Posted by: dacalu | 12 March 2015

Making Sense of the World

Tonight, I had the pleasure of talking with the Lutheran Episcopal Ministry at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) about faith and science.  Here are my notes.


“One Hope, One Faith, One Life - being priest and scientist without living two lives”

How do I think of being both priest and scientist at the same time?
	I want to start with short and sweet.
 	It has to do with helping people make sense of the world,
 		both individually and as groups.
The world is complicated and fascinating; it takes work to understand it.
We have a tendency to separate four parts of the process:
 	generating data;
 	matching the data to models;
 	finding meaning in the models,
 		that is matching them up with what we want;
 	and applying the models to get stuff done.
We call the first science, 
 	the second theory, 
 	the third philosophy, 
 	and the fourth policy or engineering.
I think we have good reason to do so
 	and I think it can be really important to keep them separate at times.
	And other times, I think we have to keep an eye on the bigger picture,
 	the flow from experience to ideas to actions.
For all of us, our values inform our science,
 	they shape what we want to discover and how we go about generating data;
 	to some extent, they even shape what we are able to see.
I’m not making some abstract point about God only being visible to believers.
I’m reporting a concrete sociological finding that our ways of thinking
	predispose us to see some things better than others,
	and to see some things more quickly than others.
Perhaps you saw the articles on color names and seeing color 
 	that went around Facebook recently.

So I see this all as one grand endeavor 
 	of making sense of the place we find ourselves in.
Call it an interdisciplinary collaboration,
	or if you like the language of sociology,
	call it worldview construction.
I feel called to help the various parts of this process work together,
	partly because I think it’s an amazing and wonderful process,
	and partly because I think we’re particularly bad at it right now.
We’re good at the pieces, but no so good at putting them all together.

I evangelize for curiosity.
I see no other way to put it.
	The world is good. We are meant for it and it for us.
	That’s not a trivial theological claim.
	It’s something many people disagree about
		both Christians and non-Christians.
It takes this sort of value judgment
	[not this one exactly, but one like it at least]
	to go about open ended investigation of the universe.
We must do more than say that some things are worth knowing.
At some level all things must be worth knowing
	if we are to have the types of scientists who are willing
	to be surprised and intrigued and delighted
	by unexpected observations.

As an individual, I want to know about all things,
	because I think God put us together for a reason.
More than that, I want to comprehend them,
	know them deeply and truly,
	have models for how they work and why they work,
	where they’re going and how they relate to one another.
	I want to have hope for them.
This desire to know and comprehend makes me a scientist.
One step more: I want to aid the things I study,
 	help them to flourish.
	That’s a difficult task,
	as it begs the question of what it means to flourish, 
	but I have found a surprising number of scientists
		really do have this underlying desire
		to be a force for good for their subjects of study
		and for the world.

So we have a trajectory for my individual relationship with nature:
	from knowing to comprehending to aiding.
There is another trajectory that goes from individual to community.
	At each stage of the process, we can reach from
		an individual’s relationship with nature,
		to an integration of individual, community, and environment.
I want to share the knowledge I have about the world with others.
I want to conceptualize my comprehension,
	turn it into models and stories, words and pictures,
	that can leave me and travel to others.
I want to work with others in building communities,
	that work together at every stage of the process.
And I see God involved in all of it – that makes me a priest.

Both knowledge and community
	look like miracles to me.
They allow us to transcend ourselves.
I want to help that happen because, for me, 
 	it has everything to do with flourishing.
I am my best self when I live in harmony with nature and neighbor.
I have that hope for you as well,
	that something will be revealed in you
	during these encounters,
	that wresting with reality and politics,
		those two favorite epithets of modern life,
	you will find yourself blessed.

By those standards I can be conscious about my preferences and my actions.
I can encourage curiosity, reason, creativity, and care.
It comes very close to the heart of my faith and my self-understanding.
	Those are my values. 
 	Those are what I’ve chosen to devote my life to.

You don’t have to have the same breadth of interest.
Because we are one body, one community,
	you can focus in on one part of the process.
I have no doubt that scientist and engineer can be true callings.
They are vocations as much as priest or teacher,
	if God calls you to them,
	if they are your answer to the needs of your heart
	and the needs of those around you.

Relationship with Nature >>
Know	Comprehend	Aid	V Relationship
Share	Conceptualize	Build	V with Neighbor

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