Monday, November 07, 2005

Ending Mutual Prejudice

Cardinal Paul Poupard, the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, announced a Vatican project to help end "mutual prejudice" between science and religion. The core of this project is simple - start listening to each other. Roman Catholic authorities still feel bad about Galileo, and have learned some important lessons. Indeed, the Vatican now has its own astronomical observatory, and has come to accept the elemental truths of evolution as "more than a hypothesis" (in the words of the late John Paul II).

I was struck by this statement from the good cardinal: "We know where scientific reason can end up by itself: the atomic bomb and the possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that wants to free itself from every ethical or religious link...But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism."

According a recent CBS poll, 51% of Americans reject evolution, and it seems that this figure may be rising, as fundamentalist evangelicalism increases in numbers and influence. President Bush has come out in favor of Intelligent Design, giving political credence to a non-scientific theory with no value whatsoever. America is losing the battle in scientific education and professions to nations like India, which will have long-term effects upon our economy, as innovation languishes. We are in danger of becoming a nation of debt-ridden consumers, working only in low-paying service-sector jobs. America as Wal-Mart writ large.

I am personally terrified by fundamentalism in any religion or philosophy. It is the triumph of absolutism over reason. It prompts otherwise good men and women to do unspeakable things in the name of God or the state. Which is why Cardinal Poupard's words offer light in a darkening world. If they go unheeded, further violence will erupt between rival religions and civilizations (witness France this week), and ignorance and superstitution will overwhelm the queen of the sciences, which is theology. Fear and a retreat from reason are a lethal combination. Let us hope they are kept far apart.

4 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

Hi, Scott,

Completely off the topic, but I just picked up my copy of AERIAL. Have you got yours yet?

Will be listening to it for the first time later tonight with my lovely spouse, also a KB fan. Can't wait!

All best,
Andrew

3:19 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

I plan on getting it tomorrow. I've had a really busy day & consistory tonight. But now that you mention it...Gotta go! :)

3:30 PM  
Blogger Miss Eagle said...

Hiya Ars, I'll be referring to this post at The Eagle's Nest. Well considered. And, as you point out, the Catholics have experience in being wrong. If America is heading to be Wal-Mart write large, Australia will be there too. We are going through a major "reform" to our industrial relations system at the moment which you may have seen on my blog. Legislation is going through Parliament at the moment. A system which has undergirded our standard of living for a hundred years is being overturned in the name of economic adventurism. A Christian professor of economics is heading up a new Fair Pay Commission (which many see as a Cut Your Pay Commission). I have an industrial relations background working amongst the working poor. I have an appointment with him in a couple of weeks. Hope I can give him food for thought.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

Go get em Eagle! Our rich & poor gap is growing, and 40 million + have no health care insurance. But Bush's friends are reaping windfalls in Texas. Meanwhile our "leaders" assure us that all is well. I pray Australia does not follow the neo-conservative path to self-destruction and plutocracy.

In my state of New Jersey, our candidates for governor are both worth hundreds of millions of dollars each. We are being governed by the wealthy and their interest groups. No wonder Europe looks at us aghast.

4:47 PM  

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