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Leap of Faith
Stephanie RiedeRman Editor-in-ChiEf JoSefina aguila Managing Editor leaRned foote finanCial ManagEr Ray Katz, aviShai gebleR SEnior EditorS Jody zellman art Editor tamaRa epelbaum layout Editor elana RibacK Copy Editor aKiva bambeRgeR WEbMaStEr
Sanctum - Spring 2010
4 8 14 Editorial NotE: is religion at War With Science? Stephanie RiedeRman rEligioN iS CaRloS BlanCo FroNtiErS oF truth: Science and the talmud Working hand in hand leah GReenStein 18 ProFESSor robErt Pollack oN SciENcE, rEligioN, aNd thE MiSSiNg liNk inteRview By ShiRa poliak 25 Wall-E, thE thorN iN thE SidE oF buddhiSM: a critique of the dalai lama’s the universe in a Single atom ReuBen doetSCh 32 gENdErEd ScriPturE & gENdErEd SoulS: the christian debate on heterosexuality SaRah nGu 39 SEcular agE, or SEcular illuSioN? a critique of charles taylor’s Secular age adam Sieff 44 all thiNgS coNSidErEd: religion, Ethics, and the Mission of the university lynne foote
Cover Graphic by Jody Zellman
Is Religion at War with Science?
“Prepare to believe,” beckons the homepage of The Creation Museum, a self-proclaimed Mecca of biblical history and proponent of creationism, located in Petersburg, Kentucky. Here, visitors will find well-known characters in familiar settings: “Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s Rivers. The serpent coils cunningly in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil...”1 The museum, prominently featured early last year in Bill Maher’s film Religulous, has been vilified by many non-believers as a complete mockery of reason. Yet at the same time, they must still take notice—it logged over 100,000 visitors in its first eight weeks after opening.2 Early on, I too was introduced to theistic explanations for commonly held scientific assumptions. The Israeli physicist and author of The Science of God and Genesis and the Big Bang Gerald Schroeder was invited to speak at my Jewish high school to introduce some of his own. Offering evidence from the fields of biology, paleontology, and cosmology, Schroeder attempted to highlight parallels between the creation narrative of the Old Testament and modern science in order to claim that the two accounts were not only reconcilable, but that remarkable parallels were present between them. The text’s mentioning of “big sea monsters” in the first chapter of Genesis for example, could be a reference to dinosaurs and conforms to the fossil record, according to Schroeder.3 Though admittedly around half of his technical arguments went over my head, Schroeder’s attempt to defend the Bible has been largely criticized by most scientists, despite its popularity in select religious communities. Given this criticism, why do Schroeder and others put forth the effort to harmonize the biblical creation narrative with the scientific one in the first place? Though the same people who founded the Creation Museum most likely rely on scientists to introduce various technological breakthroughs that constantly better our society, why can’t they entirely trust scientists with science? For literalist readers of the Bible, the Creation Museum and Schroeder’s work are recent examples of longstanding efforts to reorient science to reflect eternal religious truth. From evolution to stem cell research, climate change to medical testing, more than half of the American public believes that science and religion are “often in conflict,” according to a July 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center.4
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Eugene C. Scott is the director of The National Center for Science Education, a non-profit that works to incorporate evolution into public schools’ science curricula in the United States. When asked why such strong resistance to evolution in particular exists in our country, she explained: “Evolution, more than any other scientific explanation, has consequences for the way people look at themselves and their relationship to the rest of the world. Evolution therefore has consequences for religion.”5 In light of the various religious traditions that view homo-sapiens as the central actors in global history and the human form as a reflection of God’s image, tracing the lineage of humanity back to monkeys and the haphazard process of evolution is highly disagreeable. Thus, new discoveries in the realm of evolution are often seen not as a vehicle towards universal truth, but rather as a threat to particularist conceptions of humanity. Interestingly enough, the group of people most familiar with data on evolution are statistically less religious than the reminder of our society; while eighty-three percent of Americans profess a belief in God, only thirty-three percent of scientists do the same.6 In light of much of the country’s strong resistance towards accepting scientific data that might refute religious claims, a plurality of approaches is available to address those unyielding believers. Some, such as Bill Maher in Religulous, simply humorize and disparage them. Others, such as Sanctum contributor Reuben Doetsch, explain how the new ways in which we understand the natural world have complicated or invalidated beliefs held by certain religious traditions. In his case, “WALL-E, the Thorn in the Side of Buddhism” details how advancements in artificial intelligence have undermined Buddhist conceptions of the soul and consciousness. However, a second path may still exist for understanding the roles of religious and scientific knowledge. Towards the end of his life, Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists to ever live, became deeply interested in merging scientific and religious truth. His famously unrealized quest to discover the “theory of everything,” and thereby explain the interwoven natures of all physical phenomena, had a particularly discernible “godly” undertone. In a number of articles, Einstein discussed his ardent desire to find this missing link and his growing dissatisfaction with the ability of either science or religion alone to address human concerns more broadly: For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts.7 In accordance with this late project of Einstein’s, some scientists, such as Columbia Professor
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Robert Pollack, are less interested in disproving claims religion makes about science, and are more interested in understanding the way in which both spheres of knowledge can help our world. Pollack explains in an interview with Sanctum how the Center for the Study of Science and Religion (CSSR) hopes to do just that. Lynne Foote echoes this sentiment in “All Things Considered,” as she details how unregulated scientific advancement without the guidance of a moral compass has faltered, and advocates for bringing these considerations into the university setting. Whether you fall on the side of the Creation Museum or Gerald Schroeder, Bill Maher or Einstein, religious and/or scientific sources of knowledge are foundational to our society and surely play a central role in the way we all see the world. I sincerely hope that this issue of Sanctum, dedicated to exploring the interplay between science and religion, makes some headway in addressing these crucial issues. Who knows—we might even continue Einstein’s work and take steps toward discovering the “universal theory of everything.” Until then, Stephanie Riederman Editor-in-Chief
Notes 1 About the Museum. The Creation Museum. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. <http://creationmuseum.org/ about/>. 2 “Creation Museum Logs 100,000 Visitors in 8 Weeks.” Fox News, 24 July 2007. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,290444,00.html>. 3 Revised Standard Version. National Council of Churches of Christ in America. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. <http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=1801>. 4 The American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Leshner I. Dr Alan. “Scientific Achievements Less Prominent Than a Decade Ago.” Survey Reports. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 9 July 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. <http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/528. pdf>. 5 “Interview with Eugenie C. Scott: Safeguarding Science Education.” Interview by Chuck Crumly. University of California Press Blog. University of California Press. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. <http://www. ucpress.edu/blog/?p=5276>.
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6 The American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Leshner I. Dr Alan. “Scientific Achievements Less Prominent Than a Decade Ago.” Survey Reports. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 9 July 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. <http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/528. pdf>. 7 Einstein, Albert. “Science and Religion.” Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium, 1941. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. <http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/library/ae_scire.htm>.
“Hand Painting Flowers” by Batya Weinstock
Religion Is Another Language At age three, I pronounced the word ‘shoes’ as ‘choose’— though after four years of English as Second Language (ESL), my Spanish accent is now eradicated. Religion is like learning another language. Recall the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis: Mankind unites to build a tower, attempting to reach God and Heaven. Angered by their conceit, God divides humankind with language barriers. So the Torah, the Talmud, the New Testament, the Qur’an, the Vedas and all other religious texts are often linked by faith and ideals, but not by language. One began in ancient Aramaic, the other in Hebrew, and one in Sanskrit. We can very well argue that the outcome of the Tower of Babel accomplished its goal: No tower could ever be built to Heaven without a translator there to tell us how to mix mortar and cement in Taiwanese. Religion is another language. On our quest to understand religion, we can get lost in a foreign tongue we have yet to master. Sometimes, those who have learned English as a second language have trouble recalling words others might easily conjure. Simple words like ”chair” or ”godmother” escape our grasp. One of the first effects of dementia is losing the ability to remember a second language. The language of religion is difficult and elusive, escaping us in an instant.
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Photo by Verneva Ziga
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Religion is a Subway Swipe One of the new slogans of the revamped MTA market campaign is, “MTA: Your stop to wherever life takes you!” With its name plastered on bus ads, subway stops, and Metro Cards, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York City is an omnipotent power. It is an “authority”, taking you “wherever life takes you” and supplying its followers—or rather its riders—with a route that leads to their goals. Catholicism, as well as other major religions of the world, argues that living a life according to the Bible of G-d will ultimately lead you to Heaven. We are told that life is granted to us by G-d, and, like a subway ride, it can be delayed, slow, abysmal or awkward. But before we get the chance to ride the subway, we have to pay $2.25. A subway fare, like a baptism or birthright ceremony, allows us to begin a trip to our final destination, which is, arguably, oneness with G-d. Religion is a subway swipe because it is the beginning of the journey we must endure. When Metro fares were raised this year, an uproar ensued. How could the poor afford a price hike? How can those who have no access to religion afford finding G-d? We travel in underground tunnels on the subway because, as in a sojourn though purgatory, the end result is an ascent above ground. It is a holy experience to ride the subway and feel the machinery roar around you. Religion is an intricate mechanism transporting adherents from one level of consciousness and understanding to another. By swiping in and willingly taking part in the institution, people may find themselves on the other side of a metamorphosis.
