July 15, 2008
The Luxurious Growth
By DAVID BROOKS
We all know the story of Dr. Frankenstein, the scientist so caught up in his own research that he arrogantly tried to create new life and a new man. Today, if you look at people who study how genetics shape human behavior, you find a collection of anti-Frankensteins. As the research moves along, the scientists grow more modest about what we are close to knowing and achieving.
It wasn’t long ago that headlines were blaring about the discovery of an aggression gene, a happiness gene or a depression gene. The implication was obvious: We’re beginning to understand the wellsprings of human behavior, and it won’t be long before we can begin to intervene to enhance or transform human life.
Few talk that way now. There seems to be a general feeling, as a Hastings Center working group put it, that “behavioral genetics will never explain as much of human behavior as was once promised.”
Studies designed to link specific genes to behavior have failed to find anything larger than very small associations. It’s now clear that one gene almost never leads to one trait. Instead, a specific trait may be the result of the interplay of hundreds of different genes interacting with an infinitude of environmental factors.
First, there is the complexity of the genetic process. As Jim J. Manzi pointed out in a recent essay in National Review, if a trait like aggressiveness is influenced by just 100 genes, and each of those genes can be turned on or off, then there are a trillion trillion possible combinations of these gene states.
Second, because genes respond to environmental signals, there’s the complexity of the world around. Prof. Eric Turkheimer of the University of Virginia, conducted research showing that growing up in an impoverished environment harms I.Q. He was asked what specific interventions would help children realize their potential. But, he noted, that he had no good reply. Poverty as a whole has this important impact on people, but when you try to dissect poverty and find out which specific elements have the biggest impact, you find that no single factor really explains very much. It’s possible to detect the total outcome of a general situation. It’s harder to draw a linear relationship showing cause and effect.
Third, there is the fuzziness of the words we use to describe ourselves. We talk about depression, anxiety and happiness, but it’s not clear how the words that we use to describe what we feel correspond to biological processes. It could be that we use one word, depression, to describe many different things, or perhaps depression is merely a symptom of deeper processes that we’re not aware of. In the current issue of Nature, there is an essay about the arguments between geneticists and neuroscientists as they try to figure out exactly what it is that they are talking about.
The bottom line is this: For a time, it seemed as if we were about to use the bright beam of science to illuminate the murky world of human action. Instead, as Turkheimer writes in his chapter in the book, “Wrestling With Behavioral Genetics,” science finds itself enmeshed with social science and the humanities in what researchers call the Gloomy Prospect, the ineffable mystery of why people do what they do.
The prospect may be gloomy for those who seek to understand human behavior, but the flip side is the reminder that each of us is a Luxurious Growth. Our lives are not determined by uniform processes. Instead, human behavior is complex, nonlinear and unpredictable. The Brave New World is far away. Novels and history can still produce insights into human behavior that science can’t match.
Just as important is the implication for politics. Starting in the late 19th century, eugenicists used primitive ideas about genetics to try to re-engineer the human race. In the 20th century, communists used primitive ideas about “scientific materialism” to try to re-engineer a New Soviet Man.
Today, we have access to our own genetic recipe. But we seem not to be falling into the arrogant temptation — to try to re-engineer society on the basis of what we think we know. Saying farewell to the sort of horrible social engineering projects that dominated the 20th century is a major example of human progress.
We can strive to eliminate that multivariate thing we call poverty. We can take people out of environments that (somehow) produce bad outcomes and try to immerse them into environments that (somehow) produce better ones. But we’re not close to understanding how A leads to B, and probably never will be.
This age of tremendous scientific achievement has underlined an ancient philosophic truth — that there are severe limits to what we know and can know; that the best political actions are incremental, respectful toward accumulated practice and more attuned to particular circumstances than universal laws.
Doctors must always have right to follow conscience
Friday, August 22, 2008
Some 2,500 years ago, doctors were both healers and killers. Abortion and euthanasia were commonplace, and the type of medical service rendered depended on who was paying the bill or how the 'payee' asked the 'doctor' to take care of the patient. That ended in 400 BC, when a Greek physician named Hippocrates decided that patients deserved better and wrote an oath to affirm the sanctity of life and the doctor's duty to protect it.
Doctors who took the Hippocratic oath could then offer patients an element of trust and care that was previously non-existent and, for obvious reasons, Hippocratic physicians became the physicians of choice.
Well-known anthropologist Margaret Mead commented on this marked shift in the physician's role by saying, "For the first time in our tradition there was a complete separation between killing and curing. Throughout the primitive world, the doctor and sorcerer tended to be the same person. He with the power to kill had power to cure . . . (but now) One profession . . . (would) be dedicated completely to life under all circumstances . . .
"This is a priceless possession which we cannot afford to tarnish, but society is always attempting to make the physician into a killer -- to kill the defective child at birth, to leave the sleeping pills beside the bed of the cancer patient . . . it is the duty of society to protect the physician from such requests."
This oath became an important symbol of a doctor's integrity and commitment to protect life at all stages. But as with most traditions, it has increasingly fallen out of favour with medical schools. So, too, society seems to have come full circle in terms of its expectations of physicians -- the sanctity of life is no longer as important as our own convenience and demands.
The proof of this is in a draft proposal put forth by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario that will severely compromise the ethical integrity of physicians by limiting their ability to practice according to their own freedom of conscience and moral/religious beliefs. It would force physicians to set aside their moral consciences to fulfil all demands by all patients -- including providing or assisting patients in obtaining morally controversial services such as abortion, birth control and reproductive technologies for same-sex couples.
If physicians ignore the guidelines, they would be considered to have contravened the human rights code and their licences could be suspended; not because of incompetence or inappropriate activities -- but because of their religious beliefs.
Such tolerance is coming to Ontario physicians, courtesy of their government and its plan to expand the scope of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and increase the number of cases it hears from 150 to 3,000 per year. Sadly, this has motivated the commission to insert its misguided, Orwellian human rights policies into the realm of the physician-patient relationship.
Of course, a 2,000 per cent increase in cases doesn't equal a 2,000 per cent increase in human rights. Rights remain a very circular concept in that there are only so many to go around. Giving more rights to one group inevitably means taking rights from another. That means the commission will be taking away a whole bunch of rights from unsuspecting Ontarians. In this case, it's the physicians who lose.
All of this is disturbing on many levels. The college knew this would be controversial. A 2006 guest editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that called for all physicians to be forced to make referrals for abortion generated such a firestorm that the CMA's director of ethics had to publish a statement saying CMA policy would not require this, since it would violate the conscientious or religious beliefs of many physicians.
Yet, in an indication of how much tolerance and freedom this new era of rights will bring, the college developed this proposal behind closed doors. There were no press releases and, despite placing an Aug. 15 deadline on consultations with physicians, no attempt was made to inform physician groups that will be most affected by/and want to comment on the policy. Since this proposal only came to light on Aug. 14, the college has now graciously responded to outraged demands by extending the consultation deadline to Sept. 12.
Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of conscience to all Canadians. Yet, for some reason, the college (that should be defending the rights of its members) is eager to prematurely cede these rights at the mere suggestion of a human rights complaint. This willingness to give up suggests that college leaders may be moonlighting as motivational speakers for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The fact is that every physician operates on some sort of moral framework, whether it be religious or secular or adamantly anti-religious. Just as one physician might encourage a patient to consider other options than abortion, another physician may withhold such information and suggest abortion is the only option. If we discriminate against one doctor's framework for practising medicine, we will inevitably discriminate against others. No doctor will be safe to practise or offer any human interpretation of, or context to, the medical facts.
It's no wonder evangelical atheists need to shout so loud Every faith, the dogmatic atheists say, contains a seed of violence and torment
For The Calgary Herald
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The shining example of free thinking said to characterize the French Enlightenment was Voltaire. In the face of dogmatic clerics, both Protestant and Catholic, he urged reasonable people everywhere to "crush the infamous thing."
His argument was as obvious then as it is today: organized religion not only divides humanity into believers and infidels, it authorizes the former, with a beatific smile, to extinguish the latter. Often religion claims to be doing so for the good of the infidel.
That Voltaire had Christianity in mind is indicated by a rather more vulgar expression from his pen: "the people will not be free until the last king is strangled in the guts of the last priest."
Modern would-be Voltaires such as Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins are just as strident in their hatred of religion in general and revealed religion in particular.
For my money, their arguments don't amount to a hill of beans. They simply oppose one dogma with another. Truth to tell, such analysis as they advance has little to do with serious and existentially commanding descriptions of religious experience. Their questions like those of the village atheist are just plain silly: can an omnipotent God make a rock bigger than he can lift?
So the question that comes to mind is: why are they shouting so loudly?
The two most obvious explanations are, first, that they think their opponents are so powerful that they must amplify their own arguments just to get a hearing.
Second, they know full well that their own arguments are so weak that they have to obscure this fact with a high-decibel diversion.
True, these "evangelical atheists," as Roger Scruton called them, do think religion is both powerful and malign. They can point to Islamists for contemporary proof, but add that the current crop of fanatics has hordes of angelic predecessors, stretching back to antiquity.
Every faith, the dogmatic atheists say, contains a seed of violence and torment, even (or especially) among those who see in their religion a command to love their neighbours, including neighbours as obnoxious as these atheist critics.
