by Susan Barreto, editor
Watering down the dialogue
Sometimes getting to the root of the issue is a challenge in religion and science. It is often left at science explains the "how" and religion explains the "why." While this is the approach taken by many in the public square, it seems that the real discussion often gets lost.
Not helping is some of the current talk that has been broadly disseminated via the Huffington Post and other media outlets as of late. Much of this approach has dipped into the juicy center of religion and science, but then gracefully bows out when the stakes get to big for religion. Then just when things were getting one-sided from the New Atheists perspective, you have the guru of self-promotion and marketing throwing his hat in the ring — Deepak Chopra.
Deepak gives us one of his classic lists in looking at science and religion. He talks about a new creation story that has yet to be born based on a metaphysic that unveils a proto-consciousness. He says that "the raw ingredients of mind may be inherent in Nature at the quantum level." I for one am not sure what that means, but another of his seven statements is purely pantheistic in that a deity may exist in every atom and molecule as the tendency to evolve.
Then in summarizing his thoughts he makes another confusing statement. Namely that any "new creation" story will need to not contradict quantum mechanics, while at the same time saying the quantum theory has reached its limit and physicists refuse to admit it. Maybe the back and forth ping pong match is an intentional way of gearing up for a new book in what is becoming a growing area of interest among the public as they try to see themselves as more than DNA and more than a cousin to the chimpanzee.
To be sure, Chopra has a large fan base along with a fair number of critics, as most personalities in the self-help realm can attest. At the same time, he shows how important it is for Christian theologians and other religions to make their own internal dialogues about science public. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has done just this with the work going into its statement on genetics.
While I do agree with Chopra that saying that the human consciousness was a random accident is going to be a hard thing for a scientist to defend, I don't think we should expect a scientist to search for the fingerprint of God on every last inch of creation.
The point is that God is there throughout creation and is a positive force for improvement in creation, but not the creation itself. The details of that relationship maybe are not important, but in keeping that idea of God at the center of creation many scientists of faith are able to have a greater appreciation of their own work. At the same time, the faithful can be drawn into the awe of it all without compromising their own beliefs.
Susan Barreto is a journalist who has been following religion and science since 2003 with articles appearing in various newsletters and The Lutheran magazine. She is also a deputy editor of a monthly hedge fund magazine owned by Euromoney Institutional Investor. Susan is a long-time member of Luther Memorial Church in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and son.
Covalence, November, 2010