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Photo by Mara Kravitz
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Religion is Where the Wild Things Are Max, the little boy in the famed children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, is sent to his room without dinner because he was misbehaving. He stumbles upon the Land of Wild Things. Though initially scared, Max becomes king of the wild animals before returning home from his imaginary world. We the religious are like Max. We stumble upon faith, maybe as a source of heritage, maybe to fill a void, or maybe in a moment of utmost clarity. And so we each become king of the Wild Things. Driven by devotion, we are bold and reckless with spiritual power. We probe the depths of religious wisdom and examine faith from all angles. And then we understand. Scholar upon rabbi upon priest upon monk—all claim to know the answer to Max’s undying question of why he is in the land of Wild Things: Why am I here? Religion is the Wild Thing itself. It can serve to scare people or inspire them. And like one of the Wild Things in Maurice Sendak’s acclaimed children’s book, it gives us the license to attempt to live our lives like G-d. By the end of the book, Max dons the clothing of a Wild Thing, mimicking them while attempting to emulate a supreme being. Yet in the end, we are all just as frightened and powerless as a little boy, and we return to what we know best: a land away from the Wild Things.
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Photo by Mara Kravitz
Science and the Talmud Working Hand in Hand
Frontiers of Truth:
Light Shaft by Jody Zellman
I’ll be honest: I have never had an affinity for science. Much to the chagrin of my parents— bio-chemistry and physics majors, respectively—I prefer to discuss philosophical relativism rather than Einstein’s theory of relativity. Of course, I never questioned the validity of science—scientists must know what they’re doing in their distant world of numbers and figures. However, this spring Frontiers of Science came my way, bringing with it some new qualms about science: The expansion of the universe causing galaxies to collide, be created, or zoom away from each other? Stars 500,000,000 light years away? The word “quark”? In the middle of an early recitation, one classmate leaned over and whispered, “This is harder to swallow than Hebrew School.” Admittedly, certain aspects of Hebrew school were pretty hard to swallow as well, especially in light of modern science. Throughout my Jewish Day School education I intensely studied
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the Talmud, a dense legal work of oral law that was codified in the 5th-6th century CE and contains the core of almost all traditions and laws practiced by Jews today. In addition to its legal content, the Talmud is replete with extralegal stories, advice, and moral lessons. Jewish scholarship for the past 1,500 years has centered around the often abstruse tomes of Talmud; to be deemed a Torah scholar or wise man is in actuality to be deemed a Talmudic scholar. This is because to understand the polemics of the Talmud is exceedingly difficult; the logic often dizzying. The rabbis of the Talmud, the Amoraim, are in a league of their own. They solve contradictions, poke holes in arguments, and debate one another in a way that manifests their philosophical and logical prowess. Esteemed to the point of reverence, their personalities have developed in tandem with the expansive scholarship on their respective legal positions. In the religious world I grew up in, mentioning the opinion of an Amora is no different than name-dropping Homer or Hegel in the academic world. Like in many other ancient religious traditions, their words are still immortalized and revered today. At the same time, some of the ideas presented in legal arguments, especially concerning the realm of science, may seem nothing short of ridiculous to contemporary readers. Many have been proven wrong in the millennia and a half since the Talmud’s completion. Rabbinic medicinal advice, likely inspired by ancient Greco-Roman society and science, provides a perfect example of the Amoraim’s affirmation of blatantly incorrect scientific knowledge. They advise the sufferer of a migraine to bring a wild rooster and slaughter it with a pure silver coin, positioning the rooster in such a way that the blood will trickle down the aching side of the head. One potential cure for a nosebleed is to have a man write, “I, Papi Shila bar Sumki,” a meaningless phrase, backwards. Another more complicated remedy involves stepping over a canal that flows from east to west, placing one foot on each bank and placing mud from under the right foot in the right hand. Then, the sages advise twisting two strands of wool with the left hand, immersing the strands in the mud, and finally inserting one strand into each nostril 1. This “medical” advice is found in the same volume which describes marriage and divorce contracts—both of which are still used in many Jewish communities today. In short, though the Talmudic legal discourse is logically brilliant, the sagacity of the Amoraim seems to wane on the level of content in light of modern scientific advances. How can enlightened religious Jews continue to admire the entire Talmud and its personalities in the face of new scientific knowledge? Today, rabbinical authorities have ruled that Jews are not obligated to adhere to Talmudic
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texts containing extralegal scientific advice. But that is not the point—I can figure out for myself that it’s probably smarter to pop an Advil or two than to slaughter a wild rooster. I believe the Amoraim were scholars of Torah, not medicine. Both science and Talmudic study require a certain degree of emotional distance for precise analysis. Yet both call upon their scholars to embrace their studies with genuine care and dedication. The scientist as well as the Talmudist share a quest for understanding human existence and take the notion of life seriously. Thus, they both seek to heal the sick and attempt to make sense of Earth’s beginnings. Religion is often described as a leap of faith, and, accordingly, the Talmud relies upon tradition and a chain of rabbinic authority as its primary strength. Yet in a way, science is a leap of faith as well, though some might argue a less drastic one. At the end of the day, I feel that I take two leaps of faith, one in my Frontiers of Science lecture hall and the other in the religious study hall, for infallible science will remain out of reach as long as we are hindered by imperfect methodology for research and by the necessity to interpret results through the filter of our own subjectivity. Science cannot hold all of the answers and so room exists for
Drawing by Amy Pollack for Professor Pollack’s book The Fruit of Biology and the Biology of Faith
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another model of truth, religion, to work in tandem with it. The rabbis of the Talmud did not work in a vacuum, and some of their ideas therefore reflect the influences of their time, however wrong those influences may have been. However, the inevitable presence of errors does not change the incredible insight I believe Amoraim have into human nature and purpose. The brilliant intricacies within this vast text, and the deep lessons it contains, merit respect regardless of the factual validity of some select statements. I imagine the ancient rabbis, with their undeniable thirst for truth, would have felt exceedingly comfortable in my Frontiers of Science class. With some more studying, I hope to get there as well. Notes 1 Babylonian Talmud (Vilna Edition). Tractate Gittin. Folios 68b-69b.
Professor Robert Pollack on Science, Religion, and the Missing Link
Interview by Shira Poliak
Courtesy of Columbia University
A biologist, former dean of Columbia College, professor, and author, Robert Pollack is the founder and current director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Science and Religion (CSSR). In 1999, Pollack established the CSSR hoping to use the tools of both science and religion to examine the natural world and our place in it. He sat down with Sanctum to discuss the Center’s mission and work, as well as his personal take on the ethical and moral dimensions of science. What prompted the founding of CSSR (Center for the study of Science and Religion)? A push and a pull. The push came from the historical fact that I had been the dean of Columbia College from ’82 to ’89. A decade later I was the author of Signs of Life and asked to give a series
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of talks, which became Faith of Biology. I became aware that I was no longer satisfied with the fact that my best contribution to science was going to be running a government-funded lab. Consequently, I decided not to reapply for my grants once they ran out. That was the ultimate push: For me, the important questions no longer lay within the lab. The pull was another historical fact: At that time, Columbia was receiving tens of millions of dollars a year in royalties from a patent held by a colleague at the Medical Center. That money, because it was patent money, had a limited extension in time before it would end. The trustees would not allow it to go into the base of the budget out of fear that upon its termination, there would be a deficit. Instead, they gave it to the university provost’s office to distribute for start-up enterprises that would have a chunk of money up front and would then have to find outside funding. I conceived of the CSSR as a justifiable use of that money and was able to get started with those funds. Jeff Sachs then arrived from Harvard and started a reinterpretation of the Earth Institute. In a wonderful conversation with Jeff Sachs, it became clear to us both that the obligations of global sustainable development were as much an ethical and moral obligation as a political or scientific one. We agreed that the CSSR should be one of the centers of the Earth Institute, which is anomalous. Most places that are consortia of academic enterprises given over to global systems don’t have anything to do with established religion at any level. That’s why we’re in both places; that is to say that we’re, first of all, in the academic science and social science side of things. And, because the Center was set up that way, I discovered the great need, interest, and yearning of people working out of religious commitment for facts about the natural world presented in an unthreatening way. So I began a series of courses on DNA and on evolution, sustainability, and environmentalism, taught by me and my colleagues at the CSSR. Now there will be a new Earth Institute undergraduate major (sustainable development), and I expect that we will require an ethics course or two for that major. What do you mean when you say that globalization demands us to explore these questions on a moral, ethical level? Let me see if I can be concrete. Last year, China produced more CO2 into the atmosphere than the United States did and therefore became, in global systems terms, the biggest economy, not in terms of money, but in terms of its consequences on the planet. A rational person would say that it is a problem that China has now reached that point. Now a moral problem arises. A person says to himself, I meet myself as a Chinese person and I imagine myself as that person, the same as me but from China. That person tells me, “We are doing the same thing as nations, but you are emitting five times more carbon dioxide per capita than I am, than my country is—Why should I not want to be where you are?” That
