Our exploration of faith in the light of science has a long history, perhaps longer than many of us realize. In this month’s edition of Covalence, not only do we look back at historical interfaith meetings including science, but we explore how findings in the arena of physics over time shifted to give us a more comprehensive view of the world.
As leaders prepare to meet in August at the Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago, new vistas of shared exploration are still coming to light even as we celebrate the one year since the James Webb Space Telescope began providing us with dazzling new images of the farthest reaches of the universe.
Pastor and physicist George Murphy reminds us that many of the key findings of how our physical world works were up for debate at the turn of the century. He explains the Planck scale, named after famed physicist Max Planck, who in the 1890s found an equation that essentially helped uncover quantum mechanics to support a new area of study related to physical matter and energy.
And just as we would love to see a so-called “theory of everything” in physics, it is clear there is much we don’t know and may even disagree about in the name of ‘knowing’.
Around the same time as Planck, global religious leaders representing both Eastern religions and Christianity came together at the first Parliament of World’s Religions in 1893 in Chicago. The aim has been to foster “engagement with the world and its guiding institutions to address the critical issues of our time.” Then too there was a discussion on what we know about God.
And while leaders in faith communities or scientific endeavors may likely disagree on some issues just as they did back then, it is clear that the aspect of engagement is what can lead to fruitful discovery and new ideas. After all, Murphy reminds us that Schrodinger’s infamous cat thought experiment has sparked so many theories and speculation over the years that have in turn led to new fields of study and discovery.
And while physicists cannot point to a unifying theory that would suggest the presence of a force or God behind it all nor a single set of rules within the universe perhaps, it should not be surprising that even today so many people have differing views of faith.
And for that realization we should be thankful that in all times and in all places, there is even more to explore within ourselves and within the universe we call home.
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.