In short, the atheists' dogmatism is as much an expression of the weakness of their position as is the dogmatism of the believers.
We can see it all on a daily basis, played out in the letters pages of this and many other newspapers, with the heated and mutual denunciations of the atheist Darwinians versus the Creationists of the supporters of Intelligent Design.
To use Dawkins' formula, we are machines that ensure the survival of our genes, which are nothing but complicated molecules that obey the laws of organic chemistry. They emerged one fine day, the story goes, from the primordial soup. How that actually happened in detail is so far unknown, but science, not religion, will one day explain.
What Dawkins and his pals don't seem to get is that religious people are quite happy to think of themselves, for purposes of genetic biology, as survival machines for genes. But they have a few other questions to ask.
They wonder, for example, where the first gene, selfish or not, came from. Or, if it came from the soup, where did the soup come from? Or the universe as a whole?
When the atheists reply, "The Big Bang," the curious have one more question: what caused the Big Bang?
The answer of physicists is clear: close to the "time" of the Big Bang, the number of unknowns in our matrix of mathematical equations is greater than the number of knowns. This means there is no unique mathematical solution. Which is to say: if there is an answer, physics cannot provide it.
Karl Marx, who was equally dogmatic regarding such questions, said that even raising such questions was a waste of time. They were, he said, "abstract."
And then he told his inquirer to shut up. "Socialist man," he famously declared, "does not ask such questions." That is probably true. Socialist man does not wonder about where it all came from.
The problem, however, is that some people find raising the question, even if they don't know the answer, a meaningful act. They are going to wonder about such things whether Marx or Christopher Hitchens approves.
Wondering means tolerating mysteries. Interestingly enough, it was Socrates, not some religious fanatic so pilloried by the evangelical atheists, who said that philosophy begins in wonder.
Wonder is something enlightened atheists never could abide. No wonder they shout so much.
Barry Cooper, PhD, is a professor of political science at the University of Calgary.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has issued a draft policy entitled "Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code." It deals with physicians' obligations with respect to engaging in medical acts to which they may have a conscientious objection and referring patients for such procedures.
Now, it seems, this matter is also under consideration in Alberta. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta began a consultation process Sept. 2, which ends Nov. 3, and, it's reported, physicians' freedom of conscience will be considered. What happens in Ontario is of more than usual importance to all of us.
The Ontario policy states "physicians should be aware that decisions to restrict medical services offered, to accept individuals as patients or to end physician-patient relationships that are based on moral or religious belief may contravene the code, and/or constitute professional misconduct."
The Ontario Human Rights Commission elaborated on the policy by pointing out that a refusal to provide a service requested by the patient can only be justified if the physician does not have the "clinical competence" to perform it and that a duty to refer exists in such cases. The commission also warns that "physicians should not express personal judgments about the beliefs, lifestyle, identity or characteristics of the patient or potential patient."
The College also puts physicians on notice that if their conduct constitutes discrimination under the human rights code, there is no defence based on moral or religious belief: A "physician's refusal . . . on the basis of a prohibited ground is prima facie discrimination, even if the refusal is based on the physician's moral or religious belief. This means that the physician could be subject to a human rights complaint."
If the physician's refusal is also professional misconduct, it would result in disciplinary proceedings and penalties ranging from reprimands to fines and loss of a licence.
The Ontario Medical Association has spoken out against the policy, which is scheduled to be voted on by the college today. The college says they have modified the policy to take account of the association's concerns, but are reported to be refusing to release the modified document before it is voted on.
What led to this approach and what might be the consequences of adopting it?
First, it reflects a recently emerging view that physicians are mere technicians able to provide services that patients want and have a right to access. Physicians have a duty to provide these services and no right to bring their moral or ethical reservations into play. To do so is discrimination.
Think of having your car repaired: For a mechanic to refuse to service your car just because you were a woman would be discrimination and a human rights offence. Some say physicians' refusal of medical services for moral or ethical reasons is the same thing.
Unlike the mechanic, however, a physician who refuses to be involved in abortion is not providing the service to one patient but not another, or basing his refusal on any characteristic of the patient. He is refusing the service to all patients because he believes it is morally and ethically wrong.
Unlike medicine, usually car repairs don't raise moral and ethical issues. But what if you were a bank robber preparing a getaway car and told the mechanic that? Suddenly, automotive repair would become an ethical and moral issue. Would a refusal still be wrong or might it even be required? And referring the bank robber to another mechanic would make you complicit in the wrongdoing.
The practice of medicine always and unavoidably involves ethical and moral issues. It's only when something goes wrong or there is a conflict of values that the ethical issues flash up on the big screen. Treating physicians as mere technicians fails completely to take that omnipresent ethical aspect into account.
It is also the antithesis of the traditional concept of a physician, as a professional with ethical and legal obligations to exercise good judgment. Most notable among those obligations is to first do no harm, which means that a physician may not simply fulfil a patient's request, but must make an independent judgment as to its acceptability.
Treating physicians as technicians can result in an argument that bizarre requests be fulfilled: For instance, some people argue that if a person wants a healthy right leg amputated, he or she has a right to do so. On a more everyday level, patients' lifestyle choices -- the commission warns failure to honour them could be discrimination -- can be a problem. Some women who rejected physicians' advice to change their diet if they wanted to lose weight and instead demanded Phenphen, a weight-loss drug, died as a result.
Treating physicians as technicians denies that respect is required for physicians' freedom of conscience. Such an understanding of the physician-patient relationship would do a great disservice to patients because maintaining respect in any encounter requires that respect be mutual.
In stark contrast to fostering such respect, here's the commission's startling view of a physician's obligation: "It is the commission's position that doctors, as providers of services that are not religious in nature, must essentially 'check their personal views at the door' in providing medical care." The commission makes clear that physicians' "personal views" include their ethical and moral beliefs and values. That raises serious problems for physicians, but also for patients: Would we want to be treated by a physician who complied with a directive to "park your ethics and values with your car outside the surgery?"
The problem lies in classifying as discrimination a refusal to provide or refer for a service, such as abortion, euthanasia or artificial reproduction, that the physician -- and many other Canadians -- believe is wrong.
In Canada, pro-choice advocates are not content with having the freedom to act according to their values; they want to make others act likewise. And they want their beliefs publicly affirmed. These people claim freedom of values for themselves, but refuse to respect others' freedom. That's why they will not tolerate a respect-for-freedom-of-conscience exception. No matter what our values or views, we should all be concerned by such totalitarianism.
- - -
Prof. Margaret Somerville holds professorships in the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University and was the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law.
ANCIENT MYTH AND MODERN SCIENCE
John David Ebert
Published in the Parabola magazine, Fall 2008
HISTORICALLY, THE CONFLICT BETWEEN MYTH AND SCIENCE, according to Joseph Campbell, involved a discrediting of visionary cosmologies in favor of one based upon "fact." In his essay "The Symbol Without Meaning," Campbell described how science gradually disentangled itself from the mythological projections of the medieval imagination through the discoveries of men like Columbus and Copernicus, which amounted to the "drawing of a distinct dividing plane between the world of dream consciousness and that of waking." As a result, "mythological cosmologies... do not correspond to the world of gross facts but are functions of dream and vision," which means, for Campbell, that myths are projections of the human psyche onto the canvas of the universe. Their validity, consequently, is restricted to the psyche, and all myths are to be regarded as metaphors symbolic of, on the one hand, the mysteries of Being, and on the other, transformations of human consciousness.
Suppose, however, we discard Campbell's insistence that myths have been cosmologically disqualified by science, and actually read them, instead, in terms of scientific narratives. Is it possible that we may find visions of cosmological knowledge once stored by archaic societies but now rediscovered by modern science?
In the BRIHADHARANYAKA UPANISHAD, we find the myth of the Great Self whose cosmic loneliness is so immense that it splits into two beings, the first man and first woman. The woman changes herself into a cow, the man transforms into a bull, and together they produce all the cattle. Then she turns into a mare, he into a stallion, and so on. Finally, the man has a revelation when he realizes that all the phenomena of the world have come forth from himself. "Verily," he concludes, "I am all this that I have poured forth!"
The Hindu image of the cosmos as the body of a single living Being is a vision sprung from the depths of thousands of years of yogic practice, going back as far as Harappa and Mohenjo Daro. Indeed, the entire civilization, in contrast with the West, has been inward-turned all along, as a comparison of the eye-motifs of Hindu sculpture with those of the Greeks reveals, for the eyes of the gods and heroes of Indian art are always closed, whereas those of the West are wide open. I would like to suggest that this particular creation myth—and there are thousands of them in Hindu sacred literature—may be rooted in a visionary transformation of cellular mitosis that came to some rishi while in trance. Mitosis is the process whereby living forms grow, as one cell splits into two, two into four, and so on. This organic movement from center to periphery, and from less form to more, would then be a deep structure1 shared by the Hindu creation myth with Western scientific knowledge.
In his book THE BODY OF MYTH: MYTHOLOGY, SACRED TRANCE, AND THE SACRED GEOGRAPHY OF THE BODY (1994), physicist J. Nigro Sansonese develops his thesis that all "myth describes a systematic exploration of the human body by the privileged members of archaic cultures." Myths, according to Sansonese, are encoded descriptions of physiological processes envisioned by yogis and shamans in trance states. He describes, for example, how the myth of Perseus slaying the Kraken by showing it the head of Medusa and turning it to stone is actually a description of the stopping of the heart along the vagus nerve that connects it to the visual centers at the back of the brain. The monster with all its tentacles is the vagus nerve itself, while the head of the Medusa with its snakes is "a description of the brain and its twelve cranial nerves." And the entire story, then, describes how the yogi stops the beating of his own heart while in samadhi.
