Sunday, June 28, 2015

Challenges of 'New Thinking'

                                                                                                                         Series  -  1st      

            There are times in history when our understanding of the world and how it operates makes a giant leap forward and we are called upon to readjust our thinking.  As when Galileo (under the influence of Copernicus) defined the structure of the cosmos; when Pasture presented his germ theory; when Einstein re-defined time and space—each new concept met with opposition because it became necessary for people to let go of what they had previously believed and embrace new understanding.  Such reordering is arduous, painful and its veracity is vehemently denied.

            In this past century, human knowledge has been presented with another sea-changing concept that alters—not how we see the earth’s structures and functions—but how we see ourselves and our place in this vast universe.  This change began with Charles Darwin’s publication of On Origins of the Species in which he expounded the theory of evolution, postulating that all life developed by chance through random selection.   God was not mentioned.  A Jesuit scientist paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin is the newer face addressing this revolutionizing concept of evolution.  Teilhard in no way disputes Darwin but rather develops what Darwin left out—the purpose and direction of evolution and man’s place in it.

            Originally the pursuit of knowledge was a comprehensive search for both a material understanding of the what and how of things but also a quest for cause and purpose—the why of being.  With the Renaissance there was a sundering, a separation wherein the search for what and how became the domain of Science while the search for cause and purpose was left to Religion.  Each specialty had little concern for the other.  Science increasingly won our attention. 

            As evolution came into public awareness the divide between Science and Religion widened, fueled by the question, ‘Where did humans come from? . . . did we evolve from lower species or were we created by God?’  In 1925 the Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’ became an international sensation when a new Tennessee law prohibited teaching evolution in schools and a teacher was arrested and tried for doing so.  The sensationalism of it had the effect of creating the illusion that Science and Religion are incompatible.

            Science does not oppose Religion—it simply ignores it.  Religion as a whole is not opposed to Science; it holds it in high regard.  It is only the religious fundamentalists, insisting upon literal interpretation of everything in the Bible, who stand in opposition to scientific findings.  A tenet of Fundamentalism is “the word of God is inerrant”.  I would agree that ‘the word of God’ is without error, but we have so few ‘words of God’!  I can think of only three.  In Exodus: the Ten Commandments; also in Exodus, to Moses in answer to his question about his name God said: “I Am who I Am; tell the Israelites ‘I AM has sent me to you’”.  Then in Deuteronomy: “I set before you life and death . . . Choose life.”  There are few other direct quotes from God, mostly the rest is from human attempts to preserve and relay perceived valuable information as it passes through the lens of that time.   

            I agree that the writings in the Bible are inspired and the inspiration comes from God, but the stories and narratives that we have, came through the minds and words of men.  God does not give dictation.  Our present understanding of the world and how it operates is light-years away from what was available to the Bible writers.  We need to respect the Bible’s great value and search out the kernel of its inspired wisdom and coordinate it with our advanced understanding because it is the best guidebook we have for navigating life.

            Throughout time humanity has had to adjust and re-define our knowledge.  Copernicus and Galileo paved the way to expanding our knowledge from a static geocentric world-model to a heliocentric model.  By changing our world-view it opened us out to the future.   Much to the shock and denial of the people of his day, Pasture described an unseen tiny world of microbes—germs too small for eyes to see yet causing diseases.  Initially even doctors couldn’t accept as so powerful, what they could not see, but eventually all had to readjust their thinking and Pasture’s discovery revolutionized the field of medicine.  Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity and radically changed what we knew about space, time and matter; his ideas vastly changed the field of physics.  In later life he invested belief and his efforts into finding a Unified Field Theory which would incorporate all the laws of the Universe—although he died before reaching his goal, it continues to motivate research in theoretical physics . . . such a theory would substantiate the idea that all that is, is part of one whole interacting system.  That concept agrees with Teilhard’s views on evolution.

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PS  --With this entry I begin what is to be a series explaining aspects of Teilhard de Chardin’s work.  His is one of the 20th Century’s most brilliant minds—which he focused upon evolution and the human’s place in it.  His writings fill more than 20 volumes, all of which he was forbidden to publish in his lifetime, they were published after his death in 1955.  He is highly regarded in the intellectual community but many people fine his books daunting.  I have made a life-long study of his works, as a teacher I hope to make his ideas easier to understand.              (I recommend that you Google him)                      

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