Handbook of the Fellowship of Scientists

Readings 31-40


As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves - goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying what I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is-
Christ - for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


...It was good.

And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Gen. 1:20-25


The Notion of "Year"

I wonder how long it would take you to notice the regular recurrence of the seasons if you were the first man on earth. What would it be like to live in open-ended time broken only by days and night? You could say, "it's cold again; it was cold before," but you couldn't make the key connection and say, "it was cold this time last year," because the notion of "year" is precisely the one you lack. Assuming that you hadn't yet noticed any orderly progression of heavenly bodies, how long would you have to live on earth before you could feel with any assurance that any one particular long period of cold would, in fact, end? "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease": God makes this guarantee very early in Genesis to a people whose fears on this point had perhaps not been completely allayed.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, pg. 75


He arranged his works in an eternal order...

When the Lord created his works from the beginning,
and, in making them, determined their boundaries,
He arranged his works in an eternal order,
and their dominion for all generations.

They neither hunger nor grow weary, and they do not abandon their tasks.
They do not crowd one another, and they never disobey his word.
Then the Lord looked upon the earth, and filled it with his good things.
With all kinds of living beings he covered its surface, and into it they must return.

The Lord created human beings out of earth,
and makes them return to it again.
He gave them a fixed number of days,
but granted them authority over everything on the earth.

He endowed them with strength like his own, and made them in his own image.
He put the fear of them in all living beings, and gave them dominion over beasts and birds.
Discretion and tongue and eyes, ears and a mind for thinking he gave them.
He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil.

He put the fear of him into their hearts
to show them the majesty of his works.
And they will praise his holy name,
to proclaim the grandeur of his works.

Sir. 16:26-17:10


Probability and Belief in General

As we anticipated at the outset of this section our excursion into the use of probabilistic reasoning in theology has shown little more than show how difficult is is. Nevertheless there is value in exposing the inadequacies of many arguments on both sides of the question since these have often been presented and received as virtual proofs. We have seen that we should attach little value to degrees of confidence couched in probabilistic terms and place little weight on deductive reasoning based upon them.
On a more positive note it may be possible to introduce some degree of calibration into discussions of uncertainty in theological and biblical studies. This can be done, and has been done, in more mundane fields like weather forecasting; the skills of bookmakers in this regard should not be despised either despite the remoteness of their subject matter from the present field of interest. More important, perhaps, is to arrive at a better understanding of the way in which uncertain evidence can be combined. The structure of an argument from uncertainty may be more important than the actual values of the probabilities involved. In our earlier example of reliability where we supposed that the chance of failure was one half it would not have mattered much what the probability was or whether it was the same for each component. As long as there were enough components the reliability could have been made as high as desired.
The hope of obtaining a high degree of belief in the kind of matters with which religion deals must, it seems, rest not on a single knockdown argument but on a mutually supporting set of considerations which, though not convincing individually, combine to yield a secure base for belief.

Can Scientists Believe?, pp. 63-64


Everything created by God is good

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God's word and by prayer. If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives' tales. Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

1Tim. 4:4-8


"Hallowing" the things of creation

Take just the top inch of soil, the world squirming right under my palms. In the top inch of forest soil, biologists found "an average of 1,356 living creatures present in each square foot, including 865 mites, 265 springtails, 22 millipedes, 19 adult beetles and various numbers of 12 other forms.... Had an estimate also been made of the microscopic population, it might have ranged up to two billion bacteria and many millions of fungi, protozoa and algae-in a mere teaspoonful of soil." The chrysalids of butterflies linger here too, folded, rigid, and dreamless. I might as well include these creatures in this moment, as best I can. My ignoring them won't strip them of their reality, and admitting them, one by one, into my consciousness might heighten mine, might add their dim awareness to my human consciousness, such as it is, and set up a buzz, a vibration like the beating ripples a submerged muskrat makes on the water, from this particular moment, this tree. Hasidism has a tradition that one of man's purposes is to assist God in the work of redemption by "hallowing" the things of creation. By a tremendous heave of his spirit, the devout man frees the divine sparks trapped in the mute things of time: he uplifts the forms and moments of creation, bearing them aloft into that rare air and hallowing fire in which all days must shatter and burst. Keeping the subsoil world under trees in mind, in intelligence, is the least I can do.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, pg. 96


A man planted a vineyard...

He began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.' But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, 'This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.' So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others."

Luke 20:9-16


World views that favor science

What then is the attitude to the world that might encourage the birth of science? If we are even to start to think about the world in a way that could lead to the development of science we must believe that it is good and worthy of study, that it is rational and contingent, and that we have some hope of understanding it. If the world is not rational, if what we find out one day is not true the next, or in other places, then all systematic knowledge would be impossible. The rationality of the world could be of two different kinds, necessary or contingent. If its rationality is necessary, so that it could not be otherwise, then we might hope to find out about it by pure thought, like mathematics. Some attempts have been made to develop science in this way, but without success. But if we believe that the rationality of the world is contingent, that it could be otherwise, then to find out what sort of rationality it is we have to look at the world carefully and make experiments.
Scientific research is not easy; the world does not readily yield its secrets. The scientist must have a strong motivation to encourage him to continue in spite of the difficulties he encounters. Science is a cooperative endeavour, the work of many people helping and stimulating each other. For this to happen, it must be accepted that any knowledge gained must be freely shared and not jealously guarded as an esoteric secret.
These are some of the more important beliefs that we might reasonably expect to be held by a community if science is to develop spontaneously within it. They may indeed seem rather obvious beliefs, hardly worth listing, but that is because we are living in a civilization that does indeed take them for granted. In other civilizations matter has been variously considered to be unworthy of study, evil, chaotic, ruled by capricious gods or demons and so on. A very general belief found in most ancient civilizations is that of cycles of years in which everything will be repeated again and again for ever. Such a belief is extremely debilitating for anyone who wants to improve the human condition, and its presence is another reason why science did not develop in ancient times.

Can Scientists Believe?, pp. 68-69


A right reverence for created matter

In former times God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake; who willed to make his abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation! I honor it, but not as God. How could God be born out of things which have no existence in themselves? God's body is God because it is joined to his person by a union which shall never pass away. The divine nature remains the same; the flesh created in time is quickened by a soul endowed with reason.
Because of this I salute all the rest of matter with reverence, because God has filled it with his grace and power. Through it my salvation has come to me. Was not the thrice-happy and thrice-blessed wood of the cross matter? Was not the holy and exalted mountain of Calvary matter? What of the life-bearing rock, the holy and life-giving tomb, the fountain of our resurrection, was it not matter? Is not the ink in the most holy Gospel-book matter? Is not the life-giving altar made of matter? From it we receive the bread of life! Are not gold and silver matter? From them we make crosses, patens, chalices! And over and above all these things, is not the Body and Blood of our Lord matter?
Either do away with the honor and veneration these things deserve, or accept the tradition of the Church and the veneration of images. Reverence God and his friends; follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. Nothing God has made is despicable. To think such things is Manichaeism. Only that which does not have its source in God is despicable - that which is our own invention, our willful choice to disregard the law of God - namely, sin.

The Anglican Tradition, #74, 726-30

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