If Sansonese's theory is correct, then a deep structure shared by the Hindu creation myth with the process of cellular mitosis might in fact exist. If it is possible that visualizations of interior physiological processes can manifest to yogis in trance states, then it is certainly worth considering that the Hindu creation myth is, on one level anyway, a visualization of a somatic process.
The same goes for shamanic trance states, as Jeremy Narby describes in his elegant book, THE COSMIC SERPENT: DNA AND THE ORIGINS OF KNOWLEDGE (1998). Narby is an eth-nobotanist who wondered whether it could be true, as Amazonian tribesmen claimed, that their extensive botanical knowledge originated in trance states induced by ayabauscci, a psychoactive infusion derived from an Amazonian vine. The more he thought about the structural isomorphism shared by the double helix of DNA with the images of snakes and ladders universal to shamanism, the more he began to suspect that the serpents and geometrical patterns of shamanic iconography might actually be proprioceptions of DNA and intracellular activity. In the book, Narby details a series of paintings inspired by ayahuasca visions that he showed to a friend conversant with molecular biology. His friend identified the geometric patterns as unravelled DNA, chromosomes during specific phases of mitosis, triple helix collagen structures, and so on. In other words, Narby discerned the deep structures shared by shamanic trance visions with scientific knowledge of the soma.2 Thus, perhaps, Western civilization has arrived at knowledge by way of technological extensions of sensory organs that tribal peoples have long ago arrived at through proprioceptions during meditation and trance.
It is important to point out that the metaphysical and spiritual implications of myth are in no way reduced to a biological function in these examples. Whereas a Jungian reading, for example, might offer a cross-cultural comparison, the point of this exercise is rather to develop new organs of perception with which to view ancient myths in a way that compares to, or enhances, a Jungian approach. If Narby and Sansonese are right, then the realization of these mythic images as micromyths of cellular processes should induce us to study myths in a new way, for it will be seen that science does not render myth obsolete, and that the tribal wisdom of indigenous societies whose scientific systems are rooted in myth can be taken seriously, rather than disparaged.
One of the primary functions of mythology—what Joseph Campbell called its "cosmological function"—is to project a world picture onto the universe that is consistent with the knowledge of the time. The Christian cosmographer Cosmas, for example, in the sixth century imagined that the universe was a sort of gigantic chest in which the sun and moon revolved around a single enormous mountain that stood up like a monolith from out of a flat earth surrounded by water. Of course the Greeks had long since deduced the rotundity of the earth, and had even drawn up rough draft sketches of the theory of evolution and the heliocentric hypothesis, both of which were discarded, just as the Christians discarded the world image of the Greeks since, in both cases, the images clashed with the respective spiritual dispositions of each culture.
Today we turn to science for our knowledge of what the universe looks like, and when we turn to examine certain scientific narratives of the origins of things with an eye for the deep structures that these narratives might have in common with ancient myths, we find surprising parallels. An example is the current scientific story of the creation of the universe. The idea of what has come to be known as the Big Bang was first put forth by a Catholic priest, the Abbe Georges Lemaitre, who in 1927 suggested that the universe might have arisen from a sort of "primal atom" of matter and energy. The idea of the emergence of the universe from a cosmic egg is, however, a mythological one as well, found all over the world. Here is another creation myth from the UPANISHADS:
In the beginning, this world was nonbeing. This nonbeing became being. It developed. It turned into an egg. It lay there for a year. It burst asunder. One part of the eggshell was of silver, the other part was of gold.
The silver part is the earth, the golden part is the sky...3
Here is a Tibetan creation myth:
From the essence of the five primordial elements a great egg came forth... Eighteen eggs came forth from the yolk of that great egg. The egg in the middle of the eighteen eggs, a conch egg, separated from the others. From this conch egg, limbs grew, and then the five senses, all perfect, and it became a boy of such extraordinary beauty that he seemed the fulfillment of every wish.. .4
And an Orphic creation myth from Greece:
.. .black-winged Night, a goddess of whom even Zeus stands in awe, was courted by the Wind and laid a silver egg in the womb of Darkness; and... Eros, whom some call Phanes, was hatched from this egg and set the universe in motion.5
THUS LEMAITRE, when describing his theory of the origin of the universe from a cosmic egg, may have been subconsciously evoking a mythological image. Then there is the deep structure shared by ancient creation myths with current narratives of the origins of life on this planet. On the first page of his THE FIFTH MIRACLE: THE SEARCH FOR THE ORIGIN AND MEANING OF LIFE, physicist Paul Davies describes two theories about the origins of the first microbes. The old idea of cells emerging on the surface of the ocean in the presence of sunlight, he insists, is made obsolete by new evidence, for "it now appears lat the first terrestrial organisms lived deep underground, entombed within geothermally heated rocks in pressure-cooker conditions. Only later did they migrate to the surface." Several pages later, he says that "our oldest ancestors did not crawl out of the slime so much as ascend from the sulfurous underworld."6
As anyone familiar with Native American myth knows, the common
narrative for the origins of life involves the myth of emergence from the underworld. It is particularly widespread amongst the tribes of the Southwest— for example among the Hopi, whose famous kivas are miniaturizations of this underworld. In a Navaho myth, the first people are in danger of being drowned by a flood, and as the waters rise, they and all the other animals climb onto a gigantic reed that grows up to the world ceiling, from whence the First Man digs his way through to this, the upper world, in which we are presently dwelling.
On the same page, Davies suggests an exactly opposed theory for the origins of life, and, along with it, invokes an equally opposite mythological cosmogony when he says that life may have been brought to the earth from the heavens by meteorites from Mars that may have crashed into its Hadean oceans. The deep structure here is isomorphic with the creation myth of the sky father, one example of which is on the first page of the BOOK OF GENESIS, in which God infuses the watery abyss with the Spirit. That image, in turn, was embedded in an older Mesopotamian cosmology that associated the heavens with the realm of the gods and the earth with clay that required an external agency from above to give it form.
In NARRATIVES OF HUMAN EVOLUTION (1991), bioanthropologist Misia Landau examines a series of accounts of hominization from Darwin to Leakey and discovers that they all share in common the hidden narrative pattern of the hero myth. Using Vladimir Propp's MORPHOLOGY OF THE FOLKTALE (1928) as a stencil, she makes visible within these so-called "objective" narratives the presence of the hero myth as described in folk tales. According to Propp, the formula is of a humble hero who departs on a journey, receives magical aid from a donor figure, survives a series of tests and trials, and arrives at some sort of an apotheosis. Landau shows how, in scientific narratives of human evolution, the hero is the nonhu-man primate who departs from his arboreal habitat with the aid of natural selection and who is tried and tested by competition from other animals, harsh climate, and predation, but eventually arrives at an apotheosis in the achievement of the upright posture of humanity.
Upon examining scientific narratives of three key points in the quest for the origins of things—of the cosmos, of life upon the earth, and of the human from the animal—we discover structural isomorphisms with the ancient myths of the cosmic egg, emergence from the underworld, creation from the heavens, and the hero myth. Apparently, scientists are mythologizing more often than they realize when telling their accounts of the origin and evolution of things.
It is probable that we will never know precisely what "happened" at these key points in the evolution of the cosmos, because they involve knowledge of something that transcends the capacity of the human intellect to grasp. For whenever we pose such questions as "Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?" we are postulating eternal questions that can be answered only in terms of the complex language of myth. When the human mind goes in quest of origins, it strains its limits and begins to crack, while myth comes rushing along to fill in the gap. Perhaps Immanuel Kant was right: we cannot know the world as it is in itself, but only through the human mind's mythological schemata, for between ourselves and "reality" the screen of myth always structures our perceptions.
I have borrowed the term "deep structure" from a footnote in William Irwin Thompson's IMAGINARY LANDSCAPE: MAKING WORLDS OF MYTH AND SCIENCE (1989), p. 49. I subsequently discovered that the term was invented by Noam Chomsky, and is nor mally polarized against "surface structure" in his linguistic theory. But the term is also used in a different sense by Ken Wilber in his SEX. ECOLOGY.SPIRITUALITY in reference to the form or morphogenetic field of a holon. See p. 60 for his discussion.
2 The visionary artwork of Australian aborigines, likewise, is filled with such proprioceptions of subcellular microstructures, and should be especially studied along with the artwork of South American shamans in connection with the theory of deep structures.
3 Cited in Erich Neumann, THE ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS, p. 107 (Princeton-Bollingen, 1970).
4 Cited in Mircea Eliade, MYTH AND REALITY, p. 22 (Harper Torchbooks 1975).
5 Robert Graves, THE GREEK MYTHS (Penguin Books,1955) p. 30.
6 Paul Davies, THE FIFTH MIRACLE: THE SEARCH FOR THE ORIGIN AND MEANING OF LIFE (Simon & Schuster,2000), pp. 11; 26.
YOGA AND MODERN SCIENCE
Published in the Fall 2008 SRF Magazine
Can Meditation Affect Your Health at the Genetic Level?
