Happel, Stephen. Metaphors and Time Asymmetry: Cosmologies in Physics and Christian Meanings."
For Stephen Happel, the
methodological bridge between theology and science comes through language - in
particular, through metaphor. Happel
argues that scientists, as well as theologians, use ordinary speech,
constructed of metaphors, to originate, process and communicate their
insights. By studying how scientists
employ metaphors, theologians can discover an important role for cosmology in
religious discourse. Similarly
scientists can gain from understanding the hermeneutical framework they employ
in their discourse.
Happel begins by studying
the general reasons for focusing on metaphor in both fields, namely the
conviction that science, like theology, is a hermeneutical venture. Next he focuses on the metaphors that adorn
cosmology and the ways they narrate the story of the universe. Happel then argues that there is a basic
relationship between the particular metaphors chosen by cosmologists and the
actual temporal asymmetry of the universe.
To support his claim, Happel critically evaluates four competing
theories about the nature of metaphor.
In the process he argues that in both science and religion metaphors
communicate more than feelings: they
indicate a state of affairs. Because of
this, Happel is critical of Paul Ricoeurs paradoxical is/is not view of
metaphor and of theologians who appropriate it, preferring instead the moderate
realism advanced by Mary Hesse and Bernard Lonergan.
Next Happel attempts to
understand why some scientists hold an atemporal perspective on cosmology while
others see the universe in terms of a temporal narrative such as the Big
Bang. The difference is due less to
physics or mathematics, Happel argues, than to the presuppositions one holds
about metaphor. Atemporalists tend to
have a Ricouerian view of metaphor as paradoxical, whereas temporalists tend
toward a moderately realist theory of metaphor. Lonergans theory and its relation to emergent probability as the
explanation of temporality provide just the needed ontological reference for
the metaphors of time asymmetry.
Happel acknowledges that
deconstructionists, drawing heavily on the writings of Jacques Derrida, propose
an alternate theory in which the surplus of metaphors is sheer play without
directionality or finality. He
contrasts the teleological approach of scientists like John Barrow and Paul
Davies, who treat cosmological metaphors as narrative, with the
non-teleological approach of Stephen Hawking, who seems closer to Derrida and
Ricoeur. Happel sees these approaches
as parallel to the theological typologies of prophecy (narratives which stress
the ethical imperative) and mystical communion (non-narrative descriptions of
the atemporal identity with the divine).
Both narrative and non-narrative languages are integrally intertwined in
the doctrine of the Trinity. As a
result, theologians might investigate how narrative and non-narrative
interpretations of spacetime might be equiprimordial, requiring a
co-implicating dialectic. Scientists,
in turn, are encouraged to develop an approach which overcomes the
symmetrical-asymmetrical arguments concerning temporality. Ultimately, whether the universe is seen in
mystical or prophetic terms, Gods involvement is to be trusted, and Gods gift
of time leads us to combine narrative and non-narrative language.
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