By Deacon Cynthia Biddlecomb
“Pessimism is an evolutionary dead end.” So proclaimed Dr. John F. Haught, invited speaker at the Los Alamos Faith and Science Forum. Dr. Haught was expanding last Wednesday on the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, renowned Jesuit geologist and theologian. On Tuesday evening, Dr. Haught’s presentation had imagined Teilhard in conversation with Albert Einstein about Time and the Future; the two scientists were contemporaries, both completing their terrestrial journeys in 1955.
Unlike many in this town, I get lost trying to understand Einstein’s theories and thought. But with my theological training (admittedly many years ago), I think I understand Teilhard… maybe. At least I was able to glean hope from Teilhard the way Dr. Haught was presenting him.
For info about Dr. Haught, check out the Los Alamos Faith & Science Forum website: www.losalamosfaithandscienceforum.org. “Prof. John Haught, Distinguished Research Professor at Georgetown University… latest two books, God after Einstein and The Cosmic Vision of Teilhard de Chardin. These books present a vision of a hopeful future as we move beyond the apparently conflicting views of literal interpretations of the Bible and modern science.”
According to Haught, Teilhard de Chardin, who was published posthumously, was writing at a time when science had accepted Charles Darwin’s theories of the evolution of life on Earth. Teilhard saw an increasing complexity in the way life evolved that continues in us and around us. Life, he saw, is not static but constantly moving toward the Future. A gradual increase in organized complexity, at each stage of evolution, results in a corresponding increase in consciousness. “The universe is still in the process of awakening,” says Haught. And, he says, “Science and Faith are both essential to this awakening.”
So, what’s the point he makes about optimism? Obviously, we humans have an option: choose pessimism or choose optimism. Optimism would be based on Faith (from whatever religious tradition you claim) that the Future will be ever more fully evolved and complex, with the Divine moving toward us from the Future. Great things await—better than we could ask or imagine! On the other hand, pessimism is a non-starter. It is a dead end, squelching creativity with its lack of hope or imagination.
How long might we have been feeling oppressed by an ever-expanding pessimism in society? Those who are motivated by personal profit are governed by greed, potentially lacking compassion for folks who just struggle to survive. Chaos reigns when we look in that direction. That road leads to a dead end.
Instead, we choose faith. Knowing goodness in the Divine, the Faithful can find a way through darkness, choosing the light, upholding the best in human activity: telling stories of compassion and forgiveness and divinely inspired insight. The road of optimism leads to the future, to improvement, and towards the increasingly glorious complexity of life.
Editor’s note: ‘All Shall Be Well’ is a semi-monthly column written by local women clergy (pastors and deacons) including, ELCA Deacon Cynthia Biddlecomb, M.Div., retired (email@example.com); Nicolé Ferry, Pastor, Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church (firstname.lastname@example.org); Lynn Finnegan, Assistant Rector, The Episcopal Church of the Holy Faith, Santa Fe (email@example.com) and Deb Church, Pastor, White Rock Presbyterian Church (firstname.lastname@example.org).