Theology is a has-been popular cheerleader

This is supposed to be my first real post on Philip Clayton’s book Adventures in the Spirit.

One of my quirks is to occasionally anthropomorphize concepts, situations, politics, etc. and see such as characters in a sitcom. Sitcoms have given us a wide ranging view of human interactions and if not entirely accurate, at least it’s a variously entertaining way to see how we silly people interact during times of often self-imposed crisis.

In coming to the topic of the interaction with science and theology I admit I’ve kind of gotten my head latched onto a particular sitcom setup.

Theology is like the high school popular girl, the leader of the pack who decided who was in and who was out. She had cool clothes, surprising influences, and her family came from a lot of money. All the cream of the crop wanted to be her friend. She wasn ‘t really mean but she could be vindictive. She was opinionated and biased and thought everyone would be happier if they saw the world the way she saw it, and experienced it the way she experienced it. She got good grades, was queen of the winter festival, homecoming, and prom in various years, head cheerleader, dated the captain of the football team (who got a full scholarship to Stanford), and volunteered at the retirement center ten hours a week, generally Wednesday and Sunday evenings.

Science is… well, science. You know that kid. Well, maybe you don’t (unless you were that kid). Spent a lot of time in the basement playing video games filled with grand adventure while having grand adventures of acne, programming, and a bit of a weight problem. Had friends at school, and they hung out by playing World of Warcraft, indulging their passions and intellect by figuring out how to demolish other tribes and capture the gold found in unexplored realms.

Only it’s not the medieval era high school anymore. Everyone moved on from high school, going different directions that reflected their potential more than their present. A lot of the kids went on to the enlightenment college, including the popular high school girl and the science nerd. They had, to be sure, entirely different experiences. The popular girl went to a party school where she studied a little bit, but mostly hooked up with the wrong sorts of characters. After a couple of years of this there were some scandals, and most of her friends abandoned her.

Meanwhile, the science nerd went to MIT and majored in astrophysics, where he met all kinds of people thinking just like him, a lot of them also alienated in high school, though a fair number of people who were shockingly popular and brilliant. He worked with some very important professors, and even as a junior wrote some software that made him tens of millions of dollars. The acne cleared up, he started exercising and that led to him dating more, and becoming more involved in the community. He started his own business, then bought up other businesses, and found that everyone wanted to be his friend, even if they didn’t always have the slightest clue what he was actually studying and working on.

The ten year high school reunion happens. Everyone gathers together again. The nerds, the jocks, uncategorized hoi polloi. The popular girl overhears the science nerd guy talking to one of her old friends, who during high school tended to be friends with all the various groups. Her name, in case you were wondering, was Sophia and she had majored in philosophy at a state school.

The one time popular girl has this realization that she and the science nerd really have a lot in common, and all those times in high school she ignored or rejected him really was a long time ago, and anyhow she never really rejected him as much as there was a lot of miscommunication on both sides.

So the popular girl steps up to the guy, gives him a hug like they are old best friends, and says they should go out sometime. He looks at her, says hi, and walks away.

The popular girl is left standing there with Sophia, her one time friend who is now an assistant professor of philosophy and a marathon runner.

That’s my sitcom view on the present situation with science and theology.

This post turns out to have very little to do with Philip Clayton’s book, but it does expose a little bit of my own attitude about the whole project.

I am cheering for that popular girl, truth be told, the Cordelia Chase of academic studies.

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