"It really is time to stop thinking of our DNA as immutable. Even thinking can change it."
It turns out peaceful thoughts really can influence our bodies, right down to the instructions we receive from our DNA, according to a new study," reported ABC News recently. And The Washington Post reports that researchers involved in the study "say they've taken a significant stride forward in understanding how relaxation techniques such as meditation, prayer, and yoga improve health: by changing patterns of gene activity that affect how the body responds to stress."*
The collaborative investigation by members of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/ Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Genomics Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was published in the journal of the Public Library of Science, PLoS ONE.!
Scientists have long known that there are particular genes that predispose a person to specific diseases and health disorders — but that merely carrying a breast-cancer gene, for example, does not guarantee the onset of that condition. Genes can be turned on or off by various factors, which means they may or may not express the instructions carried in their DNA.
"Now we've found how changing the activity of the mind can alter the way basic genetic instructions are implemented," states Harvard Medical School professor Herbert Benson, M.D., co-senior author of the PloS ONE report. "The mind can actively turn on and turn off genes."
Towia Libermann, Ph.D., director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Genomics Center and the report's co-senior author, adds, "This is the first comprehensive study of how the mind can affect gene expression, linking what has been looked on as a 'soft' science with the 'hard' science of genomics."
"Mind-body practices that elicit the relaxation response (such as meditation, repetitive prayer, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.) have been used worldwide for millennia to prevent and treat disease," the research report said. "This study provides the first compelling evidence that the relaxation response elicits specific gene expression changes in short-term and long-term practitioners."
The study indicated that the relaxation response alters the expression of genes involved with processes such as inflammation, programmed cell death (which can keep genetically impaired cells from turning into cancers), and how the body handles free radicals — molecules produced by normal metabolism that, if not appropriately neutralized, can damage cells and tissues.
According to the ABC News summary: "Researchers for the study took blood samples from a group of nineteen people who habitually meditated or prayed for years, and nineteen others who never meditated. The researchers ran genomic analyses of the blood and found that the meditating group suppressed more than twice the number of stress-related genes—about 1,000 of them—than the non-meditating group. The more these stress-related genes are expressed, the more the body will have a stress response like high blood pressure or inflammation. Over long periods of time, these stress responses can worsen high blood pressure, pain syndromes, and other conditions.
"The nonmeditating group then spent ten minutes a day for eight weeks training in relaxation techniques that involved repeating a prayer, thought, sound, phrase, or movement. By the end of the training, the novice meditating group was also suppressing stress-related genes, although at lower levels than those of the long-term meditating people."
In their Public Library of Science report, the researchers stated: "It is becoming increasingly clear that psycho-social stress can manifest as system-wide perturbations of cellular processes....Chronic psychosocial stress has been associated with accelerated aging at the cellular level....and with increased vulnerability to a variety of disease states. Our results suggest that consistent and constitutive changes in gene expression resulting from the relaxation response may relate to long-term physiological effects."
Commenting on these results, the noted science columnist Sharon Begley of Newsweek observed: "The genes in our cells don't matter one iota if they're not turned on, and there are many things in life that can turn off bad genes such as those that raise the risk of disease such as breast cancer....It really is time to stop thinking of our DNA as immutable. Even think ing can change it."
*"Say Om: Doctors Find Meditation Affects Your Body," by Lauren Cox, ABC News, July 2, 2008. "Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes," by Amanda Gardner, The Washington Post, July 2, 2008.
!Dusek, J.A., Otu, H.H., Wohlhueter, A.L., Bhasin, M., Zerbini, L.F., et al. (2008) "Ge-nomic Counter-Stress Changes Induced by the Relaxation Response." PLoS ONE 3(7).
ISLAM AND SCIENCE
NOTES ON AN ONGOING DEBATE
Published in Parabola magazine, Fall 2008
IN HIS PREFACE TO HEISENBERG'S PHYSICS AND PHILOSOPHY. F. S. C. Northop made the following observation on the spread of modern science to non-Western societies:
.. .modern ways are going to alter and in part destroy traditional customs and values. It is frequently assumed by native leaders of non-Western societies, and also often by their Western advisers, that the problem of introducing modern scientific instruments and ways into Asia, the Middle East and Africa is merely that of giving the native people their political independence and then providing them with the funds and the practical instruments...one cannot bring in the instruments of modern physics without sooner or later introducing its philosophical mentality, and this mentality, as it captures the scientifically trained youth, upsets the old familial and tribal moral loyalties.1
Northop, who made these remarks more than four decades ago, did not have to wait too long to see his predictions come true. The changes brought about by modern science in the minds and lives of people in the non-Western world have been no less profound than they are for people living in the Western hemisphere. The crisis of legitimacy and the dissolution of traditional certainties, closely related to the scientistic
worldview of modern natural sciences, have a deep impact on how people in the Islamic world relate to the question of science on the one hand, and their intellectual and scientific tradition on the other. From Muslim scientists and professionals who take science to be a pure and disengaged study of natural phenomena with no hidden ideological assumptions to those who consider modern science essentially physicalist,
reductionist, and in conflict with the ethos of the religious view of the universe, there is a wide range of views on where exactly science stands in the overall order of things. Regardless of what particular position one takes, the urgency of addressing the question of (modern) science is as fresh and challenging today as it was more than a century ago for Jamal al-Din Afghani, the father of Islamic modernism in the nineteenth century, and his generation.
There are two important components to the debate. The first pertains to the practical needs and concerns of Muslim countries. Keeping up with modern science and technology is the number one priority of governments in the Muslim world, as it is everywhere else, and every year billions of dollars are allocated for science education, research, and transfer of technology. From Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, to Mahathir Muhammad, the prime minister of Malaysia, the goal has remained the same: to fill the gap between Western and Islamic societies by empowering Muslim countries with the blessings of modern science. Not only the ruling elites but also the populace at large are convinced of the intrinsic power and necessity of science and technology, for this is where the superiority of the West lies. Contrary to the claims of "Oriental sleep," Muslim countries are no less pragmatic and utilitarian in their quest for power-through-technology than their European and American counterparts.
The second component concerns the intellectual domain and links the discussion both to modern science and its philosophical foundations and to the Islamic scientific tradition as an alternative way of studying the order of narure; The philosophical foundations and, by derivation, built-in presuppositions of modern science and its historical rise in Europe have long been debated and well analyzed. Long before the Kuhnian and post-modernist criticisms of modern science as a cultural product embedded in socio-historical necessities, a number of important studies sought to show how philosophical, cosmological, religious, and metaphysical ideas played instrumental roles in the shaping of the modern scientific worldview from Galileo to Newton. Edmund Burtt's THE FOUNDATIONS OF MODERN PHYSICAL SCIENCES and Frances A. Yates's GIORDANO BRUNO AND THE HERMETIC TRADITION, inter alia, were major challenges to the nineteenth-century view of science as studying natural phenomena from a standpoint that Thomas Nagel has aptly described as "view from owhere," viz., seeing the world not from a particular point in it but rather over it, hence assuming an ahistorical position. In what follows, I shall focus on how the Muslim world has responded to this debate and what possible positions we may expect to arise from these responses.
ABOVE (IN CALLIGRAPHY): THE HOLY PROPHET HAS SAID: "SEEK KNOWLEDGE FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE."
SCIENTIFIC UNIVERSALISM VERSUS CULTURAL PARTICULARISM
The participation of Muslim philosophers and scholars in the debate over the historicity of modern science has added a new dimension to the debate in that the defenders of a scientific tradition rooted in Islamic metaphysics and cosmology have clearly argued for the cultural specificity and differentiation of scientific traditions. Such advocates of Islamic science as Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Naquib al-Attas, Osman Bakar, and Muzaffar Iqbal, to name but a few, have defended a kind of cultural particularism against scientific universalism whereby the ahistorical claims
of modern scientism (and not science as such) to universal truth and validity are rejected and alternative ways of studying the order of nature are maintained. This is best illustrated in the sharp contrast between the religious-sacred view of nature and the secular outlook of modern science. While the great religious traditions have developed a complex cosmology and approached the world of nature as imbued with intrinsic intelligibility and order, modern scientism regards metaphysical and aesthetic considerations about the world of nature as philosophically unfounded and scientifically inconsequential.
Bertrand Russell's celebrated essay called "A Free Man's Worship," for instance, was written as a testimonial to this view of science. If we accept, according to Russell, the scientific view of the universe as a theory of everything, we will be saved from the "confusions" of both philosophy and religion at once:
Such in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.2
Russell's radical scientism has lost much of its elan today. But it remains the unwritten code of the popular perceptions of science. Furthermore, the stark contrast that we see between Russell's view of science and traditional cosmologies is also to be found within the Western intellectual tradition and especially in regards to such controversies as evolution versus creationism. The contrast is sharper in the case of Islamic thought and the reason lies in the different ways the Western and Islamic worlds have experienced secular modernity: while the secularization of the Western view of nature was part and parcel of early and middle modernity, the Muslim world has largely avoided radical secularization until recently. Even today, secularization remains a top-down movement in most Muslim countries, imposed through Western education and state apparatus.
