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INTERVIEW BY Karl Giberson, Kent Hill, & Donald Yerxa
John Polkinghorne is one of the world's leading thinkers in the area of science and religion. A former professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University, he resigned his chair in 1979 to study theology in preparation for ordination in the Church of England. For five years during the 1980s he served as a parish priest in Bristol, Kent, prior to being invited back into academia as president of Queens' College, Cambridge. He is perhaps unique in being equally at home calculating the trajectories of elementary particles, reflecting on the nuances of the Trinity, administering the sacraments, and presiding over the academic affairs of a college.
In May 1998, John Polkinghorne visited Eastern Nazarene College, where he was interviewed for Books & Culture by professors Karl Giberson and Donald Yerxa and enc's president, Kent Hill.
Polkinghorne's visit to Eastern Nazarene College was the capstone of a semester-long seminar course that Giberson, Hill, and Yerxa taught in his work, and he was a part of the 1998 Templeton/asa lectures on Science & Religion. The unique "Polkinghorne Seminar" exposed the participants to as much of Polkinghorne's work as was accessible to advanced undergraduates who were not science majors. Seven of his books were read in their entirety, ranging from his semipopular science book, The Quantum World, through his prestigious Gifford Lectures, The Faith of a Physicist, to his Lenten meditations, The Search for Truth. The highlight of the course was a breakfast with its subject—held in lieu of a final exam!
Through the efforts of Communication Arts professor Ned Vankevich, Polkinghorne concluded his visit with an "uncommon conversation" at Eastern Nazarene College with the noted Harvard analytical philosopher and atheist Willard V. O. Quine. Quine, one of the leading English-speaking philosophers of the postwar era, discussed the case for and against theism with Polkinghorne in a conversation moderated by Hill and Giberson.
Giberson: You have ...