(Originally published March 31, 2009. This is still an important meeting grounds for those of us involved in caring for creation–science helps us know how to best take care of God’s world. There was a recent article on Today’s Christian Woman entitled, “Embracing Science” that gets into the nitty gritty of why faith and science go hand-in-hand, not in combat but in worship.)
It was a brief and on the surface completely unremarkable conversation. Two conference speakers complimenting each other on their talks, discussing points each one appreciated in the other’s presentation.
But this encounter was somewhat unusual and possibly quite special. The scene played out at Kansas State University, in the midst of an academic symposium on sustainability issues in Africa. I was one of the participants in the conversation, and had, the day before, presented a talk on ‘mobilizing the African church to respond to the African environmental crisis.’ The other speaker was a representative of a prominent and important botanical garden, and had just presented what I considered the best talk of the conference on dealing with biodiversity loss in Madagascar.
As it happens, Madagascar is one of the richest – and one of the poorest – countries in the world. Rich in plants, animals and insects that are found no where else. [Your favorite zoo animal, the Lemur, is found only on Madagascar, for example.] 90% of the animals there are ‘endemic’ – they occur only on this one, large island. But Madagascar is poor – the people who live among this rich abundance are among the poorest in the world. And both groups – the plants and the people – are under great pressure. Plants and animals are going extinct. People are going hungry. Which one do we help?
We two agreed – we have to help both or we will end up helping neither. My talk – mobilizing the church – meshed perfectly with my friend’s approach to his work: “People are a large part of the problem, but people have to be part of the solution as well…” and we went on to discuss possible ways that we might be able work together to achieve a goal we both want: A solution to the pressures that are squeezing the flora and fauna and the people of Madagascar.
So what was unusual or remarkable about this conversation? Well, I’m a preacher – a confirmed evangelical Christian. The whole conference knew that because of my talk the day before. And he is a scientist, specifically a botanist, and a “devout atheist” (his words). He has no belief in God but he has a passion for the plants of Madagascar and a very real concern for the people who live there. We come from such different worlds that many people – from each of our worlds – would have wondered what we even had to talk about, let alone how we could discuss the potential of working together.
Two worlds – science and faith – met today, shook hands, and agreed that we can help each other.
That is no small thing.
[to be continued, I’m sure…]
Cross-posted at Sustain Lane.