It is obvious that construing modern science as a particular and not the only way of studying natural phenomena poses a serious challenge to the exclusivist and absolutist claims of modern natural sciences that reduce reality to what can be measured empirically. To better understand this point about modern Western science, we may remember the distinction between the context of discovery and the context of justification. While the context of discovery refers to what the scientist actually does in her lab, the context of justification refers to how the scientist's work is interpreted and articulated in different frameworks of analysis. Insofar as the context of discovery is concerned, we may be justified in assuming a linear historical line that connects Ptolemy, Abu Bakr al-Razi, or Nasir al-Din al-Tusi to Newton or Max Planck: the successes or failures of these scientists of different historical periods and cultural settings can be explained in terms of the accumulation of scientific knowledge, refinement of measurement, exactitude in prediction, advancement in taxonomy, etc. What they all have in common is the continuity of the context of discovery whereby religious and cultural elements, the "soft realities" of science, have a relatively small role to play.
The issue takes on a substantially different form when we move to the next level, i.e., the context of justification in which we attempt to understand and interpret the meaning of the empirical work of the scientist on the ground. Here, we are no longer in the world of the "bare facts" of science, a set of primary qualities that constitute the physical reality of substances without any suppositions and interpretive domains. As much as the scientist would like to envision a "pure science" untainted by socio-cultural, historical, mythological, or religious ideas, the very concept of "bare facts" as the building blocks of scientific procedures is highly questionable. Science is not a mirror juxtaposed against the world and the scientist the incorrigible interpreter of the reality of things. Rather, every interpretation, extrapolation, deduction, induction, and even prediction is screened through a set of philosophical assumptions whether they are articulated explicitly or remain tacit. It is at this level of analysis that science becomes a cultural artifact bound by particular traditions, postulations, and needs. The basic tenets of modern science, which make it a secular enterprise, are all produced in the context of justification and can be accepted, questioned, and/or rejected primarily on philosophical grounds.
The multiplicity of scientific world-views is part and parcel of every scientific tradition in that the findings of a particular scientist or in a particular field of science are interpreted in a variety of ways that may or may not agree with other interpretations. In fact, this was the case in traditional societies where we always have multiple cosmologies both across and within specific traditions. Take the case of Islamic and Christian cosmologies. Both traditions produced elaborate
ABOVE (IN CALLIGRAPHY): THE HOLY PROPHET HAS SAID: "VERILY THE MEN OF KNOWLEDGE ARE THE INHERITORS OF THE PROPHETS."
cosmological schemes tightly linked to the astronomy and physics of their times, i.e., the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian astronomy. Naturally, the osmology of Dante's DIVINE COMEDY was structured along the lines of biblical and Christian thought whereas Islamic cosmology was the result of a deliberate attempt to reconcile Greek-Aristotelian cosmology with Qur'anic theology and eschatology. Yet, we still find more cases of plurality within each of these traditions. The scholastic-Thomistic view of nature is not the same as St. Francis of Assisi's mystical and
poetical deliberations of nature. In the same way, certain parts of Ibn Sina's Neoplatonic cosmology or that of the Brethren of Purity are considerably different from Ibn al-'Arabi's "Five Divine Presences" and Mulla Sadra's mundus imaginalis.
FIGURE OF MOON ECLIPSES
SCIENTIFIC MANUSCRIPT, c. NINTH CENTUM
The case for particularism and the multiplicity of interpretations within and across cultural traditions does not lead to parochialism. It is possible to draw many conclusions from the same data both in science and philosophy, and as such plurality does not invalidate the veracity and relevance of divergent readings. The apparent diversity of traditional cosmologies is rooted in an underlying unity in that such postulates as the universe as a sign of God (ay at Allah in Arabic and vestigia Dei in Latin), teleology, intrinsic intelligibility of the world, order, and harmony are all shared by various schools of thought. Tradition is not monolithic, and the same applies to the science(s) practiced within its bosom.
At this point, the concept of Islamic science has a lot to offer to the current religion-science debate. But this is true only if the term is understood in a broader sense to include the reassertion of the religious view of the universe as an alternative vision to the profane and secular worldview of modern scientism. Considering the eroding impact of scientism on traditional beliefs and practices and the disastrous consequences of scientific and technological development without
boundaries, the Islamic world can make a strong case for a new vision of science that will both cater to the vital needs of modern society and preserve the spiritual and ethical significance of the world of nature—a case for which people of other religious traditions have to collaborate to foster a common ground for a science that is in peace and harmony with both heaven and earth at the same time.
THE ISLAMIC WORLD AND SCIENCE TODAY
The Islamic intellectual and scientific tradition, going back to the rise of Islam as a world civilization in the ninth and tenth centuries, remains a major source of pride and inspiration for the contemporary Muslim world in its quest for self-identity and self-esteem. The glory of Islamic civilization stretching from Andalusia and the Balkans to Persia and India and the historic contributions of such Muslim scientists as Ibn al-Haytham, labir ibn Hayyan, Khwarazmi, Ibn Sina, al-Majriti, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and others to the development of science are remembered throughout the Islamic world as more than a mere grandeur of the past. Rather, this tradition of remarkable scientific achievement and philosophical articulation is a witness to the study of the world of nature within a religious and sacred framework that delivered to both the spiritual and practical needs of human society.
The big challenge is to show the relevance of this tradition today without slipping into romanticism and without succumbing to the temptations of secular scientism. There is a world of difference between Ibn Sina's Neoplatonic cosmology and modern science not only in terms of cumulative knowledge and heuristic advancement but also in the philosophical outlook of the two systems of the universe. For a devout follower of modern science like John Searle, "there is really nothing in the universe but physical particles and fields of force acting on physical particles,"3 and this makes matters supposedly easier once we rest our case for a spiritual vision of the universe. The question for the Islamic world, however, is this: after four centuries of not practicing science in full scale and for the last century and a half trying to transfer science and technology from the West, will the Islamic world ever be in a position where it will put its own "paradigm" in place and redevelop a scientific tradition that will be in harmony with its religious tenets and aspirations on the one hand, and cater to its practical needs on the other?
The confusion that plagues the minds of countless scientists in the Muslim world and across the globe arises from the lack of a balance between the discourse and practice of science in an Islamic context. For some, the question of religion or any other philosophical consideration is simply not there. The scientist goes about her own work and fulfills her function in her scientific community without bothering herself with any "big questions." In most cases, however, the Muslim scientist is split between her profession as a scientist and her value system as a believer. The scientist works as part of a global scientific community and remains mostly indifferent to questions of ethics, cosmology, religion, etc. The believer practices her religion but brings very little from her devotion to bear on her scientific work. We thus end up with split identities and with very little ground to integrate the two in an intelligible and cogent manner.4
Part of the problem has to do with the resistance of the scientistically minded Muslim professionals to accept any alternative to modern science except, perhaps, when it comes to the ethical and environmental misdeeds of modern science. This is a common phenomenon in spite of the fact that the groundwork for an Islamic concept of science and its conceptual scheme has already been laid by a long list of Muslim scholars that include S. H. Nasr, Rene Guenon, O. Bakar, Alparslan Acikgenc, Muzaffar Iqbal, Mahdi Golshani, Ziauddin Sardar, Zaki Kirmani, and others with important differences among them.'The task at hand, however, is rendered more difficult by the simple nonexistence of a strong scientific tradition in the Muslim world. The possibility of applying an Islamic framework of science to actual scientific work is alarmingly limited in the sense that the level of scientific infrastructure in Muslim countries from physics and engineering to medicine and astronomy is simply not comparable with that of the West, which controls the pace and direction of scientific research and technological innovation. Furthermore, the global network of scientific programs and technological novelties, funded by governments and powerful transnational corporations, makes it nearly impossible for any scientist to go against the grain and open up new venues for an alternative vision of the universe.
Until the Islamic world recovers its intellectual and scientific tradition on the one hand, and comes to terms with the challenges of modern science on the other, we will either join the camp of scientific universalism and reduce reality to what the natural sciences can measure, or join the camp of radical anti-realism of the postmodernists, as has often been the case among the Muslim critics of secular science, and deny any validity to science. The Islamic intellectual and scientific tradition can provide a comprehensive framework that will address the challenge of studying the universe in a non-reductionist way and preserve the sacred meaning of nature—a framework shared by other religious traditions from Judaism and Christianity to traditional Hinduism and Buddhism.
1 Werner Heisenberg, PHYSICS AND PHILOSOPHY: THE REVOLUTION IN MODERN SCIENCE (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1958), p. 2.
2 MYSTICISM AND LOGIC (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1957), p. 45.
3 John Searle, THE REDISCOVERY OF MIND (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1994), p. 30.
4 Seyyed Hossein Nasr has dealt with this issue in many of his writings. Sec my "The Sacred versus the Secular: Nasr on Science," LIBRARY OF LIVING PHILOSOPHERS: SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR, ed. L. E. Hahn, R. E. Auxier, and L. W. Stone (Chicago: Open Court Press, 2001), pp. 445-62. See also Muzaffar Iqbal, ISLAM AND SCIENCE (Ashgate, 2002).
5 For a detailed analysis of the three major views of science represented by these figures in the Islamic world, see my "Three Views of Science in die Islamic World" in GOD, LIFE AND THE COSMOS: CHRISTIAN AND ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES, eds. Ted Peters, Muzaffar Iqbal, Syed Nomanul Haq (Ashgate, 2002), pp. 43-75.
Ever since early astronomers yanked Earth from center stage in the solar system some 500 years ago, scientists have been pulling the rug out from under people's basic beliefs.
