Saint Paul Auditorium ca. 1907 Interior, Original Home of the Institute of Science and Letters. Photo by Scotty Moore
“The St. Paul Institute of Science and Letters is incorporated. The institute sponsors research, and a museum. After reinventing itself several times, it is now known as the Science Museum of Minnesota–home to dinosaur bones, computer and an IMAX theater.” *
It is a blessing to learn that my city had a love of science fervent enough to create this institute! Furthermore, its benevolent nature was expressed in making scientific knowledge open to all! The Institute of Science and Letters was,“Originally a provider of public lectures, it was located in the St. Paul Auditorium”. **
As with any audience, surely in 1907 there were proponents, opponents, and those who remained open. Then, as in the present, most would not argue the data collected from experiments, but may differ drastically on its meaning to their life. Why is this?
One idea may be that we cannot extirpate the framing effects of our memory, our temperament, and our worldview. By “framing effect”, I mean the resistance we have to knowledge outside of our point of reference. A classic example is the story of the blind men describing an elephant.
“A Jain version of the story says that six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.
A king explains to them:
All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.” ***
Lord, will You have mercy on our judgments’ made regarding science and its meaning to our lives? Will You forgive those in 1907 who used their new found scientific knowledge as a tool of separation from their predominantly Catholic neighbors? Will You forgive any counter judgments of scientists made in Your name or the name of the Roman Catholic church? Will You give us mercy on our neighbor’s epistemology?** whether they “know” through the channel of logic, association, observation, or relationship? ****
While Your Word is not primarily a book of science, but where it does intersect with the sciences, it is accurate and eloquent in its claims. For example, you begin Your Word with the phrase,”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 CEV A scientist, upon first reading, may take it as religious and mythical poetry. However, would this same scientist observe that this simple phrase covered the building blocks of the universe: time, space, and matter?
Jesus, will You forgive the prejudices of the religious towards the secular-minded scientist in St. Paul past, present, and future? Will You forgive the prejudices of the science community toward people of faith? We measure each other falsely at times Lord! We use the wrong measuring stick because we so often lack empathy much less love towards our sparring partners in debate. Will You heal the words we use to describe the intersection of faith and science? Have mercy on our small frames! Let us ‘see’ the whole elephant together, in Your revealing presence.
”Every question in philosophy is the mask of another question; and all these masking and masked questions require to be removed and laid aside, until the ultimate but truly first question has been reached. Then, but not till them, it is possible to decipher and resolve the outside mask, and all those below it, which come before us in the first instance.” **** James Frederick Ferrier
*** “Elephant and the blind men”. Jain Stories. JainWorld.com. Retrieved 2006-08-29.
***** A brief summary of the Scottish philosopher’s life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Frederick_Ferrier