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is the moral question. We say that it’s bad for the planet, but we don’t want to do our part. If we are going to be honest about it, we need to say that we’ll meet China half-way. That means managing with half the carbon dioxide output as we now have. Try and find any politicians who say that. Why don’t they? Because they would lose their jobs. That’s the moral gap. The easy solution isn’t doable. It isn’t doable, not because of ignorance, but because the facts are so terrifying that people try to avoid confronting the reality. Among the people who stably, reproducibly have the strength to confront this moral problem of our responsibility to the rest of the world are religious people. It’s not that scientists don’t care, but it is difficult for them to confront the problem. The religious path to that confrontation turns out, in my experience, to be a very useful thing to understand and most scientists don’t understand that religious path. They think of it as a competition, but it’s not. Two people can have completely different motivations even though they wish to see the same thing resolved, whether because it’s an economic optimization and social choice issue or whether because it’s the right thing to do. What do you think can be gained by studying the interaction between science and religion? I don’t think we study the interaction. We use the insights of both to address the problems that are otherwise apparently insurmountable. We need the tool kits provided by both ways of thinking in order to get passed the paralysis of terror and denial. According to the CSSR website, “questioners must be willing to accept the burden of sharing both objective knowledge and subjective experience with each other” in order to examine the “issues lying at the boundary of the scientific and religious ways of comprehending the world and our place in it.” How is this balance achieved? By living a self-conscience life and trying to be honest with yourself about your limitations, your fears, your anxieties, your wishes, your competitive instincts, your terrified instincts, your happy instincts and just knowing yourself. That’s a glib answer. The larger answer would be that when looked at as a species, people are primates, and we share with primates an advanced, complicated social independence. In us primates, social independence is most marked by a period of extraordinarily delayed helpless infancy. Every one of us begins life with an adult dedicating a vast amount of resources to keeping us, not only alive, but socialized, engaged. The four-letter word for that is love. The same exact experience (of love) is what end-of-life care is about. How do you bring love into those last moments? The paradoxical observation I would make of us as
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a species is that our unique emergence through this delayed infancy of a self-aware consciousness has brought about the unintended consequence of a false abstraction: a non-biological, but real abstraction of total autonomous free will as an adult. We cruise like billiard balls bumping off each other without reflecting that caring for another person without any return is prerequisite to our mental state of free will. Consequently, you get the answer by remembering, realizing, and accepting the vulnerability that had to be part of your life for you to develop an open mind in the first place. Do you think that we are trained to establish such a balance? Training is not a good word. Any aspect of a person’s life is a read-out of an enormously complicated set of emotional interactions starting with infancy and birth. What language you speak and what you think of as acceptable are historical factors—they are not inherited in DNA, nor are they biological. In terms of DNA, we are one species. Any two people differ in DNA sequence by no more than a tenth of a percent. But we don’t think of each other in that way. If you don’t know someone’s language--and
Drawing by Amy Pollack, for a Frontiers of Science lecture by Professor Pollack
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there are thousands of languages—they are not quite you. All of that is the late-onset consequence of having the mental capacity for language. So how do you walk back through the maze of the success of the species? That’s the work of the CSSR. How do you really understand yourself as a member of a species? Does anyone you know think of themselves as a member of a group of seven billion people? Not really. In religious terms, a lovely, unexpected outcome is that any serious religion, however large or small, has the core belief that what it has to tell is worth everybody knowing. It means that once you get past the awkwardness of saying, “If two different religions both think everybody should believe what they say, and if they are different, then neither has anything to say,” you realize that they say to everybody that “You may think of yourself as the most important person in the world because when you die you’re not there anymore, but nevertheless, mortality is an inherent condition of the species. You can’t get away from it. Therefore, if you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to somebody else. You’re not special.” That may be believed by a billion plus Christians in the Sermon of the Mount, but it’s not lived. It may be believed in Hillel-terms, but it’s not lived. There’s a Koranic equivalent, but it’s not lived. Where’s the gap? That’s what I’m interested in. That’s where developing a proper articulation of an ethics of sustainability and ethics of “enough” is a non-trivial job that requires data and knowledge of what religions have thought about this problem. What issues or areas of study are you most presently engaged in? What we will do in the next years is to try to make a public statement about the ethic of sustainability. There are, however, very many serious religious voices that say this may not be done. It is very interesting that in a major world religion there is a dispute about whether or not this problem is in fact solvable— whether there is a species-wide ethic of sustainability, or whether we are so diverse, that suggesting it is just revealing a bias about the centrality of Western rationality. To address that problem, we at CSSR have agreed that starting with the fall semester we will, in our public events, address the deepest impediments to our global ethic of sustainability, not to say exactly what it is , but to have different people speak about the impediments to the emergence of one. I thought your description of the similarities between scientific insight and religious revelation in The Faith of Biology was very interesting, especially since the two concepts are often perceived as being opposed to each other. What similarities do you see in these two concepts, and how do the similarities inform your research?
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What they both have in common is that they emerge discontinuously without rational processing. But they are not the same. In science, everything must immediately be subject to recasting as a disprovable, testable hypothesis, or else it is useless. The other kind of emergent discontinuous insight, religion, is put to a different test: its effect on other people’s lives. William James describes this test brilliantly in Origins of Religious Experience. Religious experience, according to James, is a prophetic experience, not out of worship of the prophet because of his own life, which is often quite full of suffering and misery, but for its immediate utility to you in your life. James says, “You know a prophetic person by their fruits, not by their roots.” This is not true of scientific insights. Scientific insights are real so long as they can’t be overturned by further experimentation. The great, incredible discontinuous genius of both Darwin and Einstein is that what they said was so simple that people couldn’t believe it. It was so anti-intuitive, but it holds up a hundred years later. It’s just the way nature is. There is nothing in good scientific insight that requires subjective experience; yet there is nothing but subjective experience that speaks to the validity of a religious insight. That’s the difference. Do you think religious beliefs should be considered when making scientific or medical decisions? A scientific decision, I assume, is, “What do these data mean and what do we have to do next to see if we are right?” Since the natural world is shared by everybody, I don’t think that a religious life has much to say about what the next experiment should be. On the other hand, I think that a religious life has a lot to say about what the overall priority should be of one line of questioning over another. But inside a laboratory, inside an agreed-upon question and answer system through science, I don’t see where it plays out. On the other hand, you have to ask yourself what the difference is between medicine and science. If you make medicine into science, then we are the experimental objects and there goes all human feeling. While science is necessary for rational medicine, medicine is not science anymore than an orphanage is good parenting—there’s no love in it, there can’t be. But you need love in medicine. I know the peer review group for science (I was in it and I decided to leave it), and I know exactly how well it works in science, but not for the rest of life. When you face an end-of-life issue, who’s the peer review group? It should be dying people, not doctors. I would be very happy to see a structure in which the scientific invention of a peer review group goes to rationalize medical treatment, but I think that it is the people in need of the treatment, not the people who give it, who are the peers. Medicine is the treatment of the sick person, not doing an
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experiment. As someone knowledgeable in both religion and science, how do you think the fact that religious beliefs can’t be tested or justified scientifically affects their credibility or the way in which they are received? Credibility and way of reception are a matter of people’s inner lives and what it is that they think is most important to them. How they receive religion depends on what they can bear to hear and what it is they are most concerned about. It has nothing to do with provability; it has to do with insight and help. Religion is much closer to medicine than it is to science, and the validity of the insight depends on the response of the person, not anything else. It’s not testable because people are different from one another, and it shouldn’t be testable because then a person who feels better would be deprived of free will if you had a pill to take in place of the insight. You help someone decide to rethink their situation, and that’s not an experiment— there is no hypothesis there. It’s simply accepting your vulnerability, someone else’s vulnerability, and your capacity to alleviate that suffering from that vulnerability. What’s the hypothesis? Nothing is being tested, nothing is being disproven. Let me put it this way: A serious scientist is happy to acknowledge in his or her mortal state that there are aspects of his or her life which cannot be dealt with through science, for which you need other people, as people, as fellow humans. That human-to-human interaction is not subject to testability, unless you want to attempt to build a robot to take the place of human interaction. Then there would be an interesting question. Let’s say you could, and the robot had no feelings, and yet the person receiving the feelings felt that the robot did have emotions. Is it right to do? But that’s not where we are right now. Right now neurobiology is not at a point where it can do disprovable hypothesistesting on what a thought is, on what a memory or feeling is. So we are stuck with free will for the time being, and for that we need each other, and religions predicate that needing each other is an obligation, not a problem. And that is a very handy thing to lean back on.
WALL-E, the Thorn in the Side of Buddhism:
A Critique of the Dalai Lama’s The Universe in a Single Atom Reuben Doetsch
Photo by Jody Zellman.
