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Blog Posted in avatar   André R. Gignac's Blog

Letter to the Editor (Part III) - Science and religion are inseparable

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By André R. Gignac
Posted Aug 26, 2012 in
NOTE - This is the third letter in the debate about amino-acids, comets, religion and science. For a better understanding of this article, readers should see Part 1 and Part 2.
Letter to the Editor (Part 3)
Sir: While at the airport the other day, I tried to deceive the wait by following in your paper the fight between John Tsiehta and Paul Pohsibeht. I must say, I succeeded so well in my deception that I almost missed my flight (I was on my way to give a lecture on visions). Now, I feel impelled to put a grain of sand in the machine of fiery words these two men have created in your pages, and engage the authors on their entrenched positions.
Mr. Tsiehta’s letter was interesting, although he would have been better advised to attack the subject with a bit less fury. Still, I understood his article as being less a negation of faith than a denunciation of old practices and speeches perpetuated by a Church seemingly intent on jealously protecting its self-appointed task of directing humans on the grounds of morality and truth.
Quite rightly, despite the tone, John Tsiehta takes aim at the idea that, when it comes to searching for that truth, it is better for humans to read fabulous and implausible stories created in the Bronze Age, rather than learn about demonstrable facts. And of course, everyone knows that scientific, demonstrable facts cannot credit a burning bush with the ability to talk. We do not need a diploma to understand the obvious. But then, for his part, Mr. Pohsibeht is also right about the universality of morality and in pointing to the (possible) existence of a common God seed to explain for it. In the end, their arguments brought to mind what I call the “Jesuvian paradox”, which I have tried to explain in my book: “Visions – In the eye of the beholder”.
It goes like this: if human morality, which “guides us all”, is a universal and innate characteristic, then we should be dispensed of the superfluous teachings of clerics. But at the same time, if we reflect on its source – for there has to be a source – then we cannot ignore those same clerics, whose teachings appear then as pertinent as ever. Needless to say, Mr. Tsiehta threads on delicate soil here.
As for Mr. Pohsibeht’s response, it’s easy to see that he is following a pattern, in that he tries to have modern scientific discoveries sleep in the bed made by old religious messages. But it contains nonetheless some interesting points in the form of questions: Who is to say that God did not put life on a planet (Eden) later destroyed (punishment and banishment), from which hundreds of thousands of comets would have brought seeds of life throughout the universe?
The rift between science and religion may not be as large as Mr. Tsiehta is hoping for, but it is not to say that Mr. Pohsibeht and his rigid beliefs don’t walk on thin ice. When he talks about people “living their beliefs in peace”, he forgets too easily the many wars in which religion played a central role, and the many murders for which religion was, and is, directly responsible. Still today, and soon in the next great war, vicious acts are and will be committed in the name of faith. In light of this, it is easy to wish, as does Mr. Tsiehta, that the world would finally get rid of these superstitions.
But how is it that so many of us are still transfixed by the improbable and dumbfounding stories of various faiths? There has to be one explanation, one found outside of a supposed collective hallucination, and there is a chance it could reside in Mr. Pohsibeht’s argument. The seemingly imperishable quality of human goodness, for example, could indeed be a sign of the long work of a divine hand, or of a divine project, going always in the direction of some ultimate objective which cannot be understood by science.
One big problem for religion, though, is that human goodness, as universal and imperishable as it is, did not always shine in the actions of those “called” or “elected” by God to be his representatives on earth. They have committed so many crimes, made so many mistakes, that one is justified in doubting that there is any communication between God and the religion of those who say they were “called”. This, and many other problems, have with time made the Church’s teachings more or less suspect.
In concluding, despite their differences, Mr. Tsiehta and Mr. Pohsibeht need one another as much as science and religion, in the words of Newton, are inseparable: the former, while not succeeding in negating entirely the latter, corrects its excesses and mistakes; and the latter, while not being able to get rid of the former, gives us with its angels and chariots of fire an image a bit more romantic than big ugly rocks transporting amino-acids in the darkness of space.
-- Thomas Hewhosees
See here the fourth and final letter on this debate, written this time by the editor... herself.

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