Astronomy as Theology
When we consider what religion is for mankind, and what science is, it is no exaggeration to say that the future course of history depends upon the decision of this generation as to the relations between them.
Religion will not regain its old power until it can face change in the same spirit as science does.
The Beauty of Science
Science is not simply a stockpile of information, it is a global culture. It offers a language and set of practices which are employed by people in all parts of the world who would rather seek truth together than fight each other. It encourages people to settle arguments by evidence not ideology. It offers a way of understanding the world which, when considered deeply, evokes awe and wonder. It provides insights conducive to survival and well-being. And it is, or can be, a whole lot of fun. In short, science what religion ought to do but so often doesn't do.
This doesn't mean that science is perfect or that it has no limits. It can fall into its own idolatries, making a god of science itself. It can forget that there is more to life, but not less, than can be understood scientifically. Its insights can be employed (and are employed) for many destructive ends. It does not naturally induce certain character traits which are essential to healthy ideals: a sense of empathy and justice, for example. Science is beautiful but incomplete.
What is the future of science? And how might science further enrich humanity in the future? Listen to the lecture below by Martin Rees, it is called A Vision for the Future of Science. The lecture is sponsored by one of the most progressive think-tanks in the world: The Royal Society of the Arts.
Martin Rees is a Fellow of Trinity College and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. He was Master of Trinity from 2004-2012 and President of the Royal Society from December 2005 to December 2010. He is also Visiting Professor at Leicester University and Imperial College London. He was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1995, and was nominated to the House of Lords in 2005 as a cross-bench peer. He was appointed a member of the Order of Merit in 2007.
Lord Rees studied at Cambridge University and then held post-doctoral positions at Cambridge, California and Princeton before becoming a Professor at Sussex University. In 1973, he became a fellow of King's College and Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge, a post he held for eighteen years. For ten years, he was director of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy....more
Astronomy as Theology
Astronomy is the oldest of the sciences, and it introduces us to our largest shared environment, We may differ in religion, race, gender, ethnicity, and political philosophy, but we share a common sanctuary. The heavens above.
Perhaps there was a time when wise men from the East were our best help in learning to behold our sanctuary. The world still needs its poets and stargazers.
But today it is the astronomers themselves who have become our priests, too. They may or may not evoke in us a sense that the stars are nested within a still more spacious environment whom some call God. But they do evoke in us a humility to recognize that we humans are small but included in a much larger whole, and that we are not the center of things. And religion at its best is always about becoming decentered. That is, about awakening into something that is vast, mysterious, enveloping, beautiful and a little frightening, too. The natural response is one of the holiest of emotions: awe.
Martin Rees introduces us to the context in his RSA talk on the left and offers us much, much more. As we listen to the first part of his talk ourimaginations are rightly stretched beyond the narrow contours of human-centered thinking. We enjoy what one gifted theologian, Mayra Rivera Rivera, calls touches of transcendence.