I've enjoyed his work ever since I saw him at the Gustavus Adolphus College Nobel Conference in 1990. He, along with Ilya Prigogine and Benoit Mandelbrot, gave talks to a crowd of science students, teachers, and ordinary folks like me interested in science. His talk was on the relationship between science and religion. That year's topic was chaos theory and fractals. A fascinating weekend for me in St. Peter, Minnesota.
Here's a sample from the article:
But even people who don't normally think about these things have a hard time pinning down what they know for sure. Scratch just a little below the surface of most of us, and you'll find very few things on the list of what we really know. What do any of us know for certain? Not much.
Polkinghorne's level of comfort with uncertainty has its roots in reading the Hungarian chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi, who used the term "motivated belief," and who called into question the idea that scientists deal in objective facts.
"Complete objectivity as usually attributed to the exact sciences is a delusion and is in fact a false ideal," Polanyi wrote in the 1950s. In other words, we're all coming from some kind of vantage point — always. Facts always come with interpretation. People of science are motivated to believe certain things as they proceed with their experiments, and people of faith are motivated to believe certain things as they proceed with their beliefs. Living with doubt leaves one open to additional discovery, both in science and faith.
Polkinghorne points to the example of what scientists once knew about light. For years, scientists proved that light was a series of particles. Later, scientists proved that it was waves. Then scientists proved that light acted like waves some of the time and particles some of the time. "If there is motivating evidence, you have to change your view of rationality," Polkinghorne said.