The Dalai Lama serves as the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people and as a spokesperson for Buddhism worldwide, and is also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. His book, The Universe in a Single Atom, attempts to reconcile claims made from scientific and Buddhist positions in a constructive and cooperative dialogue. Given his intelligence, the Dalai Lama could not turn a blind eye to the progress of science; nor, according to the Dalai Lama, can scientific progress turn a blind eye to the spiritual progress of Buddhism. The Universe in a Single Atom tries to legitimize Buddhism in an intellectual climate dominated by a scientific worldview. In so doing, the Dalai Lama attacks scientific materialism and its adherents, going so far as to liken science itself to a religion. Both approaches make philosophical presuppositions and metaphysical
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claims about reality. Are these metaphysical claims justified? How do these views hold up in light of modern scholarship on the issues? Are science and Buddhism reconcilable? I will map out the Dalai Lama’s philosophy of the mind and explore his claims about the natures of consciousness and metaphysical dualism. Then I will investigate the persuasiveness of the Dalai Lama’s metaphysical claims in light of recent scholarship. Finally, I will address the consequences of the emergence of strong artificial intelligence with respect to his metaphysical views, and the consequences on the Dalai Lama’s own conception of scientific materialism. Through the framework of the Dalai Lama’s book, I will argue that the reconciliation of Buddhism and science is impossible because of their fundamentally conflicting metaphysical positions: Buddhism endorses a dualist metaphysical ontology (with mental and physical substances), while the scientific method presupposes a united metaphysical ontology, or physicalism. “Substance dualism” is the belief in two fundamental substances of the world, a mental substance and a physical substance. “Materialism” and “physicalism” are synonymous in today’s philosophical lexicon, and both refer to a world view in which everything supervenes on, or is necessitated by, the physical.1 Before I examine Buddhist metaphysics from this perspective, I will anticipate a common objection: Logic cannot be used to undermine a metaphysical position. However, if a counterexample to a metaphysical framework is given, either critics of such a logical explanation should either change their framework of thought to account for the counter-example or abandon it altogether. Let us consider a metaphysical belief abandoned because of science. Vitalism, a widely held philosophy in the ancient world, held that animal and human life contained some vital principle distinct from other substances. The concept of vitalism was discredited when scientists understood the principles of genetics and how organic molecules are assembled differently for plants, animals, and humans. The argument goes as follows: If simple organic molecules (which have no vital substance) can be put together to create a simple animal (simple organisms), then there can be nothing vital present in the animals. Since metaphysical arguments are not immune to criticism, I will try to counter the metaphysics of Buddhism on a logical level by demonstrating contradictions. I will begin by explicating the Dalai Lama’s two main objections against a scientific or materialist understanding of consciousness: the lack of an objective framework to look at consciousness and the qualia argument from knowledge. The Dalai Lama first affirms that “the object of our study is mental, that which examines it is mental, and the very medium by which the study is undertaken is mental.”2 The inability to
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look at consciousness objectively creates a problem for scientific inquiry into the mind, and for a physicalist world view, since all arguments for dualism involve mental events and consciousness. His Holiness raises the problem that modern science lacks a fully developed methodology by which to investigate consciousness. The Dalai Lama seeks to understand the possibility of an objective methodology for subjective experiences. Logically, even if consciousness can never be fully explained in terms of physical activity, the mental can still be supervened by the physical. It is possible that another body with all the same neurons and all the same physical structures could replace an individual’s physical self without changing his consciousness. The supervienience relationship is defined as, “A set of properties A supervenes upon another set B just in case no two things can differ with respect to A-properties without also differing with respect to their B-properties.”3 Therefore, the Dalai Lama’s objection fails to provide a basis for the belief that there exists another fundamental building block of the human body—a mental substance. Instead it only identifies the difficulties in wholly understanding consciousness and subjective experience, while studying their underlying physical phenomena. The Dalai Lama’s next objection, rooted in his explanation of qualia, has been used extensively by phenomenologists and philosophers of mind. The color red is the classic example of qualia. Every single individual experiences red subjectively. These pure essences of experience are known as qualia. The subsequent argument that the existence of qualia necessitates another metaphysical substance is also known as the qualia argument from knowledge.4 To put the question another way: How can experiences of something like the color red, which can be completely different for every person, ever be understood in an objective framework? If they cannot be understood in such a framework, then another type of substance (mental) must exist. This reasoning is problematic because even if the experience of red cannot be codified in purely physical terms, it does not necessarily mean that another mental substance must exist within the human body. Physicalism is an ontological claim that there are no non-physical substances or facts, but it does not claim to possess the ability to linguistically describe every feeling or object in physical terms. Thus, none of these objections refutes physicalism or provides evidence for a mental substance. After articulating his critiques of physicalism, the Dalai Lama posits a counter-example and begins to discuss the Buddhist philosophy of mind. Buddhism proposes a “version of Cartesian dualism”–namely, that there are two independent substances, one called ‘matter’ and the other called ‘mind’.5 Buddhism suggests that there are three fundamentally distinct aspects of the world in which we live: matter, mind, and abstract things. The reader glimpses the Dalai Lama’s
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metaphysical assumptions when he asks neuroscientists if “conceptually at least, we could allow the possibility of both upward and downward causation?”6 If both upward and downward causation existed, two separate substances would have to exist as well. If A can cause B and B can cause A, one cannot be fully dependent on the other. The Dalai Lama seems genuinely interested in these various problems and acknowledges much of the dependence of the mind on the physical when he states, “Underlying this assumption is the confidence that all mental states, both cognitions and sensations, can be correlated to processes in the brain.”7 The Dalai Lama, however, still hangs onto his metaphysical assumptions when he says, “I do not think current neuroscience has any real explanation of consciousness itself.”8 However, this admission implies that the Dalai Lama would allow for the possibility of a physicalist explanation of consciousness in the future. Now that I have countered the Dalai Lama’s objections to the scientific nature of Buddhism and extrapolated the Dalai Lama’s own metaphysical views, I will try to put those metaphysical views into question through the use of scientific possibilities. Much in the same way that DNA and a more thorough understanding of biology led to the demise of vitalism, I will attempt to use the possibility of strong artificial intelligence to undermine Buddhist metaphysics. WALL-E, the Pixar-Disney character, thinks, feels, and even falls in love. What do human-like robots and Buddhist metaphysics have in common? The existence of artificial intelligence (AI) raises a host of interesting metaphysical problems for a dualist metaphysical conception and consequently for the Dalai Lama’s conception of Buddhist metaphysics. AI is a branch of computer science that works to program computers with the ability to complete human-like
Fruits Will Be Labeled by Tenzin Doma Lama
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cognitive tasks. There is an important distinction between strong and weak AI. Weak AI involves programming a computer to do specific tasks. For example, Big Blue, the chess program which beat the former chess grandmaster Gary Kasporov, is an example of weak AII; it was explicitly designed to play chess. Big Blue could not have a conversation, make tea, or even play checkers. On the other hand, strong AI enables a machine to successfully perform any intellectual task a human being is capable of. WALL-E is a theoretical example of strong AI, since it can think, feel, and do all tasks normally relegated only to humans. WALL-E exhibits meta-cognition, selfawareness, and empathy. How does WALL-E, a fictional movie, pose a problem for philosophy? Human-like robots are closer to reality than most people realize. Though no programs currently exist that exhibit strong AI, with the large amount of research currently taking place, the invention of strong AI seems certain in the future and very probable within the next twenty years. Today’s robots have been shown to mimic human facial emotions, identify human emotions based on facial cues, answer basic questions, and understand simple commands. There are two approaches to strong AI. One of them is to create intelligence, not by copying the structure of the human brain, but by capturing its behavior. In this version of strong AI, the robot would have programs to process visual stimuli, respond to stimuli, and understand language. Functions could be added to process questions and formulate answers. This form of artificial intelligence understands the brain as an aggregation of functions and has shown great promise in terms of actual implementation, but it does not hold as much weight when used in a metaphysical argument. The other approach to strong AI is to actually mimic the brain, neuron by neuron, in a process called Whole Brain Emulation (WBE). Computers would simulate every neuron firing, receiving, and interacting with all the other neurons. In his paper Whole Brain Emulation, Oxford professor of science and philosophy Nick Bostrom concludes: “If electrophysiological models are enough, full human brain emulations should be possible before mid-century. Animal models of simple mammals would be possible one to two decades before this”9. Ray Kurzweil, another artificial intelligence researcher, deduces in his book The Singularity Is Near that the computational power of computers will be sufficient to simulate brain functioning within five to fifteen years.10 Scientists have already simulated the neurons of our eyes and ears with computers. Small insects have been simulated in labs and have shown to have similar behavior to their carbon-based likenesses. The question is not whether or not WBE will happen, but when. For Buddhists, mental processing is separate from the physical realm. How does one demonstrate that only the physical exists and that the mental is dependent and supervened on the physical? The Dalai Lama claims that Buddhists are substance dualists, but by replicating
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human life without any of its mental substance, artificial intelligence forces Buddhism to produce a new argument for the existence of the mental substance. The formal argument proceeds as follows: Computers contain no mental substance. Computers emulate the brain and act exactly like the human brain, essentially acting as a digital human brain. A human brain needs no mental substance, which contradicts the metaphysical position that the brain contains mental substance. So where do we go from here? Artificial intelligence clearly raises metaphysical issues that Buddhists and believers must contend with. The Dalai Lama himself explains: Some view the brain in terms of a computational model, comparing it to artificial intelligence; others attempt an evolutionary model for the emergence of the various aspects of consciousness. In modern neuroscience, there is a deep question about whether the mind and consciousness are any more than simply operations of the brain, whether sensations and emotions, are more than chemical reactions. To what extent does the world of subjective experience depend on the hardware and working order of the brain? It must to some significant extent, but does it do so entirely? 11 Artificial Intelligence clearly answers this question. The subjective experience is entirely contingent on the physical, and there exists nothing mental. Rewinding to the second chapter of The Universe in a Single Atom, the Dalai Lama explains the similarities between Buddhism and science: “So one fundamental attitude shared by Buddhism and science is the commitment to keep searching for reality by empirical means, to be willing to discard accepted or long-held positions if our search finds that the truth is different.”12 Does his statement indicate that with the emergence of whole brain simulation, the Dalai Lama must in fact become the materialist? Though new advancements in artificial intelligence impel the Dalai Lama to adapt his understanding of the human mind, the fundamental point that he advocates for in The Universe in a Single Atom—the need for an ethical and moral system of science—still rings true. Even if the metaphysics of Buddhism fall apart, the application of the study of the mind remains entirely important. A Buddhist world view provides a useful methodology for alleviating suffering, while meditative practices utilize the brain in ways yet to be understood by science. However, because materialism is now a reality, Buddhists must attempt to operate from a more accurate conception of the human condition.
