Faith and Wisdom in Science goes Down Under

I am at present enjoying a warm, stimulating and rich visit to several universities and colleges in Australia and New Zealand at the invitation of ISCAST (Christians in Science and Technology) and the University of Otago.  At each stop there is a chance to discuss the Faith and Wisdom in Science approach to a theology of science, and also present research on biological physics and on the Durham and collaborators project on medieval science, at relevant departments and centres. ISCAST have a page listing all the events in Australia here, so I wont list them again.  But  in Otago I will be talking about Interdisciplinary research as well as a Public lecture on the Faith and Wisdom in Science theme in their Centre for Theology and Public Issues.

KangasI had a remarkable first 3 hours in Australia.  The flight landing at 6am gave me a few hours for a breather with my affable host the ISCAST President Alan Gijsbers.  We took off to the glorious Westerfold Park in greater Melbourne – ‘would you like to go find some kangaroos?’.  And here they are looking alert and somewhat suspicious of my close and stealthy approach (stealthy for a clumsy pom that is) just before they took off.  The mother with pouched joey bounding as ably as the large males in the group earns every admiration.

Then we walked on to a bridge over the river Yarra, within the park.  Conversation continued as we gazed down towards the muddy waters.  Then there was an intriguing and oddly-shaped dark swimming animal right below us on the surface. ‘Oh look Alan – there’s a platypus’ I commented, not expecting much interest.  After all this WAS Australia and we HAD just seen a mob of kangaroos on land, so on water ….  Alan exploded with astonishment.  He has lived Platypushere for a number of years that it would be impolite to specify and this (photographed by him as it dived) was the first ever sighting by him of one in the wild.

Such good fortune has stayed with me so far during the trip in continued sightings of and conversations with rich and rare Australian human wildlife.  The questions and discussions at presentations of the wisdom approach to a Theology of Science have been as insightful as they are stimulating, from the Alan Day Memorial lecture in Melbourne, to a Tabor College Public Lecture in Adelaide, or an Emmanuel College lecture within the Centre for the Study of Science Religion and Society.

The discussion has been deepened by questions that will challenge a lot of further thinking:

  • What does a wisdom theology of science say to inform a responsible policy of forestry management? (think about it – this is a GREAT question to bring the strands together into a practical focus, and posed by Richard Gijsbers, former forester himself).
  • Does the ‘faith and wisdom’ critique of natural theology open up a new way to understand Karl Barth’s approach to the relation between theology and creation?  (I had previously absorbed a rather naïve view that Barth is not strongly relevant to a science faith dialogue, but this was hasty)
  • With Richard Gijsbers in the forest talking environmental theology in situ!

    With Richard Gijsbers in the forest talking environmental theology in situ!

  • Does the relational and invitational interpretation of the Lord’s Answer to Job add any insight to the way it might have been read in Hebrew context?  (Now this is a vital question, but a hard one as we don’t really know what the historical context was, though the exile is a good start…)
  • What is the role and meaning of ‘fear’ in the reconciliatory work between humans and nature?

This and more should keep this channel hot for a while.  And we still have Sydney and all of the New Zealand leg to go. More anon I should think.

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