Faith in Dialogue with Reason

Notes from our discussion – January 29

I’ve been thinking about Barbour’s types of dialogue between science and religion (as presented here and in our discussion last week), and also about the people who have joined in this discussion.

Types of dialogue and types of people:

Conflict – I don’t think we have anyone in this group who isn’t open to scientific discoveries; nor anyone who isn’t open to hearing other people talking about faith…

Independence – I don’t think we have anyone in this group who is trying to keep ‘science’ and ‘facts’ in one part of their brain, and ‘faith’ and ‘God’ in another part of their brain. But many of us may find it difficult to see how to integrate them….

Dialogue – Most of us are hoping to learn more about science and evolution – and at the same time we’re hoping for new religious insights that may come from scientific concepts and information…

Integration – And there are many – perhaps all of us – who are looking for some way to integrate science and religion, some way to use both faith and reason as we seek to understand the world we live in. Yes, perhaps we experience science and religion as always in tension (in our culture and in our own minds) – and yet, as we work to integrate what we’re learning, we try to keep faith and reason in conversation with each other.

A question about Charles Darwin himself:

As he moved through his life, did Darwin find it harder and harder to integrate the information he was collecting – and the theories he was building – with the conventional Christian faith he had received from his family, church and culture?

A question for you: 

As you read the next chapter of Ask the Beasts (chapter 3, “Endless forms most beautiful”), how can you keep your own faith in conversation with science?  (You may find that as you ‘stretch’ your mind to comprehend the science, you will also have to ‘stretch’ your faith for an idea of God ‘big enough’ to make sense.)

And now to some poetry….

The Sun Underfoot Among the Sundews
by Amy Clampitt; from The Kingfisher, 1983

An ingenuity too astonishing
to be quite fortuitous is
this bog full of sundews, sphagnum-
lined and shaped like a teacup.
A step.
Down and you’re into it; a
Wilderness swallows you up:
ankle-, then knee-, then midriff-
to-shoulder-deep in wetfooted
understory, an overhead
spruce-tamarack horizon hinting
you’ll never get out of here.
But the sun
among the sundews, down there,
is so bright, an underfoot
webwork of carnivorous rubies,
a star-swarm thick as the gnats
they’re set to catch, delectable
double-faced cockleburs, each
hair-tip a sticky mirror
afire with sunlight, a million
of them and again a million,
each mirror a trap set to
unhand unbelieving,
that either
a First Cause said once, “Let there
be sundew,” and there were, or they’ve
made their way here unaided
other than by that backhand, round-
about refusal to assume responsibility
known as Natural Selection.
But the sun
underfoot is so dazzling
down there among the sundews,
there is so much light
in the cup that, looking,
you start to fall upward.

And here’s the ‘hymn’ we sang at the end of our discussion:

music symbol

Oh, let me not be proud
by Margaret Atwood; from The Year of the Flood (2009)

Oh, let me not be proud, dear Lord, nor rank myself above
The other Primates, through whose genes we grew into your Love.

A million million years, Your Days, your methods past discerning,
Yet through Your blend of DNAs came passion, mind and learning.

We cannot always trace Your path through Monkey and Gorilla,
Yet all are sheltered underneath Your Heavenly Umbrella.

And if we vaunt and puff ourselves with vanity and pride,
Recall Australopithecus, our Animal inside.

So keep us far from worser traits, aggression, anger, greed;
Let us not scorn our lowly birth, nor yet our Primate seed.



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