Notes 1 Stoljar, Daniel. “Physicalism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , URL = <http:// plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/>.
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2 Lama, Dalai. The Universe in a Single Atom The Convergence of Science and Spirituality. New York: Broadway, 2006. Print. 122 3 McLaughlin, Brian, Bennett, Karen, “Supervenience”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/ archives/fall2008/entries/supervenience/>. 4 Nida-Rümelin, Martine, “Qualia: The Knowledge Argument”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/ archives/win2009/entries/qualia-knowledge/>. 5 Dalai Lama, 125 6 Dalia Lama 128 7 Dalia Lama 129 8 Dalia Lama 130 9 Dalia Lama 132 10 Sandberg, A. & Bostrom, N. (2008): Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap, Technical Report #2008‐3, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University81 11 Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity Is Near When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking Adult, 2005. Print. 10 12 Dalia Lama 127
The Christian Debate on Heterosexuality Sarah Ngu
Gendered Scripture & Gendered Souls:
Photo by Zahava. Mandelbaum
In the fall of 2009, members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested at Columbia University. They held up signs that read “God hates fags”1 and “Mourn for your sins.” Children stood among their ranks. Opposite them stood members of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship holding up counter-protest signs. One sign read, “God is love,” and another, “Speak the truth in love.” Pictures of the protest and counter-protest were quickly posted online as part of a Bwog article2, eliciting a shower of harsh comments, one of them dismissively calling the Westboro protestors “assclowns.” Another commentator wrote, “I feel for the children who got sucked up into this clusterfuck of irrationality against their will.” The debate surrounding the morality of homosexuality is much larger and subtler than this striking confrontation between the Westboro Baptist Church and students from Columbia University. Yet the debate is often treated in terms as unforgiving as the aforementioned Bwog comments. Any traditionalist
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Christian who believes that homosexuality is immoral is generally labeled as a “hater” who secretly (or not-so-secretly) harbors an irrational homophobia. This narrow view of traditionalists overlooks the many people who believe that though homosexuality is immoral, one ought to love homosexuals. Jacob Tadros, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, says: “‘Homosexuality properly understood is a sexual orientation, and orientations per se are not inherently sinful. Unambiguously, however, it is homosexual acts that the Bible clearly shows us to be sinful… So how then should Christians treat homosexuals? I would treat homosexuals no differently than I would treat heterosexuals. Through following Christ’s example, I would serve and love and bless them no differently than any other community on campus.” The reason that Christians can, as the phrase goes, love the sinner and hate the sin is that sin is dis-identified from the person in Christianity. The distinction between sin and virtue is turned into the distinction between natural and unnatural self. The Christian moral opposition to homosexuality is not necessarily due to deep-seated, irrational hatred, but rather to theological principles that undergird the Bible and Christian doctrine in its entirety. This article does not analyze the key verses in the Bible that traditionalists argue are the most effective evidence against homosexuality.3 That route requires an extensive historical overview and a brief crashcourse in Greek and Hebrew in order to make sense of the exegetical debates over the meanings of words. Instead, I will stick to arguments made not from technical words but from pro-heterosexual principles— Imago Dei and God’s relationship with Man—that traditionalists make in their case for homosexuality’s immorality. I will then present revisionists’ critiques that point out that to be pro-heterosexual does not necessitate being anti-homosexual, before synthesizing both sides and concluding which side is more convincing. In this way, I hope to present the intellectual foundations of both arguments, paying respect to each camp and avoiding emotional accusations. The core of the traditionalist argument against homosexuality is not that homosexuality is immoral per se. Rather, as the argument goes, homosexuality is unnatural to Man (“natural” defined as in accordance with God’s design) and is consequently perverse and immoral. In response to those who argue that there is a lack of conclusive evidence that homosexuality in and of itself has harmful consequences, traditionalists often respond by saying that because homosexuals are not fulfilling their natural function in God’s design, they are “hurting” themselves in that they are “degrading” themselves, much like a prostitute who feels no qualms about her job is nevertheless still degrading herself. Why, then, is homosexuality not part of God’s design? I will introduce two main traditionalist arguments to answer the question that are founded on the concept of Imago Dei and the husband-and-wife metaphor for God’s relationship with Man.
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At the heart of the Christian debate over homosexuality is the debate over gender, since homosexuality is labeled as a perverse mixing of gender categories. What does the Bible have to say about what gender is? Traditionalists essentially claim that there are gender differences between males and females, although not all revisionists believe so. The question of gender is another paper in itself, but the topic of what constitutes “masculinity” and “femininity” is can be amply addressed through a Christian conceptual framework. In terms of Imago Dei–the “image of God”—in Genesis there are indicators of gender’s cosmic parallels with God’s being: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”4 The implication of that verse is that it is through the perfectly fitted union of male and female that the image of God is revealed. Ulrich Mauser, former dean of Pittsburg Theological Seminary, wrote that “the dark shadow cast over homosexual activity in the Bible can only be understood as the contrast of the great light which is shed on the creation of male and female which elicits the judgment ‘very good’ by its Creator,” indicating that in order to understand the immorality of homosexuality, one must first understand the morality and goodness of heterosexuality at large.5 Note that the Imago Dei argument is not claiming that one must marry (someone from the opposite sex) in order to “complete oneself.” The Bible does not claim marriage as a necessity, regardless of what many romantic movies might have us believe. One ought to be complete and self-sufficient with God and God alone. Paul, the author of all the verses in the New Testament about homosexuality, writes, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.”6 Furthermore, the Bible clearly states that all Christians, single or married, are “transformed into his [God’s] image with everincreasing glory,”7 The male-female union may very well be the most complete earthly picture of God, but that does not mean it is normative. The legitimization of singlehood in the Bible provokes questions of how literally we must apply the concept of Imago Dei to our lives. Imago Dei is grounded in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, and thus stems from Creation, the beginning of the world. But how is this concept applied in Heaven or in the afterlife? In the afterlife, the relationship between males and females also holds a cosmic parallel: the relationship between God and mankind. In a letter to the Church in Ephesians, Paul writes: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…. husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.8
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The analogy Paul makes is this: as Jesus is to the Church, so is the husband to his wife. Paul also compares the Church to a “virgin,” and her “husband” to Jesus Christ9; Jesus does the same in a parable about ten virgins in Matthew.10 The union of the Church and Christ occurs in Heaven. Physical union– sexual intercourse—is a mere shadow of the spiritual union Christians await with Christ. So, does this metaphor intend to communicate that heterosexual marriage provides an earthly glimpse into the mystery of God’s relationship with Man? Or is its purpose to convey the trust and intimacy of the relationship between God and His people to an audience that was primarily heterosexual, as Christine E. Gudorf argues?11 After all, Jesus used many agricultural parables because his audience consisted largely of people who worked the land. Paul’s choice to use gendered language to explain the “profound mystery” that is Christ’s relationship with the Church is extremely telling, but there is a subtle twist: In Heaven, Christian males -are included in the metaphor of the Church as the “wife” of Christ. From this twist, it’s clear that the husband-wife metaphor cannot be interpreted on a purely literal level. Traditionalists do not expect a Christian male to feminize himself in order to become a “bride” for Christ. But even more interestingly, the bride-andbridegroom metaphor parallels Jesus’ statement that “at the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in Heaven.”12 Jesus revealed that marriages among Christians will be dissolved in Heaven, a statement that only fully makes sense in conjunction with Paul’s statement that all Christians will be “married” to God. As profound as a heterosexual marriage may be, the divine marriage will supersede it—it will pass away. This begs the question: Does gender still exist in Heaven? Angels and God, heavenly beings, are referred to with masculine pronouns in the Bible. So if gender does exist, what is its purpose? One might argue that Paul’s bride-and-bridegroom metaphor implies that while gender distinctions may exist in Heaven, they might no longer be meaningful, given the fact that all Christians, male or female, are grouped together as Christ’s “wife.” According to this revisionist view, gender is an earthly construct that will pass away and lose meaning. One might conclude from this revisionist perspective of marriage that earthly unions dissolve in Heaven because there is no longer a need to procreate, since all individuals in Heaven live eternally. Gender exists on earth for procreation–and this is, in fact, what traditionalists claim in order to confine moral legitimization to heterosexual marriages. Still, the revisionist argument has a point: What is the big fuss about marriage on earth if it’s just going to pass away in Heaven? What is the purpose of an earthly marriage? One has to return to the story of Creation in order to explore these questions. Upon creating Man, God realizes that “it is not good for man to be alone,” and so he creates Eve, a woman, to be a “suitable
