'We know more than we can tell'. These are the words of Michael Polanyi, the chemist and philosopher and for me they are important for figuring out where I stand in the science and religion debates. Many people suppose science to be testable, rational and entirely unsubjective. And while this should be the aim of science, some of its biggest discoveries have not evolved in such sterile environments. Instead, they have emerged out of creative, inquiring men and women who had an instinct, or a stroke of luck, and just went with it. Einstein's theory of relativity began after all when he wondered what it would have been like to ride on a photon of light.
The people who have shouting matches in the science and religion debates want easy answers. I have never been satisfied with that. The dissatisfaction has come from a proper respect for the scientific method and from a faith in God, and there is no doubt that there are difficulties in how these two merge together. On the one hand, science has shown that the best theory to explain the beginning of the universe is the Big Bang, whereas the bible talks about creation in seven days. There are no easy, clear ways to unite these two satisfactorily in my mind with a literal reading of the text. And so I go to figure out what I do with that. But this quest to find my path through the debates is driven my an instinct, a feeling (horror of horrors) that there is wisdom in both. I believe in God and the science; I am one person; I need to work out how I do that if I am not going to live a fragmented life, if I am going to be a person of faith with integrity. God made the world, and science studies the world - faith in a Creator God demands that we engage with science and the things that it is telling us.
Beyond the shouting matches these debates are about knowledge. Science gives knowledge about the world, religion gives knowledge about God. Science is used to help us know about our world and how to live in it, religion uses the Bible, the tradition and human reason to learn about God. But human experience is also a fountain of knowledge of the divine. And we are not just talking about the experience of the chosen few holy ones, but our own daily, boring, isolated, noisy experience of getting by every day. Our lives, lived by us, can give glimpses of the divine, a source of knowledge by definition immune to the testing of science. Few hear voices, or see visions, but we all have experiences and feelings.
When I was waiting for the birth of my second son, my body knew that I was about to go into labour long before my rational brain told me anything about it. Twenty four hours almost exactly before I had the first pains, I woke up at 3 am and was driven, it seemed, to get out of bed and have time alone. I had just moved house, to a new city, left my job, helped my husband start in a new parish and I had simply no time to think about what was about to happen. By getting up, pushed by some deeper instinct perhaps, I had a few, rare hours of peace to prepare for what was about to happen. We know more, much more, than we can tell.
There is a fear about using such moments as evidence. Now I could have been awoken because of hormones, or being ridiculously uncomfortable in late, very late, pregnancy. But my own interpretations of it was not so physical. For me it was God's presence, and a moment of comfort to be used to tell me about the divine in my own journey. It was instinct and no one can say that my interpretation is wrong.
We must not be afraid to use our instincts in these complex and more formal science and religion debates and instead believe that we must find our own way through them, in uniting for ourselves the knowledge of science and religion. They can be kept at the theoretical and technical, but there is richness is going further.
What is your path?