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Ovi Symposium; sixty-ninth Meeting Ovi Symposium; sixty-ninth Meeting
by Shahid Lone
2016-05-26 10:14:28
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Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Mr Nikos Laios, Shahid Lone, Drs. Ernesto Paolozzi and Emanuel Paparella
Sixty-ninth Meeting: 15 May 2016

symposium01

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Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

laios_01Nikos Laios is a poet, artist, lover of philosophy and student of the human condition, currently writing poetry and producing art; he is also a sculptor, a photographer, widely read in the humanities. He hails from the highlands of Epirus in Greece; greatly influenced by the poetic traditions which have been passed down from his poet ancestor on his maternal side from the island of Cephalonia. He currently resides in North Sydney Australia, is an autodidact and a passionate ‘renaissance’ man, has always been a practical philosopher, throwing himself into the hard questions that life has to offer in search of elusive gems of wisdom.

 

shahidMr. Shahid Lone is a widely published international columnist‎ from Indian occupied Kashmir. His columns have appeared in Independent, The Post, Midweek, Modern Diplomacy, Eurassia Review etc. He rebuts newly constructed Schisms by Philosophical Understanding of Quran and Prophetic Narrations. He is an avid disseminator and propagator of the message of Quran.  He is  currently working on Literature survey of Islamic Economics and Finance with keen focus on Risk Management.

 

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

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Subtheme of session 69: The Interface of Revelation and Science before and after the Enlightenment: a philosophical conundrum.

Indirect Participants within the Great Imaginary Conversation across the ages: Socrates, Einstein, Kant, Heidegger, Aristotle, Greene, Abrams, Aquinas, Primack, Galileo, Sagan, Habermas, Held, Dawson, Santayana, Cesari, Voltaire, Dante, Shumannn, Eco, Derrida, Rawls, McDougall, Iqbal, Briffault, Bacon, Darwin, Huxley, Freud, Adler, Marx, Goethe, Croce, Nietzsche, Popper, Bellarmino, Vico.

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Table of Contents for the 69th Session of the Ovi Symposium

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Presentation 1: “Why is there Something rather than Nothing? Philosophical Reflections on Secularism and Atheism at the Interface of Scientific Rationalism and Religious Revelation, Faith and Reson.” By Emanuel L. Paparella

Presentation 2: “Sundry Reflections on Science and Faith.” By Ernesto Paolozzi

Presentation 3: “Jurgen Habermas on the Vision of a Post-secular Europe: an Overview.” As outlined by Emanuel L. Paparella

Presentation 4: “Intellectual Secularism: the Sickness of all times” by Shahid Lone

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Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella
(Ovi Symposium 69: May 2016)

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Welcome to another exciting meeting of the Ovi Symposium where we continue to explore the interface of Science and Revelation in Western Culture, or, to put it another way, the relationship of Reason and Faith, or Secularism and Religion, of history and myth. To be sure the relationship of reason and faith is already initially philosophically explored in the West, in Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae which has as its goal the harmonizing of reason and faith, the demonstration that the two can coexist and need not be mutually exclusive. Even Aristotle broaches this philosophical conundrum in his natural theology’s idea of God as First Cause or First Mover, a bit too abstract even as an idea, perhaps, but fully acknowledging the existence of an intelligence, a designer  or creator behind the phenomenon of the universe. The universe may be eternal but it did not create itself and give a purpose to itself; to assert otherwise is not even logical. If the universe is eternal  then it must logically be an emanation of God and existing with Him eternally; which leaves open the question of purpose and meaning.  

Indeed the problem is not so simple and it persists to this day, meriting a revisiting by the Symposium without however having to reinvent the wheel and bore anybody. