Tag Archives: religion

Not Your Parents’ Cosmos

Image

A couple weeks ago in class we briefly discussed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s recent pulpit-styled rhetoric and how science seems to be changing its tactics to gain more recruits. Initially, I didn’t find the approach very irritating, as I’m all for spreading the gospel of science. But after watching a couple episodes of the new Cosmos, I’m beginning to feel my hackles twitch.

Tyson wrote and produced an episode that spends a great deal of time focusing on the plight of Dominican friar Giordano Bruno. Friar Bruno was a forward-thinking stargazer of the 16th century who questioned the orthodox view of the universe and suffered the grand price for his heresy. He was, no doubt, a heroic figure who moved the conversation forward, but so were Galileo, Copernicus, and a slew of other great minds. His inclusion was conspicuous to say the least and hints at an agenda that wants to wiggle a finger at the religious establishment, which, in my opinion, has no place in serious scientific television.  I find myself siding with the creationist Danny Faulkner who, in this article, basically says ‘if you’re going to go there, you’d better be prepared to take some guff.’

The Sagan era

While the new Cosmos is definitely a feast for the eyes and imagination, it lacks the rigorous focus of its predecessor. Sagan’s Cosmos was all about the business of science and nature. Of religion, Sagan seemed to have no opinion. His door was locked to the debate. At the same time, Sagan had a way of using the wonder and awe of nature to speak his philosophy for him. He seemed a man more fond of the questions than the answers, questions that produce new theists and scientists alike. From that standpoint Sagan could’ve been loosely defined as an evangelist, but that’s where the similarities ended.

Sermonizing science

I’m not sure what to make of Tyson’s, almost confrontational, approach, nor do I think it’s particularly suited for Cosmos. It is not the job of Science to invalidate religion for the masses. Nor should it be in the business of defending evolution against creationists or debating the merits of the fossil record with Young Earthers–the trilobites and triceratopses speak for themselves. Scientists like Tyson ought to keep their eyes on the sky, keep testing and re-testing their hypotheses, and politely opt out of the discussion.

At its core, science is unbiased observation. It’s an often dry and thankless job uncovering those kernels of discovery. The same sober handling of the data should accompany its delivery to the public, voiced by someone who sounds more like an astrophysicist and less like a televangelist.

Advertisements

A Muslim Called Me On September 11th, 2001

Image

I’m a Christian and one of my best friends is a Muslim from Morocco, North Africa.  Mustafa and I, are more like brothers than friends, and communicate often despite any theological differences.  On September 11th, 2001 he called me long distance from Switzerland.

He called to ask if I was I okay, and if my family was okay.

I could hear in his voice the disgust of what these men had done in the name of Islam.  He consistently communicated to me how awful the 9-11 tragedy was.  He was concerned and called to make sure my family and I were okay.  We were nowhere near New York, at the time, and I assured him we were all safe. 

REM Subconscious Discussions

I heard a quote recently, that put me in thought for a few weeks.  I like it when that happens.  Sometimes I’ll wake up in the morning with the residual thoughts that my subconscious was having while in REM.  (Humans have been known to solve problems while sleeping – are you getting 8 hours? – Check this out.)  I was beginning to piece together a puzzle that has brought peace to my belief system.  I hear skeptics use a blanket statement that religion causes many wars and problems in the world.  How does a person of faith respond to that?

Humans…Yes we humans…

Saint Augustine was a theologian from around 400AD who said, “Do not judge a philosophy by its abuse.”  That is the quote I’d been thinking about recently.  Philosophy according to Miriam-Webster is, “The study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.”  We have many different philosophies that shape our worldviews and/or religious systems.  We always have something in the way of all desires to make the world a better place…humans.  Much like the recent commercials by Liberty Mutual…humans get in the way of any philosophy.  Abuses can and will happen.

Can I categorize all Muslims as terrorists due to events of 9-11?  Or did a sect of believers abuse their philosophy?  Some Christian churches in Kentucky find it spiritual to handle poisonous snakes in church and often die from bites (That curious doctrine is for another blog).  How about the ironic video of the Monks fighting before Christmas with brooms at Jesus’s birthplace in Bethlehem – HERE.  Palestinian police had to break up the fighting as they prepared the church for Christmas services…yes monks…who also are humans.

There is no worldview or ideology under the sun that hasn’t had its abuses.  Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot were professed atheists who performed many atrocities in Russia and Cambodia.  One can’t also lump all atheists together as bad due to these actions.  Is all capitalism bad due to Enron’s abuses?  Is Catholicism a bad religion at its core due to the recent Priest abuse scandals?  It is easy to throw any philosophical baby out with the bath water…another human response.

The heart of the matter

All we can do is hope to be the best examples to the world in whatever worldview and philosophy we adhere to.  Can I stay true to the heart of my philosophy and look past abuses in recent and past history?  That is inevitably the question.