presented — and, in my view, convincingly so — as a rational and coherent explanation for the universe. In other words, the observation of the universe suggests such a mind. The argument progresses to show that this ultimate mind can also be viewed as personal, loving and compassionate, though in a way far beyond anthropomorphic projections. A purely scientific approach, however, is blind to the personal side of God, Ward argues — this is where personal experience, feeling and intuition come in, and may legitimately be taken seriously.  All in all, Keith Ward’s holistic approach, integrating faith and reason in his intellectual quest, is inspiring and reminded me of the "two wings" of faith and reason by which man strives toward the truth, of which John Paul II wrote. ~ Xiangmao at

Table of Contents

  • Pt. I    The formation of the scientific worldview
    • 1    The end of the anthropocentric universe    7
    • 2    The intellectual beauty of being    24
    • 3    The life of the universe    34
    • 4    The evolution of life on earth    49
    • 5    Freedom, suffering and omnipotence    62
    • 6    The veiled world    79
    • 7    The open future    90
    • 8    The implicate order    100
  • Pt. II    The search for ultimate explanation – the God of the scientists
    • 9    The limits of science    115
    • 10    The explanation of everything    128
    • 11    The emergence of the soul    151
    • 12    The origins of culture    172
    • 13    Cosmic ontogenesis    183
  • Pt. III    The God of religion
    • 14    God’s action in the universe    201
    • 15    Beyond the powers of nature?    217
    • 16    Immortal life    233
    • 17    The ultimate goal    247