Fact & Faith column truly a critical encounter

By TaylorGleason

Humanity survives on basic beliefs of what is good and what is bad. Everyone believes in something, whether they recognize it or not. For example, most people believe that it would be a bad idea to walk in front of a moving vehicle, even if they haven’t personally experienced the repercussions. When tragedy occurs, people get by on the emotional fumes that say, “Everything will be OK,” even if they aren’t sure it will. That is the balancing act of fact and faith.Columbia’s school-wide discussion of the Critical Encounters series this year is titled “Fact & Faith.” One facet of this discussion is published each week in The Chronicle. It’s a column filled by the Critical Encounters coordinator with submissions from Columbia students and faculty. I personally look forward to this column every Monday. As a person of faith in God and in science, I’m always curious about what other people believe, how deep their beliefs are, why they believe and how it shapes who they are.As expected, students and faculty have not failed to present the unorthodox attitude typical of Columbia in their writings. This nature of our school is often the brunt of jokes, but I do appreciate it. Although the column is meant to extend across all human beliefs, not just religious, the broad theme is convoluting and also sedating. I’m still waiting for the day someone’s writing knocks me down by the severity of their faith, even if I don’t agree with them.Through conversations with friends and in reading this column, I’m starting to see that most of our school community views fact and faith as oil and water. I’ve also noticed fact and faith are being talked about nationally. On Oct. 5, Dr. Francis Collins was featured in the science section of The New York Times because he is the new director of the National Institutes of Health—and a practicing Christian. Collins’ ability to lead the NIH as a man of faith has been questioned by the scientific community and in letters to the Times editor. Some people just don’t trust that science and faith can work cohesively.I’ve seen the Critical Encounters column in The Chronicle mention, but mostly debate, about truth and trust in faith.  Many of the submissions have been personal stories of a faith that developed and proceeded to be wiped out in confrontation with the pursuit of a career or a little doubt and unanswered questions.For this reason, I’ve become increasingly thankful for the ampersand in the title “Fact & Faith.” I’m thankful that the intention is not to slate the two against each other, but instead to talk about how fact and faith work together. Every day my fascination with modern science grows and every day I realize that our society is in dire need of more faith. The concept of how fact and faith feed into each other is on my mind daily. I know our world functions under strict laws of physics and chemistry and to me, those are the obvious signs that it is the creative work of an ultimate designer. No amount of scientific discovery can ever replace the human need to connect with all that was created, and that includes physics, chemistry and each other.I believe that faith unites people. Many religious traditions contain a unique translation of what this means, but the idea is consistent. Christianity and Hinduism are vastly different; still, both teach that a person’s being is more than flesh and bone, but a part of something bigger. I also believe that questions unite people. When we let down our pride and our facades of perfection, we can corporately piece together what is fact and where we can put our faith.Thank you to the people who are brave enough to claim their beliefs and share them in our paper without remorse. At such a liberal school where, in my experience, faith is looked upon as an intellectual handicap, this little column has really unveiled a pulse of deeper beliefs that runs in all of us.