We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The ABC Science of Faith

As I've noted before here before, I find the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website, ABC Science to be a fascinating and useful portal into the world of science.  It is also a theological playground that helps us keep one foot planted firmly in the "real world" of science as we keep our other foot rooted in the "true world" of faith.   A recent morning's set of postings on ABC Science is instructive.  The lead posting was entitled, "Keeping a journal key to shedding kilos," and makes the point based on research that keeping a food journal is crucial to losing weight.  Weight loss is, to a degree, not just a physical or psychological issue but a spiritual one as well.  Another posting is entitled, "Scientists trace Alzheimer's slow, deadly path," and documents medical researcher's attempts to see Alzheimer's  in a global way from the time of onset to the end.  It turns out that the onset comes long before the first symptoms appear.  Pastors, I can tell you, have a stake in this kind of research because we are called to minister to persons and families plagued with this inhumane disease.

Then, there's article entitled, "M-Theory and the Higgs boson," which is the hardest to understand by far for those of us who aren't trained physicists.  The author, Dr. Henryk Frystack, briefly summarizes the significance of the recent discovery of the "Higg's boson," a sub-microscopic form of energy, that has the potential to significantly improve our understanding of fundamental realities.  The more we understand the more mysterious the universe becomes, and for those of us who are convinced that a Creator lies within it all, it becomes still more miraculous and sacred—not less.

Perhaps the most important posting of all, however, from a theological perspective is the opinion piece written by Heinrich Rohre, "The misconduct of science?"  Rohre reminds his readers that science has its own culture, which can be corrupted, abused, and even hamper best scientific practices.  He writes of this very human enterprise, "Scientists must follow a path that is not scientifically predefined, and that requires decisions at every step. Whether they are right or wrong becomes clear in retrospect, which is why errors are unavoidable (though they should not be left uncorrected for long)." He also states that, "Science means constantly walking a tightrope between blind faith and curiosity; between expertise and creativity; between bias and openness; between experience and epiphany; between ambition and passion; and between arrogance and conviction — in short, between an old today and a new tomorrow."  That is to say, there is a good deal to science that is not scientific, and the boundaries between science and a religious-like faith are not always very clear.

Science doesn't merely discover new facts about reality.  It also helps to create reality.  The reality scientists discover is God-given.  The realities they create aren't.  They are very human.  It is crucial for people of faith to remain open to, in dialogue with, and sometimes critical of the realities science creates.  At the same time, it is important to stay current with the ones they discover.