"The history of physics," says Harvard physicist Andrew Strominger, "is the history of giving up cherished ideas."
No idea has been harder to give up, however—for physicists and laypeople alike—than everyday notions of space and time, the fundamental "where" and "when" of the universe and everything in it.
Einstein's unsettling insights more than 80 years ago showed that static space and fixed time were flimsy facades, thinly veiling a cosmos where seconds and meters ooze like mud and the rubbery fabric of space-time warps into an unseen fourth dimension. About the same time, the new "quantum mechanical" understanding of the atom revealed that space and time are inherently jittery and uncertain.
Now, some physicists are taking this revolutionary line of thinking one step further: If their theories are right, in the words of Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, space and time may be "doomed".
Concurs physicist Nathan Seiberg, also of the institute: I am almost certain that space and time are illusions. These are primitive notions that will be replaced by something more sophisticated."
That conclusion may not affect anyone's morning commute. But it is rocking the foundations of physics—as well as causing metaphysical reverberations that inevitably follow major changes in our fundamental understanding of how the universe works.
The impetus behind this tumult is an idea that has become increasingly dominant in modern physics: string theory. According to string theory, the most basic ingredients in the universe are no longer point-like particles, the familiar electrons and quarks. Instead, they are unimaginably small vibrating strings of some unknown fundamental stuff.
String theory suggests that different configurations of strings produce different harmonic chords—just as a piano produces a sound different from that of a flute. The vibrating string gives rise to the particles, and the way the string vibrates determines each particle's properties. This all takes place in a convoluted landscape of 11-dimensional space.
It is a concept so strange that even theoretical physicists struggle to understand it....
Which practical fruits will flow from the new view of the universe remain unknown. But in the past, fundamental revolutions in physics have—against everyone's wildest expectations — flowered into everything from cell phones to brain scans....
Perhaps most revolutionary of all, it appears that space and time aren't essential ingredients of a universe ruled by strings....Certain approaches to string theory dispense with the notion of space-time completely. Yet, they seem to produce the same set of results as string theories with normal space and time. To some theorists, this strongly suggests that space and time are superfluous. Space and time as fundamental concepts may be about to disappear altogether— literally pulling the floor out from under physics.
"The notion of space-time is something we've cherished for thousands of years, and it's clearly something we're going to have to give up," said Strominger.—Los Angeles Times, November 16,1999. Copyright, 1999, Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with permission,
Illusions of Time and Space: The Vedic View
Time and its corollary, space, as observed in the world of relativity are "man-made" categories, suggested by Nature's power of illusion and applied to a series of changes happening in God....God is the Eternal Consciousness, unchanging and indivisible, in which the illusions of time (change) and space (division) present an infinite variety of forms interacting in a progressive mode of past, present, and future. When a dreamer travels around the world in his dream, he does so, not in space and time, but in his consciousness only. Similarly, the cosmic dream is occurring neither in vast space nor in a series of past, present, and future time, but in the Eternal Now of God's dream consciousness. Because Jesus was attuned to this eternal consciousness, he could say: "Before Abraham was, I am." He knew his everlastingness was in no manner interrupted by the illusory changes called birth, existence, and death.
God has no respect for "history," man's limited and erroneous measuring conceptions of time and space, for He can produce any past being, object, or event instantaneously in His ever present dream consciousness. Likewise, in a second, He can dissolve this world and its beings—or the entire cosmos—and then bring them back at will, just as they were. All He has to do is to stop dreaming this world and it ceases to be; or He can dream it back again by materializing it in His consciousness. These capricious categories of time and space are offshoots of the Cosmic Dreamer's fancy. By Divine Imaginings, dream pictures of universes can be made to appear and disappear in the tiniest space and minutest moment in a single frozen thought of the Cosmic Dreamer.
Devotees who realize the dream nature of this cosmos and the dreaming power of God no longer rely on the misleading illusions of Nature's measurers, the conclusions from which make creation seem often harsh and unjust. They look to the Eternal Consciousness, the Sole Time, that knows no distress of change.
in God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
MSMS in his memoir states:
"There is a fundamental difference between the Jewish idea of creation and that of Islam. The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine will. I think that I have sufficiently explained the difference between the Islamic doctrine of the unity of God and, on one side, the theistic ideas, founded upon the Old Testament, and on the other, the patheistic and dualistic ideas of the Indian religion and that of Zoroaster. But having known the real, the Absolute, having understood the Universe as an infinite succession of events, intended by God, we need an ethic, a code of conduct in order to be able to elevate ourselves toward the ideal demanded by God."
Who am I?
Whence is this widespread cosmic flux?
These, the wise should inquire into diligently,
And the Psalmist asks (PSALM :
"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?"
A study of the cosmos and of oneself—mystery inside and mystery outside—are deeply related, both aspects of the Great Mystery.
2. Both scientific research and spiritual search are perennial. These activities have existed as long as human beings have existed. Hardly a person exists who does not sometimes wonder about the universe—the stars, the plants, the flowers,the birds and everything else around us.There is an amazing variety in the world,and there is also always the yearning for finding unifying principles in this multiplicity. So, we may not do science in a systematic fashion, or be knowledgeable about the latest findings of the scientific community, but at least at the amateur and dilettante level we are all interested in the sort of things that scientists study.
Similarly, everyone, even the person wholly driven by the contingent necessities of survival or of the game of outmaneuvering one's fellow human beings, sometimes wonders about the meaning and purpose of life. Where did I come from? What will happen to me when I die? What is my true nature? Am I only the body? Or am I something else who has a body?
"Who am I?" is the fundamental, primordial, and essential question of all human beings in all cultures. We may not ask these questions frequently, or in a disciplined manner, with the whole of our being, but we all ask them occasionally.
3. So in some general fashion we are all concerned with scientific as well as spiritual questions. Both of these human enterprises have existed forever and will continue to do so. Therefore, the question is not whether one of them is right or wrong, or whether we have to prove the validity of one with the help of the other. The question is more how we individually or as a society are related with both science and spirituality. "It is no exaggeration to say," remarked the English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, "that the future course of history depends on the decision of this generation as to the relations between religion and science."
4. To free us from an association with any particular religious dogma or creed, it is better for us to use the phrase "spiritual search" rather than "religion" or even "spirituality."
5. In addition to the basic survival and reproduction needs of human beings, there are two main necessities, more of our soul than of the body. These are knowledge and meaning. If we speak inclusively and genetically, these two needs are what scientific research and spiritual search attempt to satisfy.
6. Science is the paradigm of knowledge for us moderns. Why do scientists engage in scientific research? It seems logical to address this question first of all to scientists, and among them the greatest. What motivates them in their searches? Albert Einstein, in an address given in honor of Max Planck, said:
In the temple of Science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither. Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition; many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes. Were an angel of the Lord to come and drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, it would be noticeably emptier, but there would still be some men, of both present and past times, left inside....If the types we have just expelled were the only types there were, the temple would never have existed, any more than one can have a wood consisting of nothing but creepers. Now let us have another look at those who found favor with the angel. What has brought them to the temple? That is a difficult question, and no single answer will cover it. To begin with, I believe with Schopenhauer that one of the strongest motives that leads men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from personal life into the world of objective perception and thought; this desire may be compared with the townsman's irresistible longing to escape from his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still, pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity. ESSAYS IN SCIENCE 1-2
DIAGRAM USED IN COMPUTING ASTRONOMICAL PERIODS, WHICH ALSO SERVES FOR MEDITATION. KANGRA, HIMACHAL PRADESH, INDIA, EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. INK AND COLOR(photo)
In these remarks about Planck, Einstein is of course also revealing his own motives for pursuing science: a longing for freedom from merely personal life and a search for the world of objective perception and thought.
7. There is something deeply objective about scientific knowledge. The ideal is to look for laws of nature that are completely independent of the scientists, totally invariant with respect to any feature or quality of the scientists. The law should be independent of whether the scientist is tall or short, in China or in Arizona, running or standing still, loving or hateful, good or bad. We may not always succeed in attaining this complete objectivity, but that is the ideal— a thorough removal of the nature of the person from the formulation of scientific laws. Spiritual search, on the other hand, is deeply subjective, not idiosyncratic but existential, relating to the quality of being of the person.
It is the demand of objectivity that leads to impersonal knowledge, and separation of knowing from quality of being. We could have very good human beings or quite bad; the quality of their science is independent of their quality as persons.
There is no meaning to spirituality except the transformation of the quality of the person. We can have, and have had, great and famous scientists who were vengeful, fearful, small-hearted, arrogant, and generally quite awful human beings. But the very meaning and purpose of greatness in spiritual matters is an enhancement of love and compassion, and progressive freedom from fear and self-importance. To say that the Buddha was enlightened but not compassionate is an oxymoron. But Newton, perhaps the greatest scientist in history and about whom Alexander Pope said that closer to the gods no mortal had come, would not be accused of compassion or generous heartedness.
