Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, I take a deep breath. It takes more than a few words to explain what I do and more importantly why I am so passionately involved in this seemingly strange endeavor to link science and religion in constructive dialogue. At the end of the day and the beginning of the 21st Century, the connections between science and religion are not really esoteric scholasticism, but extremely practical and profoundly existential questions, which have everything to do with our civilization’s present and future well-being.
Science can inspire greater reverence, wonder, and awe. It also poses with urgency traditionally religious questions of meaning and purpose, of virtues and values. Science provides a continuous stream of remarkable insights into the nature of reality across a wide range of domains. By giving rise to astonishing technological transformations, science changes both our world and our worldviews.
As the pace of scientific discovery and technological innovation accelerates, there is an urgent cultural need to reflect thoughtfully about these epic changes and challenges in a constructive dialogue involving the humanistic disciplines and the world’s religious traditions. One of the greatest challenges of our age is to bridge the compartmentalized departments of the modern university, engaging in an integrative dialogue between all of the sciences, humanities, and religious disciplines.
This endeavor must honor the details and complexities of each discipline. At the same time, we must not shrink from the task of building exploratory and substantive connections on issues of broad and enduring significance between the variegated cultures of the sciences and the humanities. The culture of the university and our civilization will flourish when such great issues and topics are deliberated in open forums across disciplines.
The primary goal of Metanexus is to promote inter-disciplinary and inter-religious dialogue and education within university communities and extended public audiences. We seek to be a catalyst for progress at an extraordinary moment in the natural history of our planet and the cultural evolution of our species. We seek to create long-term networks for vibrant and broadly significant scholarly and public exchange about issues, contributing to the mainstreaming of this dialogue in higher education and among the public at large.
I am enthusiastic about the opportunities this effort presents to both faculty and students, clergy and laity, practicing scientists and the engaged public. We are believers, seekers, and agnostics of various kinds. What we share is a common conviction that the dialogue between science and religion is both fascinating and significant. In a sense, we are resurrecting the classical Greek quest for “Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.” Modernity claims that “beauty” and “goodness” are in the eyes of the beholder; postmodernity claims that “truth” too is in the eyes of the beholder. Whether values are intrinsic, transcendent, constructed, or more probably all of the above, this dialogue stands at the center of epic cultural and evolutionary changes and challenges. We are part of a growing movement of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature and culture in cities and campuses throughout the world.
Of course, what I do is not really so glamorous and lofty. I make phone calls, answer emails, organize conference, cajole busy people, coach newcomers, track budgets, pay bills, maintain databases, and push papers. It is a small price to pay for the great conversations, the deep friendships, and the frequent epiphanies along the way.