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What We Believe But Cannot Prove

What We Believe But Cannot Prove | Book Review

Reviewed by Thomas Scarborough

The title of this book stands for a question that was put to 109 leading scientists: “What do you believe but cannot prove?” Some wrote a single paragraph in response, others wrote three to four pages. This is not a Christian book, and would at times tend in the opposite direction. However, there are two major issues which might be of particular interest to Christians.

The first is a question behind the question, which recurs many times. That is, what do the authors believe belief to be? Leon Ederman would seem to speak for many contributors with the comment: “To believe something while knowing it cannot be proved (yet) is the essence of physics,” while Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi states: “I can prove almost nothing I believe in.” One of the more interesting comments is by Maria Spiropulu: “I would suggest that belief and proof are in some way complementary: If you believe something, you don’t need proof of it, and if you have proof, you don’t need to believe.” That is, proof and belief share in each other. This being so, neither could be said to be an adequate basis for religious conviction. Does this suggest that all belief must be of this (inadequate) kind, or that a different category of faith — a different category altogether — exists? Some of the greatest Christian theologians have hinted that this may be so — among them Augustine, who wrote of “an unchangeable Light above this light of my soul . . . different, entirely different” (Farina 1984:10).

Some of the contributors’ beliefs might seem to some to be well-established facts. It should be of particular interest that scientists themselves consider many “facts” to be beliefs. Gino Segr

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