Thursday, May 08, 2008

Evangelical-Scientist collaboration on saving the planet

Here is a good example of science-religion cooperation: Saving "Gods's creation" unites scientist, evangelical leader:
A Nobel laureate scientist and a leader of the evangelical Christian movement walk into a restaurant.

It sounds like the setup for a joke, a scenario that is screaming for a punch line that plays off the seemingly endless disagreements between faith and science.

But this is a true story, and Dr. Eric Chivian and the Rev. Richard Cizik have come up with a zinger no one could expect. They went to lunch together to agree on something - the need to curb negative human impact on the Earth. And the partnership they formed that afternoon in 2005 has led this odd couple of the environmental movement to be named, today, to Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

"I must admit I approached that meeting with some anxiety," said Chivian (pronounced chih-vee-an), director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, "I'm involved in evolutionary biology. I support stem cell research. I have gay friends who are married. I felt I had positions that would be at odds with his."

Cizik (pronounced sigh-zik), vice president for governmental affairs for the 45,000-church National Association of Evangelicals in Washington, D.C,, had similar reservations. But, as they point out, they were not there to discuss their differences. What brought them together is what Chivian calls "a deep, fundamental commitment to life on earth."

Together, they formed the Scientists and Evangelicals Initiative, which aims to unite the two communities to help bring an environmental message into the large and powerful evangelical movement.

But evolution can still be a problem for evangelicals. Here is an example where many reject science altogether:
The problem, according to Cizik, is that many in the evangelical community have built a barrier between themselves and the scientific community because of the way they have been treated for their belief in creation over evolution. As a consequence, many have made what Cizik calls the illogical decision to turn a deaf ear to what science has to say about climate change.
How did they make this thing work without a conflict:
On the whole, both Chivian and Cizik said their scientist-evangelical partnership has gone smoother than either anticipated. Before bringing both sides into the same room, Chivian consulted with conflict resolution specialists; they never needed them. The scientists have agreed to refer to the natural world as the creation, and evangelicals have painted the broader issue under the umbrella term "creation care." (Chivian, personally, thinks "Armageddon in slow motion" is a more apt description.)
So is there a problem for scientists to call the natural world as "the creation"? Hmm...its a close call (how about - "the creation" [of the Earth from natural processes]?). Environment is a serious issue right now - and if this is what it takes to bring a large segment of the population on board, then perhaps its ok. Of course, there should not be any compromise on evolution or on mentioning the age of the Earth in billions of years. Carl Sagan in the late 80s and in the 90s reached a similar conclusion and considered environmentalism to be an excellent place for science & religion cooperation. The Scientists and Evangelicals Initiative is one example of how this cooperation may look like.

Read the full article here.