4/29/2008 9:08:43 AM
A prevailing view among scientists and atheists is that everything is knowable. Humans are simply particles in motion, governed by biology and physics. Given the right tools and information, some people believe that human beings could know all the secrets of the universe, past and present. This mode of thought has led to a number of remarkable discoveries, but according to theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman, writing for the scientific website the Edge, it is fundamentally “reductionist.”
Viewing the human experience as nothing more than biology and physics allows for only happenings. “There are no meanings, no values, no doings,” Kauffman writes. There is also no room for spirituality, or acceptance of forces beyond human comprehension. “Science has driven a wedge between faith and reason,” according to Kauffman, elevating science and devaluing faith as irrelevant.
The schism between science and religion has turned into a philosophical “cold war” according to philosopher Ken Wilber. In an interview with Salon.com, Wilber talks about how neither science nor religion are fundamentally wrong. They’re actually complimentary, if a person looks at them the right way. Wilber says some of the world’s greatest scientists, including Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, and Sir Arthur Eddington, were fundamentally mystics, because they understood the limits of physics and science.
“Understanding the limits to human knowledge and intervention is going to be the question of the twenty-first century,” according to opera director Peter Sellars in an interview with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (pdf). Science is able to push the boundaries of knowledge, but science alone has proven itself unable to understand the limits. That’s where not only faith, but art can play a useful role.
Uniting arts and sciences, faith and reason, could instill some reverence and responsibility into science. In the twentieth century, “science was made into a God, a substitute for religion,” Sellars said in the interview. Sellars’ new opera, Dr. Atomic, is about the atomic bomb, one of the most destructive creations of science. “And it’s bad enough for a religion to be a religion,” Sellars said, “but when science becomes a religion, it’s very dangerous.”
Tanakawho, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/28/2008 12:47:45 PM
As the divide between believer and nonbeliever grows larger, science has become a weapon used by both sides. An article from New Scientist cites the evolution of the human brain as evidence that the world’s religions are products of human imagination. Maurice Bloch, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, argues that belief in a divine being emerged between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago, coinciding with the human capacity to imagine.
4/25/2008 1:53:33 PM
May 17 is the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that segregated schools are unconstitutional. Arguing the case for the plaintiffs was Thurgood Marshall, who later served on the Court himself. In 2006, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. proposed honoring Marshall by making May 17 an official church feast day in his honor. While the national church body won't consider the idea until its convention next year, Diocese of Washington-affiliated blog The Lead has posted worship resources for informal observance this year—courtesy of the diocese, Seabury-Western Seminary, and Marshall's home parish in D.C.
4/25/2008 1:49:01 PM
adhan, a traditional Muslim call to prayer, on campus. Some thought of it as school-sponsored proselytizing. An open civil space will always be cacophonous,” he writes. “There will be affirmation and alienation, sometimes even within a single individual; and there will be indifference, which is in its way one of the accomplishments of pluralism.” On a college campuses especially, people should be exposed to different religions, hopefully learning to appreciate some beauty in all of them.
4/24/2008 2:15:46 PM
Knowing that the bible is perfect, don’t you think the writers must have had to go through a few drafts? And what about editors? The greatest story ever told must have needed some tweaks—clearing up an antecedent here, fixing a comma there.
Writing for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, A.J. Packman presents a few first drafts of the parables of Jesus. Honestly, the stories aren’t always clear. But “It doesn't matter,” said Jesus. “The point is that God can get you free bread.”
4/17/2008 10:43:37 AM
“Jews love traditions,” Lisa Miller wrote, introducing Newsweek’s second annual list of the “Top 50 Influential Rabbis in America.” Leaving aside the typical questions of, “Where’s Rabbi [Insert name here]” or “How did Rabbi [Insert name here] make it up to [Insert high rank here],” or “Why is this list decided on by a group of three men,” Jspot’s Rabbi Jill Jacobs asks the question, “what is it with the American Jewish community and exclusive clubs?”
The media love top ten lists, and people seem to love reading them. Jacobs admits to liking the lists, too, especially when she’s on them. At the same time, Jacobs writes that she feels, “a little embarrassed by the ridiculousness of it all, by the whispering (and shouting) about who's in and who's out and why, and by the ways in which certain awards/designations are sometimes seen as akin to the mark of God.”
