There seems to me a Religion-Science scale. We have atheist like Dawkins who see no place whatsoever for religion, I put them on the far left. Then we have agnostics like Gould and Liberal theologians, who say science is the absolute authority on all matters of reality, but morality, however is the domain of religion. They posit that the religious should admit that science proves that the universe and all life is merely the product of purposeless, undirected and naturalistic causes and miracles do not and cannot happen. I would place Polkinghorne a spot further on the right in the scale, embracing for the most part the “scientific world-view”, he is comfortable with the just-so naturalistic stories of how the cosmos, life and consciousness came about. But he does believe in God, who might even possibly work in the world, if I remember right, maybe in the quantum realm.
I personally think really bad explanations are embrace and accepted by the science community, merely because they are purely naturalistic. Of course, the job of scientist is to only look for the natural causes, their methodology excludes teleological and personal explanations. But I think their naturalistic methodology has became for many their grand metaphysical view of all reality—resulting a mythology of the how everything came to be. But I want to insist, that if there is a God, that means the universe ISN'T merely a closed system, It also means one must also consider the possibility of personal and teleological explanations.
Just b/c someone comes along and gives a naturalistic explanation for something, that was once assumed to have teleological explanations for, doesn't mean the materialistic explanation is TRUE. For example, lets say a 1,000 years in the future the faces in the rock of Mount Rushmore remain, but all American history has been destroyed. Now when people see Mount Rushmore, lets say people look at the design and are convinced that the ancients carved the faces in the rock a long time ago. The design leads them to assume a teleological explanation. But lets say we have some man who comes along and points out that purely natural forces of wind, water and erosion over millions of years could fully account for the appearance of design on the rocks. Now imagine that almost the entire educated community joyfully discards the teleological explanations, claiming that the naturalistic explanation completely does away with any need of an intelligence.
This is what I feel Polkenhorn is doing, affirming the orthodox naturalistic explanations. It irritates me that people say the idea that God had any part in the vast amount of information and complexity of the design of life was dashed on the rocks of Darwinism. Darwin did nothing more than someone coming along and showing how wind and erosion could have carved the faces out in the rock, it doesn't PROVE wind and rocks carved the faces in the rocks. In fact, the teleological explanation is FAR more likely. Just because some scientist can think of supposed ways that random mutations and natural selection can result in complex information, doesn't mean they now know how it happened. One could say all of Shakespeare's work was the result of Monkey's pecking on the type-writers and human agents acting as natural selection, selected the letters that accidentally formed a word. They could then claim from mere randomness and natural selection is responsible for all that Shakespeare wrote, that no intelligence was involved. This is indeed an explanation, but I insist the teleological explanation is FAR better.
But yeah, from this review it seems I reacted negatively to the book, but in actuality I enjoyed it and for the most part I liked Polkinghorne. It is easiest to write on areas of disagreement though, this is what often gets the fingers typing