Re: [asa] scientist-clergy contacts

From: Merv <>
Date: Sat Jun 16 2007 - 12:32:53 EDT

David Campbell wrote:
> The Clergy Letter Project (which seeks to accumulate statements of
> support for evolution from clergy) also is promoting Evolution Sunday.
> While I am doubtful that one needs to devote a sermon every year to
> evolution, their current effort at promoting scientist-clergy dialogue
> sounds worthwhile. Here's the relevant info:"
> "As The Clergy Letter Project matures, we are attempting to provide more
> and better resources to clergy members who understand the importance of
> science and who do not find science to be a threat to their faith.
> That's where you come in.
> The Clergy Letter Project is beginning to create an on-line data base of
> scientists who are willing to answer questions posed by clergy members
> and who are excited about the possibility of interacting with clergy
> members and their parishioners in an attempt to explain the beauty and
> power of science. In short, our purpose is to create a data base of
> scientists who might be willing to provide technical support to clergy
> members in need of such support.
Despite the fact that this issue is perhaps quite divisive among
individuals and groups, I wonder if an effort called "the clergy
project" could be ironically taken as an unilateral posture of unity on
the religious side? Is there an equivalent organization (perhaps a
'scientists letter project') seeking the signatures of credentialed
scientists who reject the anti-religious posturing from some of their
outspoken colleagues, and who seek the support, counseling, & expertise
of their ecclesiastical counterparts? If not, the 'dialogue' is in
danger of being a monologue. This is what those who object to this
posturing fear: the elevation of Science as the senior partner stooping
down to inform, correct, and direct a lesser and dependent partner
(religion). Whether this concern is legitimate or just a fear based on
insecurity is a good question.

The concluding request in the letter, "We ask that science remain
science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but
complementary, forms of truth." sounds a lot like S.J.Gould's NOMA. In
truth I doubt anything is packaged and hermetically sealed that neatly.

I like Polkinghorne's posture of being a missionary for both science and
Christianity as he finds both are needed. (I pasted in two extended
quotes of Polkinghorne's below.)


John C. Polkinghorne on the dialogue between science and religion:
    There remains the question of the degree of accommodation required
of the historic faith in its expression in an age of science. Barbour,
Peacocke, and I, all firmly resist the subordination of theology to
science, but there are discernible differences between us concerning the
extent of the revision that is called for in pursuing the subject
today. I have suggested that there is a spectrum of response running
from assimilation to consonance. The assimilationist seeks the most
immediate and accessible correlation between scientific and religious
thinking. Jesus Christ will still be accorded a preeminence, but this
will be understood in the functional and evolutionary terms of a "new
emergent," Christ as the pioneer of what humanity can become under the
guidance of divine inspiration. The consonantist, on the other hand,
while wishing to ensure that theological understanding is consistent
with what science tells us about the structure and history of the
physcial world, will insist that theology is as entitled as science to
retain those categories which its experience has demanded that it shall
use, however counterintuitive they may be."
--J. C. Polkinghorne, "Belief in God in an Age of Science" p. 86

...and Polkinghorne on the marginalization of both theology and science:
      That theology is thus side-lined would be a common perception; it
may seem a more surpising judgement about science, in what is frequently
asserted to be a scientific age. Consideration of media coverage, the
level of general knowledge, and what is considered interesting and
acceptable to raise in polite conversation at the dinner table, soon
convince one, however, that contemporary engagement with science is, in
the main, extremely shallow. When I give public talks about
science-and-theology, I am as much a missionary for science as for
religion. I recently was taking part in a panel discussion at a
scientific meeting. One of my companions, an outstandingly successful
Australian science journalist working mainly on radio, berated
playwrights for the way in which they represented scientists as
eccentric ineffective figures, not worthy of serious respect in the
"real world." "That's funny," I said, "they do exactly the same to the
--Polkinghorne, p. 99

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Received on Sat Jun 16 12:27:42 2007

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