8. Science is all about finding relationships among natural processes, events, and states. To find generalities, commonalities, and laws, as few as possible, governing as many events as possible. Science discovers order in nature, and finds expressions of that order more and more succinctly, precisely, and generally. Spirituality on the other hand is about creating order that does not already exist, order in being and in our perceptions. Whenever we look at ourselves impartially, from above as it were, we discover disorder—fears, ambitions, jealousies, contradictory desires. This has been the discovery of all the great searchers. Freedom from this disorder in the psyche allows a deeper order to prevail. This is the contact with the sacred. And with truth, love, and beauty. Spiritual search has always to do with transformation of our being. Not the way it is but the way it could be. All religious masters say that we do not live the way we should, and we could. Then they teach ways of living rightly, not in sin but in Grace, not in dukkha but in the felicity of Nirvana, not in illusion but in Reality, not in bondage but in Freedom. Idioms vary from culture to culture, but the basic reality persists.
9. Scientific knowledge is public; spiritual search is individual. A discovery by Einstein can benefit even those who do not understand that e=mc2. But the Noble Truths of the Buddha need to be realized—to be made real—by an individual through more and more direct perception. It is the transformation of one person's being that can lead to his/her transformation and thus to Freedom or Nirvana or Grace.
10. Both science and spiritual search proceed from a recognition of mystery, but differently. Scientific research has to do with trying to know the unknown, but this unknown is knowable (mystery). Spiritual search, or search for the Sacred, has to do with the cultivation of a relationship with the Unknowable (Mystery). They both deal with mystery and with the unknown.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.... To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling, is at the centre of true religiousness. ALBERT EINSTEIN
Science deals with the mystery that can be solved, the unknown that can be known. "Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality or the intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order," Einstein wrote.
Also, in scientific knowledge there is always a tendency towards control and prediction.
The Sacred always remains unknown, because it is Unknowable. The Mystery here cannot be solved; but it can be dissolved. This requires a radical transformation of being, body, mind, and heart. The relationship with the Sacred Mystery calls for a total response. It can be of denial (depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, vehement scientism, etc., all in the service of great forgetting), fear (projecting the known on the unknown, wanting to extend life beyond death, everlasting life, quantitative extension, etc.), or wonder (awe, worship, joy, relishing the Mystery, ananda, awareness, accompanied by a sense of the vastness, beauty, compassion, etc.).
11. One can come to the Sacred only at the end of knowledge—vedanta. Knowledge is always not only in time and space, it is of time and space. The Sacred manifests in great vision that cannot be formulated or codified. Also, the Sacred is felt or sensed only when one is freed of knowledge, and of the knower, and also from the need to know—which is to say freedom from the past (in which knowledge resides), freedom from being somebody (which the knower is), freedom from any wish to control. Thus arise love, beauty, and celebration.
12. Now with developments in relativity theory and in quantum mechanics, and also in molecular biology and cosmology and ecology and everywhere else in science, there is more and more recognition of our connection with the whole—with other beings, with the whole niverse.What affects the other, anywhere in the cosmos, affects me. There can hardly be a need for a sense of isolation or of fear, or a wish to control. The other is not only like myself, he/she/it is myself.
13. There can in principle be no opposition between scientific research and spiritual search. It is easy to forget what Einstein said, echoing the insight of all the great spiritual sages of the world: "The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self." This freedom from the self—and certainly therefore also from mind and knowledge—is what can make some scientific research itself a sacred or a spiritual path. This was certainly so for Einstein and perhaps for all of the greatest scientists in history. For them the Sacred manifests itself in cosmological order, in the harmony of the laws and their beauty.
Over the next several months, the Vatican will sponsor academic conferences dedicated to the work of biologist Charles Darwin and astronomer Galileo Galilei, two thinkers whose ideas have posed revolutionary challenges to religious belief.
Featuring distinguished international panels of scientists and theologians, these events are the latest efforts by the Catholic Church under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to affirm that Christian faith and modern science are not at odds, but entirely compatible.
Yet some critics inside and outside the Church insist that such gestures do not satisfy the Vatican's duty to admit its historical role as an obstacle to scientific progress.
Unlike some conservative Protestant churches, which have rejected Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection as contradicting the biblical account of creation, the Catholic Church has a record of guarded tolerance of Darwin's ideas.
Pope Pius XII permitted "research and discussions . . . with regard to the doctrine of evolution" in 1950, nearly a century after Darwin's theory was published; and John Paul II recognized evolution as "more than a hypothesis" nearly half a century later.
The church has won praise from scientists and religious believers in various traditions.
"The ongoing and vigorous engagement of the Catholic Church with evolutionary theory reflects, in my opinion, a fluid and dynamic pathway that combines a profound sense of continuity with its historical past and a living and open, experiential response to . . . the discoveries of science," said Robert J. Russell, founder of the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences in Berkeley, Calif.
Russell, a physicist and minister in the United Church of Christ, will be one of the speakers next month at a Vatican-sponsored conference marking the 150th anniversary of Darwin's book, "The Origin of Species."
In recent years, however, with the growing prominence of "creationism" and "intelligent design" as alternative explanations for the existence of humanity and the universe, Catholics have increasingly voiced doubts about Darwin's acceptability.
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a friend and former student of Pope Benedict's, provoked controversy with a 2005 article arguing that "neo-Darwinian dogma" is not "compatible with Christian faith" and insisting that the "human intellect can readily discern purpose and design in the natural world."
That the cardinal published his article with the encouragement and assistance of proponents of intelligent design gave the impression that a high church official was endorsing ideas that most scholars reject as unscientific.
Schoenborn has since attempted to clarify his position, insisting that he rejects not the theory of evolution, but arguments that use Darwin's ideas to disprove the existence of a creator-God.
The Rev. Marc Leclerc made the same distinction recently in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper. "Evolution and creation do not present the least opposition between them," he wrote, "on the contrary, they reveal themselves as entirely complementary."
Leclerc, lead organizer of the upcoming Darwin conference, said last year that no proponents of creationism or intelligent design had been invited to the event.
Yet the Vatican's embrace of Darwin remains a qualified one. The conference is "not, even minimally, a 'celebration' in honor of the English scientist," Leclerc said. "It is simply a matter of taking stock of the event that has forever marked the history of science and has influenced how we understand our own humanity."
By contrast, an official Vatican statement recently declared that the "Church desires to honor the figure of Galileo, innovator of genius and son of the church."
Those words introduced a series of Vatican-sponsored or -supported events to take place this year, which the United Nations has designated as the International Year of Astronomy, marking the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo.
One of the most prominent of these events will be a May conference in Florence, Italy, devoted to the astronomer's conflicts with the Vatican, which silenced and imprisoned him for teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun.
The Church has been trying for centuries to put this embarrassing episode behind it. In 1981, John Paul II established a commission to reevaluate the case, and in 1992 he concluded that Galileo had fallen victim to a "tragic mutual incomprehension." That misunderstanding, the pope said, had given rise to a "myth" that the Church opposed free scientific inquiry.
John Paul's statement failed to satisfy prominent critics, including the Rev. George V. Coyne, former head of the Vatican Observatory, who has called for a fuller recognition that church authorities unfairly prevented Galileo from pursuing his research.
In January 2008, Pope Benedict canceled an appearance at a Rome university after faculty members and students protested his presence as an offense to the "secularity of science and of culture," citing words from a 1990 lecture in which he seemed to justify Galileo's condemnation.
Vatican officials are clearly hoping that this year's observances will clarify once and for all that the church now regards Galileo as not only a great scientist but an exemplary Catholic. Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, has even spoken in terms that evoke sainthood, suggesting that Galileo "could become for some the ideal patron for a dialogue between science and faith."
Yet there is at least one honor for which Galileo will have to wait a little longer. Plans to put up a statue of the astronomer in the Vatican gardens this year have been "suspended," Ravasi said, voicing hopes that the money would be spent instead for educational projects on the "relationship between science and religion."
Scientists searching for brain's 'God spot' find belief circuits Scientists searching for the so-called "God spot" have identified parts of the brain which control religious belief.
By John Bingham
Last Updated: 1:00PM GMT 10 Mar 2009
A study involving practising Christians, Muslims and Jews found that some areas of the cortex "light up" in response to religious statements.
Scans carried out on volunteers as they processed a series of remarks about God showed how areas of the brain which evolved more recently and not present in other animals were often more heavily involved – suggesting that faith is uniquely human.
"We're interested to find where in the brain belief systems are represented, particularly those that appear uniquely human," said Prof Jordan Grafman of the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland, who led the research.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, undermined the idea that a single area of the brain – nicknamed the God spot – controlled religious belief.
Instead, the scientists found that several different pieces of cerebral circuitry are used to process different aspects of religion.
A group of 40 volunteers, drawn from the main monotheistic religions, were asked to listen to a series of statements about God and asked to say whether they agreed or disagreed while having their brain scanned.
When statements about God being involved in the world were read, the lateral frontal lobe areas – one of the part of the brain which enables us to empathise with other people – were engaged.
But when it came to comments such as "God is wrathful", activity was centred on the medial temporal and frontal gyri.
And when more abstract or doctrinal questions were raised, it was the right inferior temporal gyrus – the circuitry which helps us understand metaphor – which was most engaged.
"Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks, and support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary adaptive cognitive functions," said Prof Grafman.
By Kyle Jantzen, For the Calgary HeraldMarch 22, 2009
Gary Goodyear, Conservative member of Parliament for Cambridge, Ont., and secretary of state for science and technology, finds himself in the middle of a public controversy over his religious convictions and the extent to which he may or may not believe in creation, evolution or some combination of the two.