4/16/2008 2:28:36 PM
A recent study suggests that religious people are happier than non-believers. The study, reported on the blog The Daily Galaxy, found that religious people are better able to cope with bad situations, including unemployment or the loss of a loved one. Professor Andrew Clark, from the Paris School of Economics, and co-author Dr. Orsolya Lelkes, from the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, began by researching an entirely different topic—the unemployment benefits in different European countries. Eventually, the researchers came to the conclusion that religious people were less psychologically harmed by unemployment than non-religious people. They do admit, however, that a number of other factors could play a roll, including genetics and the familial upbringing.
Image by Brian Jeffery Beggerly, licensed under Creative Commons.
UPDATE: It turns out that religion doesn’t make people happy, money does. In spite of a considerable amount of evidence to the contrary, a recent study, reported in the New York Times, found that “money indeed tends to bring happiness, even if it doesn’t guarantee it.”
Agree? Disagree? Discuss it in the
4/16/2008 11:34:03 AM
In the Arab world, Muslims and Christians alike pray to Allah. Not because of some very ambitious interfaith effort—simply because “Allah” is the Arabic equivalent of “God,” in the singular, monotheistic sense.
Elsewhere, the idea can be fairly shocking. Recently, the Malaysian government threatened to revoke a small Catholic newspaper’s publishing license over its use of the word “Allah” in reference to the Christian god, Asia Sentinel reports. Amid pressure from the public, the government eventually backed down.
(Thanks, Christianity Today.)
4/15/2008 3:28:24 PM
With Passover approaching, many observant Jews are buying more than just matzo, including a wide variety of kosher-for-Passover, processed foods: cottonseed-oil margarine, frozen latkes, fake mustard, and corn syrup-free sodas. Blogging at Jewschool, Shamir Power offers a better idea: Buy fresh produce, from wherever. It's always kosher, all the time. It also doesn't require you to pay a premium for something that replaces the ingredients that you aren't allowed to eat with a bunch of others that you might not particularly want, can't pronounce, or haven't even heard of.
4/14/2008 5:15:31 PM
It was only a matter of time before yoga became EXTREME.
4/11/2008 3:09:51 PM
Do you suffer from a shortage of compassion and empathy for others? According to a recent study led by the University of Wisconsin's Richard Davidson, you can develop the capacity for empathy through meditation, as Julia Bonelli reports on eNews 2.0. The results are just another reminder that personal spirituality has social implications as well.
(Thanks, Tricycle Editors' Blog.)
4/11/2008 12:43:03 PM
The headscarves worn by many Muslim women have provoked heated debate outside the majority-Muslim world, most of it about the competing values of secular society and the freedom of religious expression. Less understood are the reasons why women wear them in the first place. Blogging at Religion Dispatches, Shabana Mir tries to correct this, offering not one, but 17 different aesthetic, religious, and cultural reasons why women wear headscarves.
Image by Chris Schuepp, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/10/2008 2:22:39 PM
Old people tend to get a pass when it comes to hate speech. “They’re from a different generation,” people say when dismissing racist or sexist remarks. Writing on her blog, Writeous Sister Speaks, Aaminah Hernández calls that dismissal into question, saying that older generations should know better. After being verbally abused by an older man in a supermarket for wearing a niqab, Hernández writes:
Now, my son is pretty compassionate and says to me “he was really old mom, and sometimes they just aren’t right in the head.” And he’s right of course. That may very well be the case. But it’s certainly not always the case, and it doesn’t make it less disturbing.
4/8/2008 4:03:34 PM
When most people talk about the “separation of church and state,” the idea is to protect the state from the church. People work hard to keep “Intelligent Design” out of the public schools, believing that public life is already too religious. This may be true, but Steven Goldberg argues in the book Bleached Faith, that it’s religion that needs protection from the influence of public life.
“It is a sign of weakness—an admission that religion needs artificial life support—to push religious symbols into the smothering embrace of government,” Goldberg writes in the introduction to his book. Intelligent design in the classroom, over-sized menorahs in public buildings, and the Ten Commandments—dubbed by Goldberg as the “Nike Swoosh of religion”—in the courts don’t strengthen faith. Forcing religious imagery into public life actually cheapens religion and spirituality.
