My journey as a Christian and conservationist has honestly been just that – a journey. My first conservation job saw me heading out into the tropical waters of the Maldives to lead a marine conservation programme for a year. Here I faced one of the most rewarding, beautiful years of my life – and also one of the toughest.
Being embedded within a community as a marine biologist, you are faced with a reality so multidimensional that textbook knowledge really only takes you part of the way. The work is constant, conditions are challenging, and the community can feel quite hard to reach. Safe to say, engaging with humanity knocked me for six. The human dimension is arguably the most important aspect of conservation work, and I was unprepared for the types of questions and considerations this work would raise. Continue reading →
What do congregations have to teach scientists? This was the question that James K. A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, asked at the Scientists in Congregations conference in St Andrews last month. The theme of the conference was ‘Christ and Creation’, and the aim was to draw the conversation on science and religion beyond ideas of a generalised God to a discussion about science and Christianity. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago I heard writer Andy Crouch speak at the Everything Conference. His three talks on creating culture are well worth a listen. Andy’s premise is that Christians spend far too long either critiquing culture or simply going along with what is produced by others. We should be cultivating the good that is present in wider culture and creating our own cultures – not in a ‘head-in-the-sand Christian subculture way, but in a way that speaks to the whole of society. I was particularly struck by his talk on creating culture together. Some of the best projects start with two or three people around the kitchen table and expand as they bring others on board. It’s not about the genius alone in their study (though I’m sure lone geniuses – genii? – have their place).
New cultures can take time to develop. Andy quoted Patrick Shaw: ‘We greatly overestimate what we can do in one year, and underestimate what we can do in ten years’. A prime example is the growth of Christianity. On a global scale the resurrection of Jesus Christ had a minimal impact to begin with, but as churches were established and the effects on people’s lives became apparent, Christianity spread so rapidly that within a few hundred years entire nations called themselves Christian.
Of course science both operates within and impacts culture, and all of the above is extremely relevant to scientists, as Andy Crouch knows because he is married to one! Catherine Crouch is a physicist based at Swarthmore College who works on microphotoluminescence and is currently engaged on a sabbatical project studying curvature in cell membranes.
Catherine has written a ‘meditation on light’ that draws on her own work in physics as well as her Christian faith. It communicates beautifully the process of discovery leading to worship. Science clearly contributes to the creation of culture: new discoveries lead to deeper knowledge about the way the world works and helps us to develop new technologies. But, as Catherine so clearly describes, science also shapes other aspects of culture in subtle yet far-reaching ways: a deeper understanding of the world around us impacts the way we see the world and what we believe in.