Why Cosmology Matters

Is cosmology important, or a diversion from
<i>really</i> important concerns? I’ve been giving this some
thought. It’s really an attempt to perceive and conceive about spiritual life
beyond the cosmology laid out by Alfred North Whitehead, but taking into
consideration the theories that are percolating by such theorists as Stephen
Hawking. In an earlier post I asked who’s doing cosmology and theology today,
because I don’t think one can be a person of faith today without pulling these
two ways of understanding, perceiving and conceiving together. The culture wars
debate doesn’t do this. We must continue to situate the place of human beings
and all other “beings” in a holistic approach.

When I raised the question about how, or if, cosmology matters today, I wasn’t trying to display naivete’.

Given the culture wars that pit science against religion through the debate about creation and evolution, or the attempt by the proponents of Grand Design theory to develop a rationale that accommodates God in the scientific equation of creation, it’s a very relevant question.

The dialogue between scientists and theologians is essential because the two–science and religion–affect everyone of us in profound ways, and as a result the two become interrelated. Theological approaches that don’t broach the subject of science at all, or give it short-shrift, are simply inadequate. In our day-to-day livest the people of the world are profoundly affected by both science and religion.

If the two don’t talk to each other, or don’t see the value of the other, then each is impoverished and the rest of us are left to put them together in some fashion on our own. We must do this because we are confronted with decisions that result from scientific advances that affect us intimately. In vitro fertilization, stem cell therapy, genetics, cloning and amniocentesis are just a few of the techniques and disciplines that result in ethical and moral decisions imposed upon us by scientific advancement. These are not theoretical discussions held in the abstract. Sometimes they are very real, significant discussions held in the family room or hallway of a hospital.

Both science and religion pursue truth, but each in its own unique way. And each within a specific cultural context that both must somehow transcend to achieve a level of truthfulness that is as universal as any human endeavor can be. Quite a challenge, isn’t it?

Beyond this, both seek a range of positive results. Science seeks to improve our understanding of the universe, and sometimes more directly, to improve our lives through disease prevention, more productive and disease resistant seeds, medications, safety devices and environmental protection. Religion seeks to offer us meaning, purpose, ethical frameworks upon which to build our lives and to point to the presence of the divine in our finite existence.

Rather than viewing these two in tension, I believe they must be in dynamic interaction, and even engaged in complementary sharing of information. It’s naive’ to assume that religion can halt the search for truth that propels science forward and it’s arrogant for science to assume that scientific knowledge is sufficient for living a full, meaningful life. Both endeavors are carried out by human beings who have limitations that should humble practitioners of each.

And this universal quality raises a wider consideration. The search for truth is a global conversation. It can’t be limited to national boundaries or cultural contexts. It is beyond containment within the constructions of the human community.

So cosmology does matter. And so, too, do the physical sciences, theoretical physics, quantum physics, genetics and a host of other scientific disciplines. And the conversation between those who work in these disciplines and religion–in my case Christian religion–is a critical one. It’s not enough to curtail scientific inquiry and impose religious doctrine in its place. The two deserve better treatment than this. It’s impossible to live in the global society and not take these two interrelated endeavors into serious consideration, much more serious than the culture wars have demonstrated so far.

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