SCIENCE AND FAITH AT MILLENNIUMS END
Andover Newton Theological School
19 May 1998
Summary by Paul Henry Carr
RESPONDENTS
DISCUSSION
THE OLD NURTURES THE NEW

SKEPTICS AND TRUE BELIEVERS: The Exhilarating Connection between
Science and Spirituality (Title of Raymoí s new book)
CHET RAMO, Prof. of Physics and Astronomy, Stonehill College, Easton, MA

Chet Raymoís "Science Musings" appears in the Science Section of each Mondays Boston Globe. Chet said that that his "Musings" on Science and Religion always draw the greatest response from his readers.
       All religions have:

1. STORY: A cosmology which answers how we got here and what our place is.

2. CELEBRATION and RITUAL, praise, thanksgiving

3. SPIRITUALITY: personal religious experience.

The main part of his talk was the new scientific creation story based on photographs from the Hubble Telescope. He showed the spectacular "Three Pillarís of Heaven" photo taken of the Eagle Nebula.
(http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pr/1998/18/greatest-hits-gallery.html)
When this photograph was first shown on CNN news, viewers called in to say that they had seen the face of Jesus in the clouds where new stars are being born.

He showed a photograph of a spiral galaxy similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy. We next saw the Hubble Space Telescope's Deep Field Photograph, a 10-day exposure of a part of the dark night sky so tiny it could be covered by the intersection of crossed pins held at arms length. In this photo are contained the images of several thousand galaxies, each galaxy consisting of hundreds of billions of stars and planetary systems. These galaxies were created about 12 billion years ago, shortly after the "Big Bang" origin of the universe, about 14 billion years ago. A survey of the bowl of the Big Dipper at the same scale would show 40 million galaxies. Galaxies are a numerous as snowflakes in a storm! Each has uncountable planets, strange geographies, perhaps biologies, and intelligences. In such a universe, we have to admit that the human mind singly or collectively will never be in possession of final knowledge.

He held up a model of Ptolemyís geocentric solar system and pointed out that we are not at the center of our galaxy, just as we are not the center of the Solar System.
His challenges to the graduates of Andover Newton Theological School were

Referencing Thomas Berry, he said that the New Creation Story will be universal, ecumenical (transcending religious differences), and ecological.
 

RESPONDENTS:
Prof. Owen Gingerich, Senior Astronomer, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,
Professor of Astronomy and the History of Science, Harvard University.

Prof. Gingerich noted that Godís Command: "Let There be Light" at the beginning of the Bible is supportive of present "Big Bang" Cosmology. He quoted astronomer Robert Jastrow:

"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

This statement, however, offers little help to either science or religion, the latter because it tells us nothing about God beyond his omnipotence.

Gingerich said that "centrality" was a big issue in the time of Galilio, but it no longer is. We now know that the center of our galaxy contains a Black Hole, which is not a good place for the emergence of life.

Or uniqueness is expressed by our being created in the Image of God. Gingerich interprets this as the divine spark within us, which expresses itself in our CREATIVITY (with God,) CONSCIENCE (moral sense), and our CONSCIOUSNESS. The last describes our awareness of the activity of our amazing brains, which can even comprehend our finitude and ignorance.

He noted that there is resistance to totally abandoning the Old, Biblical Creation Story, as it speaks to our total human condition. It answers such questions as
"Why do we have to suffer?" The new scientific creation story does not.
The merit of the New Story is the "nurturing" universe that gave rise to life. He would still recommend that we teach the Old Story to our children for:
"How else would they be able to understand Renaissance Art?"

REV. DR. JUDITH JENKINS KOHATSU
Pastor, BallardVale United Methodist Church, Andover, MA
Ph. D. MIT department of Metallurgy

Rev. Dr. Kohatsu particularly liked the following passage from Chet Raymoís book "SKEPTICS AND TRUE BELIEVERS:"

"We are sitting on an island of knowledge in a sea of mystery."
Cosmology, which is more encompassing than astrophysics, is vitally important for all of us for it shapes our New Story and theology. The New Story and its resulting new identification of genetic diseases is most likely to impact us as life-choice issues for pregnancies.

Our modern dilemma is similar to the Tower of Babel: there was a grand and common goal, but no cooperation. She hoped, as we move into Pentecost, that we can join in telling the New Story in all the languages of the world.

DISCUSSION
LEADER: PROF. MEREDITH B. HANDSPICKER,
Andover Newton Theology School, Ordained UCC Minister

My question to the panel was: "In about 50 years, science has changed from
"Continuous Creation" cosmology, closer the Eastern religions, to present "Big Bang" cosmology, closer the Jewish, Christian, and  Muslim creation in the Bible. What are the chances that "Big Bang" cosmology will survive for the next 50 to 100 years?"

Owen Gingerich replied that "Continuous Creation" was not that widely embraced by astronomers. He predicted that the following aspects of "Big Bang" cosmology will survive even though the details may change:

"Jerry" Handspicker replied that theology has always adapted to the cosmology of its
age, including the that of the Bible.

The experience of a "Personal God" was discussed. Chet Raymo has never had a personal encounter with God. He described himself as a "holy agnostic," one who listens and "pays attention" with the reverence of the mystical tradition. He does not believe in a personal God who would break his own laws to perform miracles.

Handspicker replied that anyone who believes that God is "a finite person" is a heretic. God is  infinite as well as a triune Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. It is nevertheless possible to encounter the Infinite as a personal "Thou," in Martin Buberís sense: an "I-Thou" relationship is more intimate and personal than an "I-It" relationship. Handspicker also mentioned Paul Ricoeur's movement from the "first naiveté" of our childhood, where we accepted creation stories literally, to the "second naiveté" of our adulthood. The latter is exemplified by a Native American storyteller, who began telling his tribe's story of creation by saying, " Now, I don't know if it happened this way or not, but I know this story is true."

Handspicker concluded by proposing that all the panel members would agree that the integration of science and religion is something "we all struggle with."

THE OLD NURTURES THE NEW

The 92 elements of all matter in our universe were synthesized from the hydrogen and helium formed after the primordial "big bang."  Gravitational attraction caused these elements to condense into stars, like our sun. There nuclear reactions between hydrogen and helium produce carbon, oxygen, and all the elements up to iron. Heavier elements, like lead and uranium, are produced in the higher temperatures of supernovae, the explosion and death of stars. This occurs  after they have burned up their hydrogen and helium. Our solar system was formed from the gravitational attraction of such "stardust" about 5 billion years ago. That is how we were made from  "stardust."

Death nurtures new life. Our food grows in fertile soil composed of decayed plants and animals as well as "stardust.". It the words of St. Francis: "In dying we are born to eternal life."

The New Covenant (Testament) of Christianity had its roots in the Old Covenant  (Testament) of Judaism. Buddhism grew out of a Hindu culture.  Hopefully, the Old Story will nurture the emergence of the New Story.