On the one hand, Goodyear's defenders assert that asking a government minister about his Christian beliefs amounts to an attack on religious faith (a "witch-hunt"?), even while admitting that Goodyear's response was
somewhat confusing and that his attempts to clarify have only muddied the waters. They have also pointed out that Goodyear would not likely have been asked that question if he were a Jew or liberal Protestant rather than a conservative Christian. On the other hand, Goodyear's opponents have argued that the personal scientific opinions of the secretary of state for science and technology are entirely relevant to the manner in which he manages his portfolio, and that Goodyear should be expected to wholeheartedly endorse an evolutionary perspective on science.
Goodyear might have learned from Galileo Galilei, the 17th-century Italian astronomer who ran afoul of the Roman Catholic Church on account of his heliocentric view of the universe. (The Church subscribed to an Aristotelian geocentric view.) Accused of heresy, Galileo was placed under house arrest. His writings were then banned, including the Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, which had originally been published with the support of the pope. Since that famous trial, Galileo has grown into one of the primary witnesses trotted out in the ongoing debate between creationists and evolutionists, cited as proof positive that Christian faith and scientific truth are mutually exclusive, even contradictory notions.
History, however, tells a different story -- one which Goodyear would do well to read. Galileo was neither a raving atheist nor even an agnostic who had no use for God in the midst of his relentless scientific quest to explain the physical universe. Rather, he was a loyal son of the Church who respected not only science and reason, but also faith and revelation.
In a 1615 letter to Christiana, the grand duchess of Tuscany, Galileo explained his views on the relationship between science and the Bible. His starting point was the problem of explaining the biblical passages that seem to suggest that the Earth does not move -- a key point to be overcome if the geocentric view of the universe was to be displaced by a heliocentric view. Galileo asserted that both the Bible and Nature (understood according to scientific methods) were sources of truth given by God. As such, they could never contradict each other, since God was consistent and would not speak out two different versions of truth.
The problem, according to Galileo, was that the Bible was frequently hard to understand and necessitated interpretations which appeared at times to differ from the "bare meaning of the words." Nature, on the other hand, was "inexorable and immutable," never deviating from its laws. Thus, whenever dealing with questions relating to the physical universe, Galileo advocated looking first to science ("sense experiences and necessary demonstrations") and only afterward to Holy Scripture.
That said, the famous astronomer still held the Bible in high esteem, pointing out that science could not explain many mysteries of life. In these matters, he asserted, our only hope for understanding was the direct revelation of divine truth through the Holy Spirit in the form of Scripture.
"But," as Galileo concluded, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them."
Such an intellectual approach might help Goodyear and other religiously minded leaders tasked with engaging the world of science and technology. Indeed, there are distinct advantages for someone in Goodyear's role to combine religious faith and scientific reason. As Canadians, we're probably better off with a secretary for science and technology who does not subscribe to an unchecked faith in the powers of science. All too often, the wonderful improvements in human life produced by scientific research and applied technology have come with partially hidden costs left unconsidered by an excited public or its government regulators. We need only to remind ourselves of the negative environmental impact produced by our uninhibited adoption of 19th-century industrial technologies to remember that all scientific progress comes with a price attached.
People with strong religious convictions, who regularly consider their lives in relation to an external moral code, are the most likely to recognize the need for careful debate about the many ethical quandaries generated by the current state and future potential of scientific discovery. From genetic manipulation to the increasing control we posses over the beginning and end of human life, our society is in greater need than ever of an open discussion about the limits within which science should work on behalf of our legitimate human needs (though not, perhaps, in support of our wildest utopian dreams). Political leaders with religious faith and a willingness to participate in democratic debate are a tremendous asset in navigating these ethical minefields, so that we can make decisions about science that are good for all Canadians. As secretary of state for science and technology, Gary Goodyear the Christian should both champion scientific research and facilitate public debate about its potential impact for good and ill.
Science and religion are not opposed to one another, and it is perfectly acceptable to hold strong convictions about the creative role of a God who brings order out of chaos and the functional role of natural selection within an evolutionary understanding of the natural world. It's just too bad Goodyear couldn't explain that as well as Galileo.
KYLE JANTZEN, PHD, IS ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AT AMBROSE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE IN CALGARY
By Nigel Hannaford, Calgary HeraldMarch 24, 2009 10:02 AM
Liberal MP Marc Garneau got it right. Commenting on the controversy swirling around Science and Technology Minister of State Gary Goodyear's reluctant affirmation of his belief in evolution, he said the minister's beliefs wouldn't necessarily affect how he did his job. Garneau, who as a former astronaut has impeccable scientific credentials, always was a class act.
It's a pity his nuanced opinion isn't more widely shared in scientific circles. Science is a wonderful tool for observing and understanding the universe.
However, in the wrong hands it makes a grim master. That is, you can be a fool for God: you can also be a fool for science.
The problem is not that science sometimes gets it wrong. Scientists themselves expect that. Once, the best of the best thought that light could only move in straight lines. Then, it was demonstrated that very dense objects--black holes --exerted enough gravitational pull to bend or even capture light. Theorize, test, observe, move on with the best results.
Where things go wrong is where the label "science" is slapped on to a concept to place it beyond discussion. Fifty years ago, for instance, anybody talking about bending light would have been dismissed as an irredeemable doorknob, fit only to sit with flat-earthers.
The consequences of that might be no more than parking lot fist fights at an astrophysicists' conference. But when the latest conclusions of mankind's ongoing penetration of nature's secrets are held with unbending fervour, and above all, when people who don't agree are told they're morally inferior --when science becomes "true religion"--great harm has followed.
Take, for instance, the now-discredited science of eugenics. Culling the weak from the human herd once seemed like a modern, progressive and above all scientifically sound approach. After centuries of the selective breeding of domestic animals, it also had intuitive appeal. Hence, for several decades in the world's most advanced countries, the mentally deficient, the congenitally damaged and various other demographics reckoned by scientists to be a drag on the gene pool and conceded by the society they had deceived to be a waste of skin, were sterilized, lobotomized and in some cases euthanized by men in white coats.
The latter proceeded with evangelical confidence, convinced what they were doing was in humanity's best interests. (Incidentally, though eugenics has now lost its mainstream constituency, the same mentality lingers on in abortion clinics, where ending pregnancies thought likely to result in the birth of an imperfect child is warmly approved.)
A further example would be the controversy swirling around global warming.
In 1975, the best advice about the climate was that another ice age was on the way. Twenty-five years later, the exact opposite was predicted, and attributed to human activity. Reasonable people disagree about human causality, but there is within the global-warming constituency an activist phalanx so utterly assured of its opinions that it labels those who disagree as "climate-change deniers," a none-too-subtle attempt to win the argument by black-guarding the other side.
When scientists call something closed, wrap it in morality and take further inquiry as treason against truth, they have crossed the line from science into the territory of religious dogma. Would the same voices who say a creationist politician shouldn't be a science minister also say an environment minister must sign on the global-warming dotted line?
Time will tell who has the next word on that dilemma. (No last words in science, remember?) But for now, some kind of loyalty oath to the theory-du-jour would be the way to bet.
Yet, as Garneau says, it shouldn't be so. What faith Goodyear subscribes to --divine creation or creation by who knows what? --doesn't affect the man's judgment on whether the National Research Council should have $200 million to fund research in small and medium-sized businesses. Nor did it prevent Genome Canada receiving stable, long-term funding. And if any of the $2-billion investment in research facilities at colleges and universities across Canada has intentionally bypassed evolutionists in public institutions, they have yet to mention it. That suggests to me that it hasn't happened.
Only place it might make a difference what politicians think is where the application of science could hurt somebody.
Eugenics, after all, took aid and comfort from natural selection, and the whole idea of the survival of the fittest.
Canadians who, like the scientists picking on Goodyear, think policy is best left to atheists might want to ask themselves this: If it's your Down's syndrome child whose future is on the line, or your senile grandmother who's become a net loss to society, wouldn't you really rather have somebody in charge whose faith obliges them to treat human life as valuable?
The issue with this are people who make a hypothesis that either can't be tested or they just make a statement. For example, if I said I could move the Earth, you wouldn't believe me. Now if I said I could move the Earth as a result of Newton's 3rd law and provide an experiment to justify it, then you'd be more likely to believe me. The main issue with creationism or intelligent design is that it has directly references some form of creator (Allah), now this is fine for all of us who already believe in God, however, you cannot scientifically prove the presence of Allah. And the flaw with creationism or 'creation science' is that they're trying to disprove evolution, and you can't directly disprove something with science, you do it by proving another theory works better, which isn't happening. There is a fear sometimes that science is out to get religion but science can't prove an absence of a God, but there seems to be an intimidation in my opinion as scientific explanations of the dawn of the universe unfolds.
There is a fear sometimes that science is out to get religion but science can't prove an absence of a God, but there seems to be an intimidation in my opinion as scientific explanations of the dawn of the universe unfolds.
Just a thought.
I think the latest developments in science particularly in the domain of subatomic particles have demonstrated that the rigid assumptions or dogmas of science – that all knowledge is objective, demonstrable and tested, rational and logically deductible, have been shattered. There is more mystery beyond the capacity of the human mind to grasp the consequences of the developments in science.
If science has not proven the existence of God because it does not have the means to do so, it has at least admitted the inherent mystery of life, that there is more to existence than what our intellects can grasp.
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