Faith and Science: At War No More -- Sightings

On the faith and science war front, Martin Davis writes in a Sightings essay, that at least regarding climate change there is some evidence of collaboration. Of course, even as some in the religious community welcome the opportunity to work for the betterment of the planet -- the same can't be said for many in the political realm, but that's a different issue.

In this piece, Davis, director of the Congregational Resource Guide, and a blogger on faith and the environment, gives evidence of ways that religious communities have pitched in.


Sightings 12/3/09

Faith and Science: At War No More

-- Martin Davis

Since Galileo first turned his telescope skyward, faith communities and science leaders have routinely clashed. But scientists committed to climate change are finding a partner, not an enemy, in faith.

In early December, the world’s powers are meeting in Copenhagen to map out the future for carbon emissions law and policy post-2012, when the Kyoto Protocols expire. The degree of change that scientists are talking about is staggering – keeping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below 350 parts per million; eighty percent reduction in total GHG emissions by 2050 – and beyond the ability of most people, myself included, to process. We want to help the environment, but what’s a reasonable response for the average homeowner? What types of practices can communities implement to address the problem without breaking the bank? Though many groups are working to develop practical responses – the EnergyStar program in the United States is a shining example –religious organizations may well be doing some of the best work. Large religious organizations and small religious communities have been addressing climate issues for more than thirty years. And they have distinguished themselves by providing practical steps that houses of worship and parishioners can take to be part of the climate change solution

The Many Heavens, One Earth conference recently wrapped up at Windsor Castle, where representatives from more than thirty religious traditions spelled out seven-year plans for reducing carbon footprints. These plans are notable not for their grand objectives, which are many – the Muslim plan, for example, includes proposals to develop ten major Muslim cities as green city models, the most prominent being Medina in Saudi Arabia – but for the practical ideas that they provide, which many congregation can put into practice. For example, Daoists in China are installing solar panels at all their temples in China; the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore is developing its new forty-one-million-dollar church to be energy-efficient, and its garden a center for teaching people about growing their own food as a means of returning to a simpler lifestyle; the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania is implementing an intensive tree planting campaign, with 8.5 million trees to create community forests across the region, of which two thirds will be raised locally.

Such proposals have come not from religious leadership, necessarily, but from local congregations determined to do something to make a difference. Some are taking small steps: Several years ago, at tiny St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, the parish’s children built a worm-bin so they could convert food wastes into rich soil for their gardens. The idea was so well received that now the church has launched an annual blessing of the worms that is drawing state-wide attention and showing that all efforts on the environmental front matter. Others are taking bigger steps: The Reverend Tri Robinson took his desire to live a simpler life to its logical conclusion, building a totally sustainable home and a faith community dedicated to doing the same at Vineyard church in Boise.

The Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology has long been gathering these practical applications, accumulating hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of faith communities living out a lifestyle committed to preserving the earth. The marriage of faith and science around climate change is key to reversing the downward ecological spiral the earth finds itself in. And as a nice aside, the climate change issue may well prove a key to finally ending the faith and science wars that have raged for 400 years.

For further information:

Many Heavens, One Earth: Faith Commitments to Protect the Living Planet
Earth Ministry: Blessing of the Worm Bin
Vineyard Church, Boise
Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology

Martin Davis is Director of the Congregational Resource Guide and blogs on environmental issues at CRG Green. He was the principal author of the 2009 ICT Green Report: Energy & Environmental Trends & Forecasts.


In the November 2009 edition of the Religion and Culture Web Forum, Mark Scott of Concordia University strives to develop a paradigm that frames "new trajectories for research in theodicy in religious studies." He develops an analogy--"Theodicy as Navigation"--"a ship caught in a violent storm at sea"--for the function of theodicy within religious experience. In this way, according to Scott, the conversation may diverge "beyond the 'what' of theodicy . . . to the 'how,'" thus moving to a level of analysis that illuminates "the personal experience of suffering and the effort to render it meaningful." With formal responses from Charles Long (UCSB, emeritus), Sally Stamper (University of Chicago Divinity School), Kevin Taylor (Boston University), and Bryan L. Wagoner (Harvard University).

Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.


Anonymous said…
It's hard to find any good news. Especially after the email fiasco. Here's some-

David Mc
Anonymous said…
I meant in the current news cycle. Grass root efforts, individuals and communities embracing the issue are what are really needed. We're all in the same boat, but some are trying to make this out as some kind of conspiracy theory. The conspiracy is actually by the loudest detractors, and it has been going on for years.

A genius’ work lead to the coining of the term "greenhouse effect" in the late 19th century. Svante Arrhenius (hey, he helped set up the Nobel prizes by the way) thought it would be a good thing, halting the next ice age and increasing crop yields. He underestimated our unthinkable lifestyle a bit though.

"Arrhenius expected CO2 levels to rise at a rate given by emissions in his time. Since then, industrial carbon dioxide levels have risen at a much faster rate: Arrhenius expected CO2 doubling to take about 3000 years; it is now estimated in most scenarios to take about a century."

We still use his "theories" today in modern chemistry labs around the world because they work so well.

Not “erroneous” science. We can’t wish this away. In fact, I predict future generations will look on this effect (and the cooling economy) as the reasons they exist. Without the greenhouse effect, we would eventually die out in our own filth. Can’t wait till we install the solar collectors on Central Woodward’s roof! David Mc
Anonymous said…
Of course, in Michigan wind generators would be more practical for a start. We have plenty of wind..:) Too bad we can't revover the wind and hot air from blogs! David Mc
Anonymous said…
Well, you win either way-

Popular posts from this blog

Resist and Persist (Erin Wathen) -- A Review

A Mother's Wisdom -- A Sermon for Mother's Day

Is Barton Stone a Eusebian?