Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Science and religion, all things considered

ON a rare relaxed evening recently, with nothing on the TV (why is it that there’s nothing to

ON a rare relaxed evening recently, with nothing on the TV (why is it that there’s nothing to watch now we have so many channels to choose from?!), we decided to watch again the DaVinci Code and to follow it with Angels and Demons, two of the films based on Dan Brown’s controversial novels based on his somewhat skewed ideas about the Roman Catholic church.

Apart from the stunning visual effects (how do you recreate a papal funeral on a computer?) both films (and books) raise the question of the relationship between science and religion.

It’s an age old question in which neither side (particularly the Church) comes out smelling of roses.

And yet both films, quite rightly in my view, stop to ask the question, “Is there a real conflict between the two or is the conflict purely in the minds of blinkered churchmen or scientists?’

Many years ago I heard several lectures on the subject at a time when the two sides really were slogging it out over which should exist and which should be consigned to the pages of history or should be gagged for all eternity.

The lectures were given by an American theologian who had written a wonderful little book called — in a way Dan Brown would imitate — A Rumour of Angels.

In both the book and the lectures, the case was put for both sides but, rather than suggesting that the one should annihilate the other, it was suggested convincingly that both should be able to exist side by side and in fact should individually illuminate the other, science telling us things about religion and religion telling us things about science.

Recent science tells us that the so-called “God Particle’ has finally been proved to exist by the fascinating work carried on at the large hadron collider on the French-Swiss border.

But even scientists are now uneasy about calling the Higgs-boson particle by such a grandiose name. Evidently it does not warrant being given the title of the source of all creation and, like so many scientific answers before, has simply opened up a whole new group of questions. I can see my American lecturer sitting back even now in his chair and smiling  knowingly.

The world around us contains many wonders and many terrors. The cry of a newborn baby is echoed by the agony of those caught up in natural and man-made disasters. And all the time we have been looking only through one eye at the problems and opportunities of the world — either the eye of science or the eye of religion.

I am with my American author and lecturer in wanting everyone to open both eyes — and ears — so that even in this complex modern world we can hear and see the rumour of angels and glorify and give thanks to God for the wonder, complexity and fragility of his Creation which we seek, using our God-given intelligence, to comprehend.

“Lord, open our eyes to see you and our ears to hear you, that as we live our lives day by day as a beloved and wondrous part of your creation, our vision may not be blinded by the bright lights, nor our ears deafened by the roar of our modern world, so that we may see and hear you in both the great and the small things of our existence. Amen.’

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