Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Il Padre Brillante!

Finally, I'm in awe of this man. Em and I caught a wonderful discussion on the debate on critique of evolution theory in biology and "intelligent design" advocates. Now I'm one of those who'd sooner become a Pastafarian than go near anything that tries to make a gazpacho out of religion and science. So of course Em and I clapped through as the very charged Ken Miller from Brown University provided excellent rebuttals of all points raised by Paul Nelson , who argues for Intelligent Design, which is basically Creationism by another name.

When Father Coyne came on in the next session, Em and I were a bit apprehensive. After all here was a priest, who happened to be the head of the Vatican Observatory, asked to speak on the debate between evolution theory and intelligent design. Would a man of religion find it within himself to rationally consider all the scientific evidence that pointed to the complex way in which it took billions of years for life to evolve on the planet? As it turned out Father Coyne had a PhD in Astronomy, and is as much a man of science as religion, and spoke with great passion and refinement about scientific engagement and the state of our current knowledge about the universe. He spoke of his scientific temparament and religious convictions as belonging to separate domains neither requiring validation by the other. Father Coyne reminded me of all that I've read about men of religion over centuries who've made invaluable contributions to furthering the cause of science, at times inviting the wrath of organized religion in the process. If you have the time I would highly recommend Father Coyne's excellent talk, as well as the very forceful presentation by Miller, both available on video on the American Enterprise Institute website.

16 Comments:

Blogger Adagio For Strings said...

We also saw the sad manifestation of the post-marriage syndrome that afflicts many women. Land up at a party in your most bleh clothes (work pants and sweater in this case), no makeup, messy hair tied up with a rubberband all accompanied by substantial weight gain since I last saw her. Actually make that post-boyfriend syndrome, since I'm guilty of a few of those sins myself. Weight gain, check. Bad outfits, check. Fuzz on arms, check (ewww). I need to rescue myself before I fall deeper into this man-content abyss. But I really don't think my outfit was too bad that day, though Em did say that pairing black boots with a short blue dress was a bit street whorish. Pfffff. One man's whore is another woman's bohemian chic.

Very insightful observations. Happens to men too :).

8:24 PM  
Blogger anthony said...

Of men of God and man of Science, All great Scientists have been known to have deep faith in god and All great men of god had belief in Science, we we would do better than to confuse between the two...
Nice to know that you got a Manipuri Shawl, It was nice to see a manipuri shawl as a wall decorative hanging in the Movie Leela..I used to carry a few every time I left home as Gifts for friends but as my Luggage got heavier wit my own stuff and me getting older, i ahve long since saw one.. I will surely write nice stuffs about Manipur, if ou want the truths... I will drop you a link sometime ... Its a dangerous affair to seak out the truth.. We don't get served with natarised Email but death threat.. i can't die yet.. Miles to go before I sleep eh... but sure will see nice stuff to read...

9:25 PM  
Blogger Anil said...

Talking about Intelligent Design, couple of months ago I was in Boston, MA and everyday on TV (Mostly on Fox News) I saw people arguing that Intelligent Design was an alternative theory; it was schocking to see educated people in a nation where technology truly flourished making such ridiculous claims. I mean even my illiterate grandfather who lived all his life in rural India believes that humans descended from apes.

Marx was right, religion is the opium of the masses and these people are so high on it that they believe earth is 5000 years old. What’s next? Earth is the center of the solar system?

On a lighter note check out this ad, I had never seen such a short but complete “documentary” on evolution.
http://www.bestadsontv.com/ad_details.php?id=634

3:20 AM  
Blogger anthony said...

try tony_imp.blogspot.com

just started the post....on Manipur

5:24 AM  
Anonymous dominic said...

you should check out dawkins's wonderful little piece for the guardian


http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,13026,1559743,00.html

8:42 AM  
Blogger Adagio For Strings said...

Of men of God and man of Science, All great Scientists have been known to have deep faith in god and All great men of god had belief in Science, we we would do better than to confuse between the two...

Unless you mean this as a joke I dont think I agree with you. As a matter of fact there was an article in NYTimes recently in which a panel of Nobel Laureates (which of course does not make them experts on science and theology - but still these must be pretty smart guys) were asked if one can be religious and bea good scientists. Majority answered with an emphatic no. Ofcourse people cite examples of Newton etc, but I bet if one compared 1-1 one will find many more scientists to be agnostic rather than believers. I have never been able to understand how anyone can have a spirit of inquiry and then try to explain everything by invoking God. I think two stands are fundamentally at odds! (ok so this is turning into a post more than a comment - so possibly more on the issue at some pt. later!)

TM : I cant get the talk to open. Did you try to look at it online?

11:57 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Adagio, this sort of sloppiness is gender neutral. Hence the post-marriage potruding belly and polyester shirts!

Welcome Anthony. You're a generous friend, lugging all those shawls. Do drop me the link.

Hmm..certainly in mediaeval times many men of God were the most serious investigators into science, since their philosophical training and leisure afforded the opportunity to do so. However, as secular research establishments have development that has been less and less the case.

