[A brief thought on faith, science, and meaning I excerpted and adapted from my book, Creation and Last Things.]
Mark Twain once quipped,
There are two types of people—those who divide people into two types and everyone else.
With Twain in mind, I am still willing to say that there are two basic approaches to our existence: life either bursts with meaning or is meaningless.
And yet, on certain days which of us does not resonate with certain scientists who, having cut themselves off from the Designer, find an ultimately purposeless creation? Harvard astronomer Margaret Geller believes that it is pointless to mention purpose for the universe:
Why should it have a point? What point? It’s just a physical system, what point is there?
And yet, on certain days which of us does not resonate with certain scientists who, having cut themselves off from the Designer, find an ultimately purposeless creation? Certainly, not all scientists express this (at least vaguely) nihilist conclusion about the world. I remember a graduate seminar on with David Cole, a biochemist at U.C. Berkeley. He showed us pictures of polymers and exclaimed—“Aren’t these beautiful! Look at the wonder of God’s creation!” I had never thought of polymers that way. (Actually, I had never looked at them that closely.) Like David Cole, many scientists, in discovering God’s design, find ample reason to praise the Designer. In fact, science and theology in the past century have pointed toward an amazing convergence. Consider, for example, Francis Collins, head of the NIH, who commented, "I find that studying the natural world is an opportunity to observe the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God's creation."
God has brought this world into existence. Both the act of doing so and the product are creation. Like a writer, God invented and created the world, and in doing so, stepped back to the let the characters “speak for themselves.” The created order remains different from God. On the other hand, the work bears the imprint of its Artist. And so I will thread two analogies though this book: writing a play and improvising with a jazz combo. I will save how God and Miles Davis can be compared for the moment and move instead to the analogy of writing. Speaking the world into existence has been used as an image for creation since the Hebrew Scriptures. As Psalm 33:9 declares, “He spoke and it came to be.” Words require no pre-existing material and point to the sovereignty of the Writer of the drama. Thankfully, we know the ending, and it is all good. From an undergraduate education in French literature, I recall that a comedy is defined, not by its use of humor (although there may be some), but by its ending. A comedy ends with resolution, with good ultimately in triumph over evil. And so in God’s comedy, good wins out. In the meantime, the real joy will be discovering our part in this cosmic comedy.