Review: “Physics, Metaphysics and Theology” Seminar

by Dr Paul Tyson, Director, Emmanuel Centre for the Study of Science, Religion and Society

Dr Stephen Ames’ first lecture was on the relationship between physics and metaphysics. The basic question here is this: can our understanding of physics justify a valid and meaningful understanding of the nature of reality itself? The argument put forward was very carefully made so as to be accessible to materialist leaning academic skeptics. To that audience, there are two sorts of possible outcomes. Firstly, the laws of science are ultimately absurd, for reality itself has no meaning or value; it is just ‘there.’ To this outlook, one cannot get from physics to metaphysics. An alternative outlook – such as found in Paul Davies – is that information undergirds science, and so reality can be meaningfully understood. Here, intelligibility is ontologically basic to reality such that reality itself can be meaningfully understood. Dr Ames carefully critiqued this stance with the aid of Fisher information. Dr Ames concluded that you can get from physics to metaphysics, but not by Davies’ conception of information. To find intelligibility metaphysically basic, one needs more than a conception of physics that is dogmatically materialistic. You can follow Dr Ames’ argument here.


Dr Ames’ second lecture was on the relationship between metaphysics and theology. This lecture followed on in many regards from the first lecture, as it started with thinking about what the human inquirer is, as information is only meaningful to an inquirer. Drawing on the work of Bernard Lonergan, Dr Ames argued that human inquiry is an icon of God. This is a natural theology argument grounded in the centrality of intelligibility to reality and to our knowledge of reality. Again, in a manner accessible to skeptical academics, Dr Ames drew out the theological implications of intelligibility and human inquiry. You can follow his argument here.

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