Thursday, May 5, 2011

On matters of faith

Morning storm clouds. The light bit at edges, accentuating the few colors that poked through the gray dawn gloom. A brisk wind swirled from the northwest, a breeze out of Chocolat.

A cherry tree dumped its blossoms like a snow squall, surrounding me with impossible pink light. The heavy rain drops followed seconds later, soaking the pink petals so thick they hid the grass.

Even in the middle of it, I try to remember, and I cannot. Remembering anything other than those things that will keep us alive is a human conceit. Turns out I'm human.

Change is coming. As it has. As it will.


I am teaching about evolution, descent with modification. It is going better than most years have.

I spent a few moments talking about Charles Lyell and the concept of uniformitarianism, the idea that whatever natural laws apply here, today, apply anywhere and anytime. I dropped a small chunk of wood as I spoke. It fell each time, as expected, landing loudly on the desk.

This is where science relies on faith.

And it does. The kids relax just a tad. All year long I've assured them that we know less than we think, that the world is a wonderful place despite this, and that science requires, at a very basic level, faith.

Not the kind of faith many of them have been taught, but faith nonetheless. 8 months after we first met each other, things are starting to fall into place.

Of course the piece of wood will fall, each and every time, and we know this only because it always has. This may seem trivial, but it's the soul of reality, whatever "reality" means.

Were humans as inevitable as the fall of the block of wood I dropped over and over again? I leave it to the students to ponder. I'm not particularly interested in the question--we're here, and that's enough for me.

But they are, which is why I pose it. Their universe swirl around each of their own existences, and I just called it into question.

It's my hope that by June, they will know as little as I do.

Decision time....


Mary Ann Reilly said...

First, I loved Chocolat and can still recall the opening scene, full of foreboding mystery that appeals as much as it repels. I don;t know much about evolution, save a Darwin comic and an art piece about Darwin I made and even less about gravity and how it relates to the rest of physics (think I'm in good company there)--but what I do understand is that powerful learning is most often about revealing (partially) the layers we still don't know, not to track down the answer, but to feel how faith and wonder walk together.

You capture that so nicely here.

Anonymous said...

Australian cartoonist, Michael Leunig, did a lovely piece of a man and a woman being cross-pollinated by a wild plum tree and the moon.

This blog reminds me of that.

doyle said...

Dear Mary Ann,

Thank you for the warm words--if we ever figure this whole thing out, very unlikely at best, it will be the artists, not the scientists, leading the way.

To be fair to the science folks, though, they already know this, even if the technocrats do not.

Dear thevioletmuse,

One of the joys of tossing words out there is to find new people who connect things, or rather, who are adept at defining the connections that already exist.

I enjoyed reading your blog this morning, and your mention of Michael Leunig led to the latest post. What a find! Thanks for pointing him out.

Buy Essays said...

Very interesting post.I appreciate your assessment.

Fantastic Forrest said...

FANTASTIC post. Well done, you. Makes me proud to be a teacher and a believer in the separation of church and state and a lover of the mystery of life.

You write beautifully, so evocatively and intelligently. I'll be back to read more.