4 June 2006, "Continuity and Change: Perspectives on Science and Religion" (Metanexus Conference)
This morning finds me not at 208 West First Street in Chico, but in Houston Hall on the University of Pennsylvania campus. (See this link.) Something like 300 participants from 30 countries (I'll get the exact numbers later) are meeting to hear lectures and to generally interact on topics in the dialogue of science and religion. Last night's best moment was a rousing and thoughtful talk by Robert Putnam of Harvard on "Social Capital." A true public intellectual, Putnam dynamically unfolded this notion which emphasizes not what we can save in a bank (economic capital), but what happens when we bond together, when we have dinner parties, when we attend worship, and when we know our neighbor's first name. Social capital, he asserted, is more important for our kids and thus our society than economic capital. (You can find some of these ideas in his book, "Bowling Alone.") Finally, he exhorted the audience of religious and scientific scholars, pastors, professors et al. to work on "bridging social capital," which brings together groups that aren't connected through "bonding social capital." I'd put it this way: it's what happens when people come from east and west, south and north and sit at the Kingdom of heaven.