Welcome to the Genomics Forum blog

Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

God on the Bus

I was at a seminar on Thursday with John Evans from the University of California in San Diego. He's a forum regular, with a background in religious studies, and was talking about a linguistic conundrum which in some ways is quite specifc to current US Culture Wars...which meant it was up my apples and pears. I love the way Americans actually TALK about this stuff.

As Alistair Campbell once put it, in Britain we don't do God.

What John was talking about was, roughly, "When is talking about God not talking about God?" When and how do religious critics of (say) stem-cell research translate their objections from a language of faith to one of "the public good". There was some intense discussion about the Rawlsian Orthodoxy that governs public discourse...(I didn't know there even WAS one, Martha!)

...where, as one participant put it, (based on his experience of trying to get EU nations with a rainbow of religious and secular traditions to agree on notions like "Human Rights") ..the only way to get anything good done in the world is not to tell anyone what you're doing.

Hey...the last contribution of the day came from the Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police...there's serious chat in the ACPO going on about a working definition of the "good". I suspect because they ain't gonna trust politicians to tell them what it is anymore.

Anyway, a fine time was had by all.

Then, after a jar in the Tolbooth, I was on the bus home...and it was one of those central belt sunsets...with high white cloud, low black cloud, cobalt sky...the golden hour, and an invisible sun pouring golden curtains between the cloud cover like the searchlight in Close Encounters...but much better.

And I thought...what is the language for THAT? Is God involved? Does it make it any less staggering and humbling to live on this planet if it's all a series of imagination numbing coincidences that brought me onto one of Brian Soutar's buses on the M8 to be in the time and place to see THAT?

Do God or the public good have anything to do with it...what would they have to say about it if they did?

Maybe I'd better get back to specifics next time.

Peter Arnott is Resident Playwright at the ESRC Genomics Forum April 2011 - April 2012. Appointed in partnership with the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, Peter will be hosting a number of public engagements as he explores ideas and seeks inspiration for a genomics related play.

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