REMARKS

Since in my own mind many of these posts have been "chapters," I'm splitting some of them out to separate blogs. But also, my audience is divided and quite different, one part from another. Many have dropped out and many have newly arrived. There are recognizable paper "book" versions of some of the posts that fit together.

I find that some people still assume that a blog is a sort of diary. This one is not. It is not for children, either in terms of subject or writing style. It's not written "down." Think academic magazine or column without footnotes.


SOCIAL MEDIA

My name shows up on google+ and twitter, but I only monitor and will not add you. I do NOT do Facebook though someone with the same name does. Please use plain email. My phone landline is in the phone book. I have no cell phone.

Other Blogs by me

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE ART OF BOB SCRIVER, PLEASE GO TO: www.scriverart.blogspot.com.

Notes from Alvina Krause between 1957-1961 are posted at www.Krausenotes.blogspot.com


TWO REBLOGS:
Fiction about Indians at www.willowsticks.blogspot.com
Essays about Indians at www.siksikaskinitsiman.blogspot.com



Thursday, December 14, 2006

"SIGHTINGS" -- HOW THE BIG KIDS PLAY

I'm reprinting this column that comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School because otherwise I don't think you'd run across it and I think it's important to know that not everything shows up on the "pop" screen. I'm not as accepting of "apologetics" as these folks are -- I'd rather start from human experience as informed by science, which doesn't take me personally to God.


Sightings 12/14/06

Going Beyond Belief
-- Philip Hefner

Both the New Scientist and the New York Times reported on the symposium entitled "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival," hosted by the Science Network, a coalition of scientists and media professionals convening November 5-7 at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. They were there to address three questions: Should science do away with religion? What would science put in religion's place? Can we be good without God?

A number of the most articulate anti-religious self-proclaimed atheists were among the stellar group of scientists assembled there. Physics Nobelist Steven Weinberg spoke of religion as a "crazy old aunt, who tells lies and stirs up mischief," but whom he will nevertheless miss when she is gone. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins confessed that he is "fed up" with the tendency to respect religion, especially by secularists. A number of their peers took strong exception to the anti-religion message, including biologists Joan Roughgarden and Francisco Ayala. Anthropologist Melvin Konner asked sarcastically, "Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?"

The New Scientist report spoke of the "fervour of a revivalist meeting ... [with] no hallelujahs, gospel songs or swooning, but plenty of preaching, mostly to the converted, and much spontaneous applause for exhortations to follow the path of righteousness. And right there at the forefront of everyone's thoughts was God."

How ought people of religious faith respond to such a trend as that which surfaced at the Salk Institute? Here are a few suggestions:

First, believers should not let appreciation of science be diminished by what must be called the hysteria of militant anti-religious scientists. They must recognize that science can contain God's revelation and that it has brought enormous benefits, along with its dark side. The "Beyond Belief" message is no excuse for anti-science or pro-Intelligent Design responses by religious communities.

Second, there is legitimate critique in the anti-God message. Probably all believers are ashamed by some forms that faith takes. And they know that going "beyond belief" to the "God beyond God" has been a religious theme, beginning for Christians with Jesus. The history of Christianity is one of struggle against the seductions of the inferior gods that too often have earned worship: nation, race, pleasure, and wealth.

Third, the faithful should recognize that the scientists at La Jolla were not of one mind. Roughgarden, an Episcopalian, took issue sharply with Weinberg. Konner, who professes no religious faith, characterized the animus of the meetings as a "den of vipers." It is especially important for religious communities to speak out with balance and mature understanding -- if for no other reason than for the sake of the more balanced and mature views of the scientists who do not fall in line behind Dawkins and Weinberg. Millions of those scientists, of course, are in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples every Holy Day. The classical virtue of hospitality, even to the hostile ones, must be evident among believers.

Fourth, particularly for the sake of the scientists in our communities, the faithful must make clear that they recognize the challenge of science to traditional religion, and that they will engage that challenge as a whole community -- scientists and non-scientists shoulder-to-shoulder -- without responding in kind to the cultured despisers.

Finally, believers tend to be concerned with the wholeness of the body politic. There was a kind of "devil may care" tone among those in La Jolla who wielded the baseball bat against religion. Religion and science are both so fully embedded in American life that any warfare between them, let alone the attempt to eradicate one or both of them, will deeply rupture the fabric of our society. Whatever challenges religious communities face, the aim is to heal society, not fracture it.

In an ironic turn, Neil Tyson, director of New York's Hayden Planetarium, spoke passionately about his calling to become an astronomer. It was not God who called him, but "the universe," when he was a boy visiting a planetarium. He and most of his hearers considered this to be an anti-God affirmation; introducing God into his vocation would stifle his quest for knowledge, he said.

Is such a testimony really that far removed from authentic religious expression? After all, the "call of the universe" is a very big -- even metaphysical - idea; it is not more believable than the idea of a call from God. For a rigorously trained scientific mind to speak of a calling from the universe is no less a confession of faith than to invoke a calling from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The streams of religion and science run deep; both are driven by a strong sense of calling, and both are fundamental to American life. This being the case, might we not do better to drop the baseball bats and start talking?

References:
Streaming videos of the proceedings of the "Beyond Belief" conference are accessible at:
http://www.edge.org/.
The New Scientist article on "Beyond Belief" may be accessed here:
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg19225780.142-beyond-belief-in-place-of-god.html.
The New York Times article "A Free-for-All on Science and Religion" by George Johnson is available to "Times Select" subscribers here:
http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F60C11F63E5A0C728EDDA80994DE404482

Questions concerning the relations between science and religion will be further addressed at an upcoming conference sponsored by the Martin Marty Center of the University of Chicago Divinity School. "Physics, Philosophy, Physiology: Three Paths, One Spirited Product" will take place on Friday, January 26, 2007, in Swift Hall at the University of Chicago. For further information, please visit:
http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/conferences/ph3/index.shtml.

Philip Hefner is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and editor-in-chief of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.

----------

The current Religion and Culture Web Forum features "War as Worship, Worship as War" by Michael Sells. To read this article, please visit: http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/webforum/index.shtml.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do not assume that because some scientists spoke the way these did that we are all that way. Many of us may not be religious, but we don't all speak with one voice.

You know, more Christianists speak with voices of frenzied hatred about atheists and others they disrespect than atheists speak of Christians.

think about that before you label the rest of us with untrue labels.

Mary Scriver said...

Better reread this blog. The whole point of it is that neither scientists nor religionists "all speak with one voice." As far as "voices of frenzied hatred" go, I don't find it worthwhile to count noses on either side.

I didn't write this and therefore cannot be accused of using labels except that I said I myself was not an "apologist" for Christianity. You must have missed that part.

Zygon, which this author edits, is devoted to reconciliation between science and religion. You must have missed that part, too.

Maybe you meant to comment on some other blog -- this doesn't fit the "Sightings" piece.

Prairie Mary