Anil, hi and welcome. Yes it is very sad to see that these sort of debates persist. But then, this country has debated abortion for decades, and it remains a very prominent election issue. A large chunk of this country remains deeply religious. Thanks for the documentary link.

Anthony, thanks.

Dominic, thanks for the link.

Adagio, I do agree that you'd find more agnostics and atheists in the scientific community than believers, but that still doesn't discount the possibility of a believer being an excellent scientist. The key is to be able to keep your religious beliefs at the personal level and not let them interfere with the scientific method and rigor.

I'm sorry about the link. I actually saw it on C-Span! I notice that they don't have transcripts of the lectures :(

1:29 PM  
Blogger K said...

Hey, I was in a good Irish Catholic school all my life and they seemed to have no issues with teaching Darwin. Nor even with sex per se. But it was a slightly progressive Catholic institution.
But I believe that the Christian Right in the US and the Vatican is feeling a lot more emboldened today than they have in the last half century, so we will hear more such theological-scientific debates in the coming future.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Adagio For Strings said...

I would contend that it is a case. Religion is just a first cut interpretation of the universe. If you read first page of the old testament (That btw is all that I have read of the book), it seems like a first try to understand the world around us - and a good one at that. Science on the other hand is lot more detailed explanation of pretty much the same thing (Our ideas of what the universe is and how it functions). In my (very biased) opinion, claiming that religion and science can both work and be believable is like claiming relativity and quantum mechanics are both complete and correct theories or for that matter that Intelligent design and evolution are both correct and complete theories.

(For both the cases we (the scientific community) know that atleast one of them is incorrect and other may be incomplete etc)

I would like to hear if you have more to say on the subject. Always willing to learn and argue on this subject.

3:15 PM  
Blogger MAHARAJADHIRAJ said...

I quite agree with Adagio's contention of what religions set out to do: explain the world and its various mysteries. But at some point these explanations got set in stone. And that gave birth to tons of heavy, back-breaking dogma. Eventually, they became so heavy that they died under their own weight. Science that way is a new religion and its cunning dogma, on the surface at least, seems very 'scientific'. But if you scratch the surface you realize that Science has its own rigid clerical orders, it's own evangelists and its own fanatics. And its own fallacies. Those who REALLY know and understand are actually without dogma and without the hubris of being its sole champions. And people like them have always been around.

2:11 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

K, I used to work down the street from your school and used to think the fathers were mighty cool. How could they not be, given that St. Thomas was but a few blocks away.

The religious right everywhere is getting restive.

Adagio, of course within the scientific domain, it is the results of the application of the scientific method that would prevail. A certain cosmology is but one part of religion. It also fulfills spiritual functions which might appeal to a man of Science who may otherwise ignore religion's interpretation of the universe.

For me, personally, as an agnostic, this is a stretch. But I can still conceive of it working for some. I have met religious scientists who do not allow their faith to interfere in their scientific rigor.

Dhiraj, most accepted body of knowledge in a field becomes dogma after a while. But at least within disciplines organized around rigorous research methods, there are mechanisms in place to accomodate new knowledge and overturn dogmas. This sort of reality check does not exist within religious beliefs.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Adagio For Strings said...

Again I would differ since the questions you mention would be best answered by philosophy and not religion! Religion I would think in general is mostly dispensible. (where ofcourse I am erring on the side of caution when I say mostly)

12:52 PM  
Blogger MAHARAJADHIRAJ said...

Umm, I would say religion too is a 'discipline organised around rigorous research'. For example Judaism of BCE 500 is not the same thing Hasidic Jews practice today, even though they may claim to be going back to the roots. And that's true of every religion, be it Christianity, Sanatam Dharm or Islam or Buddhism. Even tribal animisms go through change and expansion (Australian Aborigines for e.g.). What am saying is that religions too go through their share of trial and error, research if you please, to arrive at their bodies of knowledge. Meaning they have their own mechanisms of accomodation!
The problem with the Modern Marxist looking glass, I think, is that it sees things through a position of superiority, especially viz-a-viz religion.

2:29 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Adagio, philosophy can attempt to explain and account for the emotional and spiritual realm, but never provide the avenue for a certain kind of spiritual experience. That, in my opinion is the preserve of religion. And perhaps it is possible to tap into that aspect of religion, while holding firm to your scientific beliefs?

For me personally the art and aesthetics of religion are interesting, the spiritual and cosmological aspects are dispensible.

Dhiraj, perhaps the mechanisms of trial and error exist, but are they necessarily rigorous? Perhaps I'm too steeped in academia, but for me religious inquiry (and not scientific inquiry by a man of religion) rarely reached the rigor and precision of the scientific method.

And it was hardly Marx who established the secular scientific consensus. That has been the work of centuries by scientists unhappy with the alternative explanations offered by religion. So I don't think you can blame a distrust of relgious knowledge on Marxist thought, though he did give enough ammunition to religion baiters.

10:13 AM  
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6:47 PM  
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4:25 PM  

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