“The strength of real religion in America today is not undercut by the limits on government-supported religion in public settings,” Goldberg argues. Though many groups continue to test those limits. Writing for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Rob Boston breaks down “a laundry list” of organizations with clear religious motives that are receiving big money from the federal government. Teen Challenge, for example, is a drug prevention program that works by “applying biblical principles and establishing a chemical free lifestyle.” The organization was recently granted $587,514 in federal money, in part to work inside of public schools.
Many in the religious community, however, understand that politics and religion don’t mix well. In a recent survey by the National Association of Evangelicals, the vast majority of evangelical leaders came out unequivocally opposed to using their churches to endorse candidates. One university president put the issue in stark terms saying, “the pulpit is not the place for electioneering.”
Image by Chris Phan, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/8/2008 3:09:05 PM
Ben Stein’s creationist documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed premiered recently at the Mall of America movie theater in Minnesota. In the movie, the filmmakers claim that scientists who support creationist alternatives to evolution are being pushed out of academic and research institutions, and are effectively being silenced by “Big Science.” Ironically, Stein & Co. apparently adhere to the very exclusionary practices they claim in the film to abhor. At the premiere, blogger, University of Minnesota professor, and self proclaimed “godless liberal” PZ Myers—who is featured in the film, and thanked for his contribution during the end credits—was quite literally expelled from the screening by security as he stood in line outside the theater. The bizarre move inspired an explosion of ire in the blogoshere.
4/7/2008 6:19:46 PM
Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Judaism all ordain both women and men. People of color can be rabbis as well. And, since the invention of the electric shaver, even Orthodox rabbis don’t necessarily have to wear long beards.
Why, then, when a design contest at Pixish—a site that connects image designers with buyers—asks for images of a “friendly cartoon rabbi,” are all the submissions of bearded white guys? Danya Ruttenberg raises this question over at Jewschool, noting also that each rabbi also looks quite old.
Since Ruttenberg’s post, a couple younger-looking rabbis have joined the contest. (One has a guitar and rainbow-striped pants.) Still, three white-bearded white guys and two brown-bearded white guys hardly represent the diversity of the modern Jewish clergy.
4/7/2008 3:20:02 PM
“There are three ways to learn,” according an article in the latest issue of Buddhism Today (article not available online). “Learning by experience: This is the hardest. Learning by reflection: This is the noblest. Learning by imitation: This is the fastest.” People can’t achieve enlightenment by learning in just one way. Different kinds of education are required for different kinds of knowledge.
4/7/2008 1:50:10 PM
Jesus understands the great power and opportunity that lies in our ability to clone human beings, according to a funny, fictional Q&A by David Ng in the Science Creative Quarterly. In the discussion, Jesus learns the basics of genetics and imagines cloning himself:
GENETICIST: It is strangely fitting that you talk about your own needs, since the ultimate hope is for one day to use these cloning methodologies to alter deficiencies within our own human genetics. In fact, we could even one day clone a version of You with alterations of your own asking.
JESUS: That, my child, is an interesting option. I am allergic to kiwi, and I LOVE kiwi. Also, truth be told, I am also deeply troubled by my inability to roll my tongue (sticks his tongue out). See? It is the seat of much anguish since both my parents, Mary and Joseph, can do it. Sometimes I don’t even think they are my real parents.
4/5/2008 1:53:49 PM
Last fall, Muslim leaders from around the world released an open letter to Christian leaders about the common ground shared by the two religions. Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith and Culture spearheaded a warm response, which was signed by many Christian leaders.
Last month, another international group of Muslim leaders issued a letter—this one to the Jewish community. The letter, facilitated by the Woolf Institute’s Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations, calls for increased understanding and bridge building between the two faiths. The gesture has been well received by Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Jewish leaders from North America, as well as by the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations.
Admittedly, it will take more than open letters by scholars and clerics to end religious strife. Still, these are unprecedented steps and encouraging signs.
(Thanks, Blogging Religiously.)
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