This issue begins in outer space: space seen through the eye of a telescope, packed with innumerable worlds, earth-like and not; or space imagined through kaleidoscopic murals, surrounding the marble image of Christ. These are vastly different understandings of how stars, planets, and emptiness reflect and refract our own thoughts and desires. Each, on its surface, chooses a different vocabulary—either scientific or theological. But both continually fail to maintain the partition between these two rhetorical registers. The astronomer and the theologian collapse into one another.
The study of science and religion is about many things—politics, law, and migration, as we’ve featured in our recent issues. As people grapple with these aspects of their lives, they invariably reach for the languages of both science and religion. Sometimes they confuse the two in the process, sometimes they suspect there’s no difference. This issue is, perhaps, a bit closer to the everyday. But it tracks those same impulses as they play out across history, whether in space, on earth, or in the mind of the individual.
From outer space, the issue slowly descends to earth, to track the other countless ways this strange process occurs. It follows globe-trotting scientists as they merged modern science with cosmopolitan and spiritual hope. It traces the entanglements of science, theology, and nature, and it joins the crowds of the French Revolution, as they massed at the foot of the scaffold. It looks to those moments when people reached for the language to describe other worlds, other ways of being. And found themselves, unavoidably, speaking the language of science and religion.
Image via Flickr from NASA Johnson