Last week, I attended and participated in a conference at Fuller Seminary called “Talk of God, Talk of Science.” I’m always happy to return to Fuller, and I was warmly received, particularly by president-elect, Mark Labberton. Fuller’s a good place, people. Believe me.
Anyhoo, the background of the conference is that it was supported and underwritten by the Templeton Foundation, particularly the Scientists in Congregations Project. By a show of hands, it seemed that over 1/3 of the attendees were part of that project. Everyone at this conference was a fan of science. Everyone wants faith and science to embrace and make whoopee. That was the de facto assumption in the room.
What I found most interesting about the talks that I heard was that they all dealt with one particular issue in the science and religion world: evolution and creation. That was the case study around which the talks that I heard revolved (I probably heard 2/3′s of the plenary talks at the conference).
I sat on a panel on Friday evening, and, when asked about my experience of science in the church, observed what I’d seen that day. And then I said, “No one under 40 gives a crap about creationism. Only Baby Boomers care about that.”
I realize that’s somewhat hyperbolic. There are recalcitrant GenXers and Millennials who take their kids to the Creation Museum and subject them to Answers in Genesis curriculum. But, please. Those are the dark and musty corners of conservatism that will never change. As Jesus said, “The anti-science refuseniks will always be with you.”
I think that’s true. The “science vs. evolution” debate is over. No one with any significant cultural capital believes in a young earth (and don’t tell me that Colbert plaything Louie Gohmert has cultural capital). So I worry that the Christians who were presenting at the conference are fighting a battle that’s already been won.
In a follow-up question, I was asked what are the vexing issues for science at faith for younger Christians. For one, I think the science regarding human sexuality needs to be thoroughly vetted in churches. I remarked that if the scientists and theologians had given their talks on that topic, there wouldn’t have been nearly so much mutual admiration in the room.
And how about the bioethics of stem cells and of human cloning?
There are lots of issues that science has brought to the fore that the church has not dealt with sufficiently. If we’re still beating up on the creationists, it’s because we’re too timid to wade into more turgid scientific waters. It’s time to turn our attention to more pressing matters of science and faith.
Next to me on the panel was longtime friend, Andy Crouch. He said that, being married to a scientist who studies quantum theory, they have dinner table family discussion about science all the time. He admitted to not understanding quantum theory all that well, but he did say this: Unlike some previous scientific paradigms, quantum theory bends not toward closed systems of rationality, but toward openness, mystery, and paradox.
If he’s right, these will be fruitful times to be a science-appreciating Christian.