As we take on the topic of awe and wonder one more time, it is worth highlighting a headline that caught the attention of many, “How a Bit of Awe Can Improve Your Health,” in the New York Times on Jan. 3.
The timing was perfect in that New Years is often a time when we often mull where we have been and how we can make a new start for the year. The article also came as our societal stresses have perhaps never been higher with concepts such as eco-anxiety may lead some to succumb to apathy.
Psychologists Dacher Keltner of the University of California and Jonathan Haidt, who was at the University of Virginia in 2003, came up with the idea of the “Science of Awe,” which has taken on a life all its own. They are quoted as writing in the journal Cognition and Emotion 20 years ago, “Fleeting and rare, experiences of awe can change the course of life in profound and permanent ways.”
But how does that awe translate into the intersection of faith and science? This month, Bruce Booher explores the connection between awe and wonder in our modern world that is dominated by busyness, lack of a sabbath and an increasing issue of nature deficit disorder.
“We have much less contact with the natural world, God’s creation, than previous generations had. We work indoors. We relax by watching TV or being on the computer. We drive in cars rather than walking. All but the brightest stars of the night sky are drowned out for most people by city lights,” writes Booher, who also leads congregations in star viewing events wearing both his hats of pastor and astronomer. “All these things and many more limit our contact with the natural world and decrease the likelihood of our being struck by awe. This problem is growing with each generation.”
With that in mind, we look again at the idea that for people of faith there is a greater impetus to consider more sustainable ways of living. Lou Ann Trost, who, like Booher, also serves on the steering committee for the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology, reviewed for Covalence a recent book on the topic of sustainability and faith by former ELCA campus pastor Ron Rude.
Lastly in the news section, we look at the possibility of the future being one of robotics and artificial intelligence. Computer scientist and theologian Noreen Herzfeld has provided an updated view on robotics and artificial intelligence in a new book on relationships between humans and the divine as we enter the “robotic age” in her new book
We hope you find some moments of awe in this month’s issue.
Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.