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helper” for him.13 God intends for Adam and Eve to physically and emotionally unite. Sex, within the context of a monogamous relationship, has God’s stamp of approval. “What God has joined together, let man not separate,” Jesus remarks on marriage.14 A traditionalist argument deduces from this that the woman is created in order to expand the human race–in other words, a different gender was introduced for the purpose of procreation. After all, God commands Adam and Eve to be “fruitful and increase in number”—to procreate.15 Procreation is the ultimate act of fruition of the physical complementariness of male and female bodies. From there on, the traditionalist deduces that only heterosexual, and not homosexual, marriages fit God’s design and are morally approved by God. But this attribution of marriage’s value to procreation, a biological and physical act, has some immediately apparent warning signs. According to this logic, it would seem that an infertile couple cannot marry because they cannot procreate. Furthermore, this reduction of the union of two souls to that of two bodies—to the physical act of sex—is not at all consistent with Christian doctrine. Husbands are commanded in the passage about the husband-wife metaphor to love their wives as much as Christ sacrificially loved the Church. There is no room for “love” between a monogamous couplewhose sole purpose is not each other but rather to further the human race by begetting children. What’s more, if procreation was the only reason for gender distinction, there would be no point to marriage at all, since random sex, as long as it produced babies, would be completely acceptable. Furthermore, God could have designed Man to reproduce asexually, like some plants do. Why did He create the new “category”: of the female sex? Clearly the “survival of the species,” or procreation, cannot be the sole reason for marriage. To reject physical procreation as the source of value for marriage indicates that marriage in wholly focused on souls, rather than bodies, and so we are still left wondering why God created another gender. He could have created, as the joke goes, “Steve” instead of “Eve” for Adam to marry. The only way to explain this reality is to understand the purpose of marriage as operating beneath the physical level, beyond biological functions like procreation, and into the realm of the emotion and the mind–the soul in its totality. Gender differences can’t be merely physical because procreation, which is the only real result of physical differences, does not sufficiently explain gender. In other words, there must be gendered souls. If there are indeed gendered souls, how does marriage fit into the picture, especially since it fades in Heaven? It is not enough to point out that marriage will cease in Heaven; one must ask why. The very limitations of earthly marriage cast light as to its purpose. I suggest that the union of oppositely gendered souls in marriage is a way to understand, while on earth, the two most central concepts in Christian
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doctrine: the image of God (Imago Dei) and His relationship to man. Earthly marriage is, ultimately, just a metaphor, a shadowy sign that points to these two divine realities. The happiness and intimacy in marriage, which extends far beyond the physical pleasure of sex, is a shadow of the ultimate happiness that arises when one meets one’s Maker, when one’s desires finally find their ultimate satisfaction in the One who created our desires. If marriage is a “helping tool” to understand God and how He relates to us, then clearly once we meet and relate to God, there is no need for such guidance, and marriage ceases to exist. The purpose of gender, then, is very much bound up in the purpose of humanity, which is to be with God. Different genders, then, are created for the purpose of marriage, which is a God-given way to better understand God and His relationship with Man. However, it is by no means the only way. If so, then marriage would be prescriptive for all, and revisionists were right in pointing out that it is not. Leading a single life is also another way to understand God. A musician may claim that he feels closer God through music, and a photographer through photos. God provides photos and music as two different ways of understanding Him—one operates through visual and the other through auditory means. But they are not contradictory methods, just as marriage and singlehood are different but not contradictory. Using this logic, revisionists claim that a homosexual marriage is different but not contradictory to a heterosexual marriage. However, homosexual marriage cannot be categorized under “difference.” Singlehood is different from marriage and not contradictory to it because it is not a misuse of God’s gift, but simply a non-use and a pursuit of a different gift. A better analogy to homosexual marriage would be adultery, since that is a misuse of God’s gift of intimacy and trust between a couple, a gift which reveals God’s intimate relationship with his Church. Similarly, a homosexual union would be a misuse of God’s gift of gender which reveals—well, exactly what? If genders are truly distinct from each other, then there must be something particular and unique to the interplay between two distinct genders that reveals great insight to the nature of God and his relationship to Man. But what is this great insight? To answer this question would require defining what “masculinity” and “femininity” are, and that (as I previously stated) requires another paper. Still, I suspect we will never be able to perfectly understand those categories. That is, perhaps, the beauty of humanity:We escape precise definition, leaving behind only faint outlines to grasp after. If the Bible is true, gendered souls exist—this is the outline that we have. What is a male soul? What is a female soul? That requires coloring in between the lines. In the words of Sarah Sumner, a female professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University: Men and women… are paradoxical mysteries that cannot be defined. Defining a woman
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is no more possible than defining a man or defining the Spirit of God. God is not a definition. Neither is any person. People can describe someone; we can know someone. But we cannot define someone as if a person could be reduced to a definition. No mystery of truth can succinctly be defined. 16 This is the point where reason, which has led us so far, cannot enter and leaves us with just faith to guide us and hold our hand.
Notes 1 Catherine Newhouse, Luke Udstuen. “Westboro Baptist Church protests around Columbia.” The Maneater. 3 Oct. 2009. <http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2009/10/3/westboro-baptist-churchprotests-around-columbia/> 2 “Westboro Protests at JTS.” 24 Sep. 2009. <http://bwog.net/2009/09/24/westboro-protests-atjts> 3 Romans 1:25-26; Leviticus 18:22; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:9-10 4 Genesis 1:27 5 Ulrich Mauser. “The Bible and Homosexuality by Ulrich Mauser.” <http://www.godweb.org/ mauser.htm> 6 1 Corinthians 7:8 7 2 Corinthians 3:18 8 Ephesians 5:25-32 9 2 Corinthians 11:2 10 Matthew 25:1-12 11 Christine E. Gudorf. “The Bible and Science on Sexuality.” Homosexuality, Science, and the “Plain Sense” of Scripture, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 131. 12 Matthew 22:30 13 Genesis 2:17-18 14 Mark 10:7-9 15 Genesis 9:7 16 Sarah Sumner. Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 269.
A Critique of Charles Taylor’s Secular Age Adam Sieff
SECULAR AGE, oR SECULAR ILLUSIoN?
Central to any sociological discussion of modernity is a theory of secularization. Though some theories of secularization focus on the quantitative and qualitative “decline” of religious belief, or the extent to which religion has become “privatized” and insulated from politics, a discussion of modernity is more closely engaged with the general idea that religion has ceased to function as a master narrative. Indeed, the past century has seen religion denuded from all other spheres of life in a manner unforeseen in millennia. Though the effects of this sort of secularization and the subsequent emergence of “value-pluralism” (the condition of competing value-systems) have proliferated into all facets of public and private life, perhaps most compelling is the extent to which
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secularization has changed the conditions for living meaningfully. In his 2007 treatise on religion in modernity, A Secular Age, renowned Canadian moral philosopher and devout Roman Catholic Charles Taylor echoes other theories of modernity and concludes that there has been a shift in the conditions and experience of religious belief between the Middle Ages and the present. As he articulates it, this shift constituted a change in the understanding of “fullness”—which is to say, “meaning”—from a condition “in which our highest spiritual and moral aspirations point us inescapably to God,” to one in which these aspirations “can be related to a host of different sources.” In other words, religious “unbelief ” was inconceivable in 1500, but represented an option in 2000. For Taylor, the difference was the development of an “exclusive humanism” that provided an immanent (inner-worldly) alternative to transcendental fullness. The emergence of such an immanent fullness and the resulting option of unbelief are the defining features of what Taylor calls our “secular age,” and provide the basis for his conception of modernity. Conspicuous throughout Taylor’s tome of nearly a thousand pages is the sense that he is attempting to transcend Max Weber’s prominent theory of modernity. For Weber, modernity is the product of “rationalization,” the human attempt to systematize and organize the social and physical environment in a way that makes desired outcomes more calculable, predictable, and controlled. It is in effect a quest for “world mastery” and the eradication of all “mysterious incalculable forces.” However, rationalization produces not only a world that men can master, but also one defined by nihilism and value-pluralism. It is nihilistic because rationalization, by making the world calculable, reveals the underlying causal processes of observed phenomena and manufactures a “fact-value divide” that deprives us of acting meaningfully. It is value-pluralistic because rationalization exposed the “irrationality” of religion to the extent that it could no longer function as a transcendent value binding together the various value-spheres of human experience. Though rationalization was spawned in the sphere of economics, all the others—the political, aesthetic, erotic, intellectual, etc.—were permanently released as separate, equal, autonomous, and “unbridgeable” value-spheres as a result of rationalization. The fate of our times, the essence of modernity, is thus, for Weber, the convergence of nihilism with value-pluralism. To describe the situation more vividly, Weber makes the analogy of a “return to polytheism,” of gods (value-sphere orientations) interlocked in an “eternal struggle” battling each other for Man’s allegiance. The individual can only “bear the fate of the times as a man” and decide “which is God for him, and which is the devil.” Whether that means a life devoted to the creation or appreciation of aesthetic beauty, a life devoted to the accumulation of capital, or even a life devoted to Christ, it does not matter. All are equally valid life orientations, for a modern man can do nothing
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other than live with integrity according to the stipulations of his chosen deity. However, what modern men cannot do now—as opposed to the previous “thousand years,” during which men were “blinded by the presumably exclusive orientation” toward Christianity—is bear the pretense of absolutism. This point cannot be underemphasized. Men are commanded in modern times to be agnostic, to struggle with the possibility of meaningless at all times. They may find shreds of value in their existence, but they must always question them. If a man cannot bear this and insists upon clinging to the illusion of truth in his chosen value-sphere, he makes an “intellectual sacrifice” by returning to the open arms of his church, office, gallery, or lover. While Taylor posits something similar to this “rationalization thesis,” the conclusions about belief and non-belief that he derives for modernity are controversial and certainly cannot be called Weberian. Indeed, his entire project seems to be an attempt to create an alternative narrative for modernity that rescues absolutism from the depths of irrationality and intellectual sacrifice. Where Weber stands to emphasize and embrace the discomfort of agnosticism as the principal fact of modernity, Taylor shrivels away, fearing the dire anxiety and destabilizing consequences of the possibility of meaninglessness. His
