23 September, 2005

Batten down the hatches

Here come the evacuees...or not. Welcome to the roller coaster that has been the last four days.

A group of my extended family consisting of one grandmother (we call her "Sweetmama," and that pretty much tells you all you need to know), one aunt, four cousins, their four kids, five dogs, seven cats, and a big loud white bird all loaded up into cars and started driving this way.

Fourteen hours later, they had traveled fifty miles and were almost out of gas. So they turned around. Sweetmama said something about preferring to go back and drown rather than keep sitting on the freeway going nowhere, which at the time almost sent my mother into hysterics. I hope we all live long enough for that to become a family joke.

So, lacking other options, they went home. They're all gathering at somebody else's house, which is too long a story for a blog and not interesting anyway, and they are presumably trying to find hatches to batten down. As of Friday afternoon, it's only a category three storm, which means that they'll only lose power for a couple of weeks, and hopefully only have to replace the carpets.

We're hosting a big group of evacuees from a church in League City, and of course there are still New Orleansites (or whatever they call themselves) by the thousand.

14 September, 2005

Intelligent design and stupid people

Excerpted from a recent article for the parish newsletter:

I’ve been overhearing a number of conversations recently about the “Intelligent Design” theory that’s being debated for inclusion in high school curricula. The two sides of this debate seem to not necessarily be listening to one another, and more is at stake than textbooks.

In brief, an intelligent design theory postulates that certain complexities of the observable universe can best be explained by positing an intelligent designer. (In Star Trek, this was the uber-alien race that went along tinkering with life on various worlds for some reason or another.) The main problem with the theory in a high school curriculum is that there’s no real way to test it according to the principles of the scientific method. It’s not something that can be experimented on and verified.

By definition, evolutionary theory has no room for God at all. But if we admit that the idea that God created the universe is not verifiable in a high school science lab, does that mean it’s not true?

Scientists employ Darwin's theory of evolution as the best framework for understanding the complexity of creation and its ongoing development. The vast majority of scientific evidence indicates that Darwin’s hypothesis was mostly correct. But in the same way that Newtonian physics makes sense until you get to the edges (and then we turn to Einstein and others), when we start thinking about the origins and purpose of life we have to look elsewhere than the science lab.

It’s a question that people of faith have struggled with for thousands of years. There are no less than three creation stories in the Bible, saying that God is the ground and source of all things, that human beings have from the beginning attempted to set ourselves up as God, and that God came into the world in the person of Christ Jesus. None of these stories attempt to answer the question how God did these things.

Bishop Schori of Nevada, a PhD scientist, weighed in recently on the issue. She claims that our Anglican heritage of building our faith on scripture, tradition, and reason allows room for both evolution and God’s design, and I agree with her. My fear is that, in the argument, we will forget to tell our children that there is a greater depth to life, a greater depth to God’s love, than data can ever suggest.

* * *

what drives me crazy about this debate is that people are using it as a bludgeon for their particular religious point of view. What the conservative Christians are up in arms about is the overarching idea that Newtonian physics, and evolutionary theory, do not allow for God's action. Things pushed off of tables will fall. All the time. What goes up will come down. All the time. People who eat poisonous food will die. (at least the vast majority of the time) And if there's an event that doesn't seem to fit, it's because we weren't paying attention and didn't see the cause, or if we wanted to recreate it, we could experiment and find the cause.

In this kind of rigid understanding of the universe, then all that we are, all that life is, all that creation is, is merely an accident. The cosmic rays must have done this and the primordial soup done that, and the amino acids the other thing. A billion stars with a billion planets...given enough chances, toddlers will type shakespeare.

But the thing is, evolutionary theory as it's taught in schools doesn't go there. It doesn't even pretend to know the origin of life. And any good science teacher will know that you not only teach theory, you teach the theory's limits. We got this all the time in high school physics--I used to call it Proof By Calculus, i.e., "proof of this postulate/theory/law requires calculus, which is beyond the scope of this course."

And then the Episcopal Church magazine comes out with an issue that has little Darwin fish on the cover, which carefully doesn't say anything. Sigh...

13 September, 2005

Kicking and Screaming, Gladly I Come

Hello, world.

When I finally get around to writing my autobiography (an exercise in vanity which will be dutifully read by an adoring grandmother and three other bored relatives), there will be a chapter titled "Kicking and Screaming, Gladly I Come," which will cover the process of applying for ordination.

Seems as good a title as any for the blog, now that it seems I should give in and join the 21st century. If The Apostle and The Prophet and The Dramaturg and The Chief of Staff and The Naughty Church Secretary and The Rev and Uncle Orson do this, well, maybe I should attempt to join such distinguished company.

Coming soon: intelligent design?