Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Help me prepare to talk at the intersection of science and religion


Tomorrow night, I'm giving a public lecture at the Franklin Institute here in Philadelphia (yes, that Franklin...Benjamin, though he is not the founder), exploring the tensions and harmonies between science and religion. (If you are local and want to go, details are here.) It's one thing to profess my faith each Sunday with my parish community, quite another to stand up in front of a crowd that I do not know and do so. But I will. The start of my talk:

"Credo in unum Deum. I believe in God. I also believe in evolution, quantum mechanics, particle physics, anthropogenic climate change and the Big Bang Theory. I don't see these stances as incompatible, perhaps because I'm a quantum mechanic, which requires me to keep multiple realities in mind. Photons behave as particles and as waves. So do electrons, and even things as large as helium nuclei. God created human beings. Human beings are primates, and evolved from older primate species....

Faith cannot overrule science, and the popular view of Galileo notwithstanding, the Roman Catholic Church has not taught otherwise. "The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false." (St. Thomas Aquinas) Just because Genesis says that God told Noah to bring pairs of each animal, male and female, does not mean that each species necessarily has two sexes (worms...creatures that crawl on the ground...do not)..."

Part of the program is Q&A with the audience — if you were in the audience, what would you ask me about the intersections between science and religion?

9 comments:

  1. How do you have a conversation with a Christian who does not beleive in science and takes the bible literally? ie one who denies evolutionary theory, the big bang and the rest?

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  2. Gaye has hit the proverbially nail on the head. As a related question, I might ask how you personally reached your own point of equilibrium between the two.

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  3. Lynda9:02 AM

    Michelle, how I wish I could be there to hear your presentation and the interaction in the room. I think that facts won't convince either the Christian who discounts science or the scientist who doesn't believe in God; therefore, Robin is on target - just tell your story and it will speak far more than any argument.

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  4. without true scientific knowledge - beyond our basic required classes in highschool and college - my husband and i try to understand the relationship between science and our faith. one of our evening devotionals with the kids had us rereading the creation story - just the part about how God created the physical world. my husband's head nearly exploded as he suddenly started making parallels between the images presented in the Bible story we know so well, but don't always remember the exact words, and his limited understanding of the big bang theory. my question then - for that - and all those other big issues....how do you teach your child/ren? how do you answer their questions, explain it to them, so that they are not limited by the narrow minded in their lives - either those in their faith lives or their education?

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  5. I find it interesting that the creation story exactly parallels our understanding of how life came about on earth. The order is the same; the timing a bit different.

    People often express surprise that I am a religious scientist. They assume that it is a contradiction in terms. Actually, the more science I understand - the more I am in awe.

    I would love to hear your talk. Please let us know if there is a podcast or other way to listen.

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  6. Wondering if you saw Newsweek article (May 28) on Multiverse possibilities, plus possibility of Higgs Boson, and how/whether it expands your thinking re: our spirit's relationship to the cosmos?

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  7. Quantum mechanics was a good example; could you give other specific examples which show how science helps you to better practice/understand/experience your faith?

    Philosophy and theology are also sometimes seen at cross purposes, even with the whole handmaiden deal going on

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  8. Hope it goes well. Mine would be the opposite of Gaye's. Why is it that some scientists spend so much energy trying to disprove God, how can I convince them that I would rather have them spend that energy studying science.

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  9. If I hadn't seen this too late, I'd have attended and brought my daughter, who is under the impression that if it's scientific, the Church has taught against it. (I think she got this from a teacher at school, and it's sticking hard.)

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