Photo by Verneva Ziga
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book, in this sense, is the window-dressing for his own “intellectual sacrifice.” To summarize, Taylor’s secularism is the condition of belief following the emergence of exclusive humanism. It, like Weber’s theory of spherical differentiation, is characterized by a “supernova” of fullness-orientations (value-spheres) competing for our allegiance. For Taylor, as with Weber, religious belief is just one option in the constellation of non-axiomatic, non-absolutist orientations. We can responsibly accept the conclusions he draws so far; however, Taylor soils his credibility with the implications he draws from these conditions. Above all, Taylor infers that only two types of fullness are available to us, and that both presuppose the objective structure of theology. In this sense, modern men have only two options for meaningful existence in this world: religious belief or exclusive humanism. The latter can take the form of Kantian metaphysics, Hegelian phenomenology, or even Marxism. But this binary is really a false conflation. Under it, absolutist religious belief and unbelief only differ to the extent that the former places God outside of humanity, while the latter places God within it. The subtle binary, lost within an extensive discussion of each of these essentially theological orientations, wants us to believe that some god remains in all forms of life, even in religious unbelief. The conflation, however, is a carefully crafted illusion designed to place absolutist religious belief on an equal plane with all forms of unbelief. In fact, Taylor argues that the absolutist religious belief of a secular age is actually a richer experience of “fuller understanding” than the religious belief of the Middle Ages—and even unbelief today— because it must now be chosen by the believer. This false binary notably rejects a third possibility: that we can “rise to the challenge” of selecting our own source of meaning without bearing the absolutist pretense of the infallibility or righteousness of our convictions. This agnosticism is precisely what Weber emphasizes as the core fact of modernity. Taylor, however, excludes such an agnosticism from his discussion, despite its importance to Weber’s thought. He condescendingly addresses this argument only by referring to the literary ruminations of Camus, a historical figure whose intellectual stature nonetheless pales in comparison to Weber’s. In so doing, Taylor does not address the better manifestation of this argument as it appears in Weber’s work. In effect, his disregard for all intellectual history after Nietzsche serves as a convenient excuse to avoid engaging with this third possibility. The closest Taylor comes to actually addressing agnosticism directly is when he brushes it aside. By his account, agnosticism exposes us to “a meaningless, hostile universe” fraught with “dangers of isolation and loss of meaning.” Alas, would that it were otherwise for us and Professor Taylor. No summer’s bloom lies before us in modernity, but rather, as per Weber’s metaphor, “a polar night
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of icy darkness and hardness.” The fact that modernity commands us to accept an uncomfortable agnosticism in all our convictions is no grounds to deny reality. In modernity, we can still endeavor to do great things, build great monuments, and live rewarding lives of love, happiness, virtue, and— yes—faith. We can only proceed with the understanding that the value-orientation of our actions—that which makes them rewarding or virtuous—may ultimately be unjustifiable, and that our actions may have been in vain. Indeed, we modern men may become “tired of life” but never “satiated with life.” For us there will always remain “puzzles that we wish to solve,” and, ultimately, what we seize from this world will always be “provisional, never definitive.” To the point, there is a place for religious belief in a secular age, but it is no more objectively fulfilling than other forms of value-action, nor any more righteous, and it certainly cannot be absolute. The modernity Taylor offers us is no secular age, but rather a secular illusion to quell his own apprehensions. Given his conclusions, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Templeton Foundation— which donates millions to research that reconciles science and religion—awarded Professor Taylor for A Secular Age with its $1.5 million Templeton Prize for “affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” Taylor may find modernity uncomfortable, but such is the fate of our times. The essence of our existence is the struggle to embrace the anxiety of inexhaustible existential uncertainty. The question is, will we bear it as men?
Notes 1 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2007, p. 26 2 Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” in From Max Weber, eds. Hans H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, New York: Oxford, 1946, p. 139. 3 Ibid, p. 139 4 Ibid, p. 148-9 5 Ibid, p. 149 6 Ibid, p. 155 7 Ibid, p. 13 8 Taylor, A Secular Age, p. 9 9 Taylor, A Secular Age, pp. 9, 52 10 Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation,” in From Max Weber, p. 128. 11 Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” p. 151
Religion, ethics, and the Mission of the University Lynne Foote
All THingS ConSiDeReD:
Photo by Jody Zellman
For its first 100 years, Columbia had the mission of not only educating the intellect but also the moral foundation of its students. In 1896, N.Y. mayor and Columbia alum Abram Hewitt asserted in his address dedicating the new Columbia Morningside campus that the University’s purpose was “to train a free people in the virtue and knowledge on which their liberty depends.”1 Despite this oft stated objective, Descartes’ theory of dualism between mind and body separated the intellectual realms of science and the humanities from the seventeenth century onwards. The advent of the modern research university widened this disjunction as science became the most legitimate path to knowledge. Years later, however, Columbia students insisted that ethics be reconnected with the acquisition of knowledge within the University. Students during the 1960’s rebelled against traditional gender, class, and race divisions, and—perhaps counter-intuitively— radical students at Columbia in 1968 insisted that the long-forgotten moral imperative of the University be reassumed. They contended that Columbia had abandoned moral scrutiny of its role and mission.
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The University’s facility, faculty, and funding were being used in support of the government’s military efforts in Vietnam. Columbia was also in the process of building a gym on public land in Morningside Park, at which local minority residents would have to use the “back entrance.” Students saw both of these activities as fundamentally immoral. Columbia’s support of the military-industrial complex was seen as endorsing and extending America’s colonial ambitions. Discriminating against and exploiting its minority neighbors was perpetuating the ethnocentrism of “white power.” Demonstrators denounced the separation of the University’s intellectual output from an acceptable moral framework and so, ironically, it could be argued that these radicalized students were calling the American university to pursue virtue in its dialectics, and they were challenging the model of the research university’s bifurcation of knowledge and moral considerations. Over forty years later, it remains an unanswered challenge. The university has not yet found a way to bring the humanities and sciences into a crossdisciplinary conversation that would challenge the presuppositions of each department and explore the ethics required for an efficacious application of the knowledge arising at the academy. Tracing the divorce of research from a moral scaffolding, Harvard professor Julie A. Reuben explains in her article “The University and Its Discontents” that the trajectory of American institutions since the late nineteenth century was based on the assumption that modern science would illuminate and liberate society. New and unrestricted freedom of inquiry promised to unearth universal truths through empirical methodology instead of religious and philosophical conjecturing; it had, however, inherent fallacies and contradictions. Reuben observes: “Science was distinguished from less reliable forms of knowledge because it moved consistently forward, beyond controversy to agreement. Designating consensus as the mark of success…was a fateful move, a move that would push moral concerns out of legitimate scientific discourse.”2 In short order though, academics found less consensus than they hoped for across their disciplines. They responded by narrowing their fields of study so that agreement could be achieved. Thus, universities became the highly specialized places we know today. Separated in this way, disciplines developed foundational assumptions that remained internally logical but largely undisputed by perspectives from outside their respective narrow slices of academia. Undisputed perspectives are actually undesirable in the realm of ethics because the values of moral inquiries lie in their complex grappling with what is “Good” and what is “True,” and then continually reevaluating new knowledge and information in light of those constants. Therefore, the university
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staked out the more unambiguous ground of evaluating information and correlating evidence and disengaged from the often thorny search for the wisdom with which to examine the implications and application of this information. In the 1950’s and ‘60s at Columbia, the departments of sociology, psychology, as well as the hard sciences, were conducting experiments in everything from chemical defoliants and naval sonar systems to the use of applied psychology in warfare. Departments were churning out useful research for the government, and yet there were few asking if the application of this research was ethical, and there was no agreed upon standard by which to make such evaluations. This was the crux of the student protests— they demanded moral accountability from their academic institution. The information and answers provided by the scientific method are widely regarded as positive because the method is viewed as unbiased and objective, therefore reliably advancing knowledge. The absence of moral reflection within the disciplines has led to many discoveries and advancements whose applications have created unexpected and undesirable consequences. There are myriad examples, but take for instance modern and scientific farming methods, which have increased production and simultaneously reduced the nutritional value and purity of our food. Likewise, advancements in chemistry have created unparalleled commodities and methods of production but have polluted the environment. When these “advancements” wreak havoc, we react by endowing the scientists and their institutions to save us from the very problems they created. Research is mobilized to probe for answers to problems that arise from the unscrutinized application of scientific discoveries. While science remains a virtually unassailable means of understanding reality, religion and morality are commonly viewed as inherently invalid forms of examination, and as cultural positions rather than timeless truths that may valuably critique the scientific establishment. However, with the successful bifurcation between moral inquiry and the disciplines of the academy, many fields now have equally unchallenged assumptions. It is deeply ironic that the modern research university, with all its resources, has in some ways limited the scope of inquiry and the examination of commonly held assumptions. What else are we missing by not considering a wider, fuller view of reality? There are personal, as well as societal, implications to this bifurcation of knowledge and morals, for without any moral basis, personal autonomy often veers toward a gratuitous pursuit of “happiness” in American society. In his 1978 commencement address at Harvard, Russian writer and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn foresaw that a system of higher education lacking in moral inquiry would produce citizens with no compelling motive to act ethically or selflessly. Solzhenitsyn, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature and best known for his works The Gulag Archipelego and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, warned Harvard’s graduates that doctrines of the Enlightenment and
