Last week the Internet blew up a bit when Ken Ham, famed young earth creationist debated Bill Nye, “the Science Guy” at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. It was more a venue for adding credibility for the faux science of Ham than anything else. In the defining moment of the debate, when asked what would possibly change their minds, in a word Nye said “evidence” and Ham said “nothing.” It was a shame that there was no decent theological exchange about the shortcomings of building your cosmology from a narrative text (written and translated over thousands of years as Nye reminded the audience a number of times) than from the evidence that science seeks. There could have been a fascinating meeting of the minds around the exploration of mystery had they been of a mind to do so. Perhaps if this week’s Darkwood Brew guest, Michael Camp had been there they might have explored the possibilities of theistic evolution or even given some consideration to concept that the design of creation may indeed point to some external intelligence. No, this was a forum for one man to shill for his entrenched theology and for the other to plead for the teaching of science to the next generation. What this Ham on Nye sandwich needed was a dollop of Miracle Whip…well maybe just simply a miracle.
The question of the week posed on Facebook this week was “what is a miracle you believe in?” While a few spoke of medical healings, echoing Eric Elnes’ comments during the episode about the false distinction between natural and supernatural, others got straight to the point and said that science itself is a miracle. But here we need to be careful to be sure that we don’t simply mean the god of the gaps. Newton had room for that sort of god when he reached the end of what he could explain. Ptolemy had no problem describing the rock he could hold, but when he could no longer make his theory of an earth-centered universe work, he found the hand of the gods, “when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies, I no longer touch Earth with my feet. I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia.” Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke of this when he was interviewed by Bill Moyers. Basically, he said that science is out to get the god of the gaps:
If that’s how you’re going to invoke God. If God is the mystery of the universe, these mysteries, we’re tackling these mysteries one by one. If you’re going to stay religious at the end of the conversation, God has to mean more to you than just where science has yet to tread. So to the person who says, “Maybe dark matter is God,” if the only reason why you’re saying it is because it’s a mystery, then get ready to have that undone. – Neil deGrasse Tyson
But perhaps the fact that mystery is that thing that is always just beyond our grasp, always “the next thing” is what God is. Or maybe it is as others suggested in response to the question of the week, forgiveness and/or love is the miracle worth believing. Personally, I like the idea that awe is that thing that most closely gets us connected to the divine which we can never fully capture. As the protagonist of Joan of Arcadia learned when she perceived God (miraculously as Joan Osborne suggested “as one of us”) it is not about being religious, i.e. extrapolating from a book like Ken Ham does, it is about fulfilling our nature, something none of us ever do perfectly this side of eternity. And when Joan asked for a miracle Cute Boy God showed her a tree. But it’s only a tree! Let’s see you make one! Yeah, that’s miracle enough for me to keep on trying to fulfill my nature. How about you?
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA. He blogs about the intersection of spirituality and society at CultureDove.blogspot.com and the intersection of spirituality and ornithology at https://birdparables.blogspot.com