Doing something mature and honest in the field of science and religion

The 2018 Drawbridge Lecture, organised by the Christian Evidence Society (which runs this blog), will be delivered by physicist and author Marcelo Gleiser. Gillian Straine, a trustee of the Society and the organiser of this year’s lecture, explains how Professor Gleiser was invited to speak on Unknowns in Heaven and Earth.

In November 2015, delegates from across the globe gathered in a medieval Swiss chateau in a meeting sponsored by a branch of the UK government and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

This may sound like a storyline from a Bond movie, but it was the third and final gathering in a fascinating series of interfaith talks about science and religion sponsored by Wilton Park, an agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, providing a global forum for strategic discussion and CERN.

Together, they were putting time and money into facilitating discussion among experts into the philosophical impacts of particle physics, the branch of physics examining the origins of the universe. The speakers represented many world faiths, and contained within their ranks were philosophers, theologians and physicists, all focusing their science and religion ponderings on the role of logic.

I was a very junior member of this illustrious group, and offered a few timid remarks in between the erudition of the heavy rollers of the academy. There were the usual face-offs between analytical types and those who liked to talk about experience, and there was plenty of boundary setting in the ever-changing dialogue about what science is allowed to study and the role of thinking and human knowledge in discerning the divine. It was fascinating and exciting to be a part of this group. But for me, one voice stood out as unique and challenging to everyone.

Professor Marcelo Gleiser was not like many of the other scientists. He was literate in theology and philosophy, and seemed committed to genuine dialogue. Later, as I read his books, I discovered that this openness was about how he sees science as an ever growing island of knowledge that expands into unknowing, rather than a pursuit after a predetermined theory of everything.

Many atheist and agnostic scientists are committed to a sort of faith position in which only they can understand and describe the world, and in which science is the only legitimate form of knowledge. Gleiser is different. He understands himself as a fellow traveller with philosophers and theologians in a much wider pursuit to understand the world. A dedicated trail runner and former fly fisherman, he seeks knowledge and relationship with the natural world as part of a holistic vocation ‘to know’.

When I was invited to organise the Drawbridge Lecture for the Christian Evidence Society, there was only one name in my mind. The Drawbridge Lecture is an event to promote evidence for the Christian faith, and for me, what could be better evidence in a world of post-truth and fake news, than to listen to a world class cosmologist, a fellow seeker, an agnostic on the existence of God, and for us as Christians to enter into a dialogue with him. The evidence is that we listen and reflect, and move away from the defensive type of presentation or dialogue with atheists and agnostics with which we have become so drearily familiar.

On 22 May 2018, at St Paul’s Cathedral, we hope to do something mature and honest in the field of science and religion in the lecture from Professor Gleiser, and the evidence of the faith that will emerge in the post lecture conversation with the Revd Dr Andrew Pinsent, director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at the University of Oxford.

Join us to see what emerges.

Entry to the lecture is by free ticket. Please register here

Photo of Marcelo Gleiser: fronteirasweb under CC BY-SA 2.0