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Renaissance had captivated the West with the idea of “humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and practiced autonomy of man from any force above him.”3 Man became intrinsically good and at the center of his universe. This tenet, he thought, had taught the American psyche to regard self-sacrifice and self-denial as an anathema to the founding ideal of “the pursuit of happiness.” Because we answer only to ourselves, American materialism dictates as essential the gratification of our desires over the good of others. Another legacy, then, of today’s intellectual standards is that they yield citizens complicit in a corrupt corporate culture and a broken political system run by special interests, in which individuals are adrift in a haze of materialism. Another unintended but logical result is America’s dependence on the Law as its best expression of moral judgment. Solzhenitsyn observed that American jurisprudence had become the highest form of compliance to moral behavior and had led to an emphasis on “human rights” rather than “human obligations.”4 A belief in the “humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent in nature”5 meant that there was no restraint on selfishness, no restraint based on the obligation to anything higher than the Law. Without a “concept of a Supreme Complete Entity”6 there is no basis for “serene self-restraint.”7 When Man acts as his own moral compass, he deduces that legal acts are ethical acts and can therefore act in his own selfish interest regardless of any larger consequences. Mistakes leading up to the recent fiscal crisis involved financial practices that were entirely legal, though— with even the slightest inspection— unwise, unscrupulous, and driven by unencumbered greed. No community or societal consequences appear to have been contemplated. A lack of ethical consideration in education and reliance Photo by Zahava Mendelbaum on the law alone have led to acquisition
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of knowledge for personal promotion, corporate gain, or national self-interest. This great legalism leaves room for egregious self-absorption that does not encourage us to move toward the illusive happiness we pursue, but rather toward a materialistic existence destined to leave us in what Solzhenitsyn called a deep “moral poverty.”8 “Boundless materialism” and “freedom from religion and religious responsibility”9 left America, he felt, with a frenzied, harried, and competitive existence bereft of religious reflection or spiritual development. So too there is greater prosperity in America today, even in the midst of recession, than most countries can fathom; yet there is also profound depression, self-medication, self-mutilation, familial alienation, and–ironically— increased isolation in a media and Internet-connected culture. Many courses of study at Columbia endlessly probe for reasons and insight into this spiritual malaise, and yet the common feelings of apathy towards these questions at best, and outright hostility at worst, exclude moral inquiry from that search for answers. Students are armed with unprecedented amounts of certain kinds of knowledge, but that knowledge is likely to yield partially informed conclusions and scant help for alienation and spiritual malaise. This isn’t to say that students at Columbia aren’t engaged in civic, religious, or altruistic activities. A cursory look at campus extra-curricular opportunities and organizations speaks to the varied ways students are looking outward. However, that is exactly the point. Religious and moral perspectives are relegated to extra-curricular expressions rather incorporated into the curricular conversation. The Progressive intellectuals of the 1930’s were stunned when the most educated and scientific country in Europe gave rise to fanatical nationalism and fascism. The bloodiest century also had the most access to information and education. One conclusion may be that a bifurcated education, which separates moral inquiry from intellectual pursuits, is impotent to fully engage with deeply complex problems because students are given only part of the information needed for a more holistic understanding of the world. It is unreasonable to think that including moral inquiry within the curriculum of the modern university would yield answers to the complex ironies, paradoxes, and conflicts of the world, yet it is undeniably a fuller, more nuanced approach. The legacies of a truncated, purely humanistic view of reality have not served us well as individuals or as a society thus far. Perhaps seeking fuller knowledge means we must engage with the messiness of moral inquiry and truth-seeking in order to examine our assumptions with some universals. As distasteful as such language currently is in the academy, most people do have some discernible line in the sand of universal or absolute truth. Even amongst the most irreligious, secular souls on any campus, there is something that each feels is a non-negotiable truth, even if the “absolute” is that absolute truth cannot exist. There are many adamant proponents of the absolute essential nature of
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“human rights,” for example, yet the greater moral framework on which such an absolute claim can be grounded (that each man is made in the image of God and is therefore of intrinsic worth) has been discredited at the academy. What are we missing by not engaging with the inescapable universals alongside other forms of knowledge? Though there are varied views about what moral framework is valid, the conversation about such ideas should still be engaged in and is perhaps enhanced by wrestling with competing views. Instead, the university is often a place, not just of scrutiny, but of mockery of the long-accepted wisdom that universal truths exist and should govern the moral relationships Man has with himself and his community and, many believe, his Creator. In his 1944 treatise on education, The Abolition of Man, medievalist scholar and popular author Clive Staples Lewis argued that engaging with and seeking objective truth is actually the goal of education. He proposes that the ancient philosophers and each of the world religions embrace this idea: The Chinese speak of a great thing (the greatest thing) called the Tao. It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road…It is also the Way in which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar.10 According to Lewis, there is a universal reality, or Tao, a fountainhead in which justice, human dignity, love, mercy, veracity, faith, kindness, familial duty, and personal responsibility are sourced. He says each of the ancient wisdoms of Confucianism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all understand this to be something outside and, in some ways, irrespective of mankind. A liberal arts education is the very venue in which to wrestle with these intangible realities and examine how to apply universal morals to the knowledge students come in contact with. To be wholly educated, Lewis believes, means understanding the Tao because people tend to judge “with complete uncritical dogmatism, the whole system of values which happen to be in vogue”; however, skepticism is only used for “other people’s values.”11 This puts a modern, self-referential system like humanism at a distinct disadvantage because its ability to analyze and judge is limited by the humans who devised the ideology in the first place. Without outside universals by which to critique humanism, it is subject to the whim of every passing generation’s fashion of thinking. Where, then, are students at American universities to find a place for critically thinking about the current “fashion” of knowledge in light of universal truths?
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Without such a space and universal principles with which to evaluate the knowledge acquired at the modern research university, there are formidable consequences both for individuals and for their societies: the harmful and unexamined impact when science is both the source of problems and the only perceived valid solution to those problems, a humanistic view of man which frees him from religious obligation and reflection but leads to materialism and self-absorption, a dependence on Law instead of morality for human relationships, an individual and social malaise that results from a shallow and solely material existence, and the impotence of information alone to address deeply complex issues. If our values are to be based, not on the whim of fashion, but on universal truths such as the Tao, then universities must encourage their investigation before the pursuit of careers and the hurly-burlies of life push it from view. The reigning ideas of humanism should not escape scrutiny merely because they are the most accepted at American universities today, but ought to be subjected to rigorous inquiry alongside the longer established views of Man. Without a willingness to wade into the process of moral examination and universal truth-seeking within the conversation of the university curriculum, we are unlikely to escape the legacies of many unexamined assumptions about reality, about ourselves, and about our relationship to society. The student radicals of the ‘60s protested for this kind of moral inquiry, but their courage was perhaps undermined by some of the materialism and self-absorption that dominate in anthropocentric American society. Maybe civic courage only goes so far without a more universal, metaphysical demand on the life and soul of the radical. How can universities, which are so often at the mercy of various religious and cultural minority voices, engage with the multitude of claims about Truth? After all, our societal views are more multicultural and diverse than when Lowe Library was inscribed with the words, “For the advancement of the Public Good and to the Glory of Almighty God.” There are no easy solutions; however, the conversation amongst academics might be most fruitful if it were framed by the ancient wisdom, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which would allow all voices at the table to be heard. Creative work needs to be done to explore ways in which this moral conversation can be revived so that we are challenged in our assumptions, our personal ethics, and our expectations for our institutions, and so that we are engaged with the complexity of all reality, not just those parts which can be submitted to scientific methodology. Notes 1 A History of Columbia University, 1754-1904; published in commemoration of the one hundred
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and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of King’s College. (New York, The Columbia University Press, The Macmillan Company. 1904) 165. 2 Reuben, Julia A. “The University and its Discontents.” The Hedgehog Review. Issue 2.3. (The Institute for Advanced Cultural Studies at University of Virginia. 2000) 74. 3 Alexsandr I. Solzhenitsyn, A World Split Apart (New York. Harper & Row. 1978) 47. 4 Ibid. 21. 5 Ibid. 47-48. 6 Ibid. 57. 7 Ibid. 59. 8 Ibid. 51. 9 Ibid. 53. 10 Clive Staples Lewis. The Abolition of Man. (New York. The MacMillian Company. 1947) 11. 11 Ibid. 18.
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