Generous Orthodoxy  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Muggles among us (Darwin's anniversary)

Darwin's 200th birthday was the occasion for an outburst of scathing commentary on NPR. The biologists and paleontologists were called in en masse and none of them (that I heard, at least) missed an opportunity to heap disdain upon religious believers. Under gentle pressure by an interviewer, one of them admitted that he had a colleague who was a devout Roman Catholic, but by his further comments he clearly indicated that he thought this was "hypocrisy" (his word) on the part of the colleague. This biologist's concept of hypocrisy is a window into his limitations. He was contemptuous of the idea that science is one realm and the transcendent, unseen world another. Richard Dawkins' assault (see my previous Muggle posting) upon fairy tales for children confirmed my belief that some scientists are unfortunately impoverished in their understanding. (As has long been noted, this is less the case among the physicists.)

As an act of protest against Muggledom, I went to Carnegie Hall to hear Haydn's oratorio The Creation. What a radiant, joyous masterwork! Someone said that Haydn, alone among composers, evokes an unfallen world. (Others have complained "too much C major!") The splendor of this music with its famous "And there was light!" and the humor and delight that Haydn brings to his depiction of the animal kingdom, from sporting whale to soaring eagle to lowly worm, is a rebuke to all Muggles.

There really is a challenge here to all who teach the Christian faith. The ability to hold two concepts of reality in one's mind simultaneously seems to be a gift, not an acquisition. I don't see how this gift is to be nurtured without attention given in earliest childhood to poetry, fantasy, mythology, and literary fiction. It is well known that we desperately need more scientists in the United States. Let us hope that our budding young scientists are readers as well.

There is a bumper sticker showing two fish kissing—one is the familiar Christian fish symbol and the other is Darwin. This is pretty corny, but at least it gets the point out there.