Monday, March 25, 2013

Blog Review: Science and Story

Photo by Arlene Somerton Smith

One of the great pleasures in exploring the Ottawa blogosphere is finding so many interesting people.  Arlene Somerton Smith, a former producer for Rogers Television in Ottawa and now a freelance writer and certified copy editor, is one such person.

As someone who previously did not believe in God, Smith came to the conclusion that science does not tell the full story about the human experience, and that faith can provide an important aspect for understanding who we are.

"I'm a former atheist, so I know all the doubts about faith," she tells me in an email. "But science isn't fully satisfying either.  We need both.  As a former atheist, I know how people bristle in response to words like God or spirit.  I wanted to find a word that demonstrates there's something more going on but that doesn't raise people's hackles.  I like the word story.  If I ask atheists if they have a spirit, they say no. If I ask them if they have a story, they say yes.  We have a body, and something more.  We have science and story."

This thought is the basis of Smith's blog Science and Story, a site that provides an intelligent perspective on faith.  With a new post each Tuesday and Friday, Smith treats the blog as a newspaper column, in which she aims to provide meaningful commentary twice a week.  Recent posts include a discussion on how engaging in physical work for a worthy cause can result in positive feelings, praying in the present tense, and reflections on the true meaning of the worth "Sabbath",

Many of her posts, however, do not touch on faith-related themes. For instance, she has written on:
The study on empathy particularly intrigued me, given that one of its recommendations is to talk to strangers. "Curiosity leads us to meet people from different walks of life and expands our world view," writes Smith, who is married with two teenage children. "When we understand people and relate to them, we’re more empathetic. Curious people enjoy greater life satisfaction."

Smith's attraction to curiosity explains in large part why I like this blog. At no point does she come across as someone trying to convert others to her viewpoint. Rather, she sounds like a kind and intelligent person who is curious about the world, and who wants to engage in dialogue with those around her.

"I started my blog because I got tired of people getting a look of fear or disdain on their faces when I tell them I go to church," says Smith.  "Some people actually back away.  They assume that I am a crazed zealot who checks my brain at the door.  It's very discouraging."

Despite this negative reaction, Smith noticed that many people referred to themselves as spiritual, while being wary of organized religion.  "I want those people to know that there is a place for them," says Smith.  "There are faith communities out there that don't tell people what to think and that encourage doubts and questions."

Besides blogging Smith is a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada and the Canadian Authors Association.  She also writes fiction and has been published in DESCANT magazine.  In addition, she won the Canadian Authors Association National Capital Writing Contest and was shortlisted for the Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition.

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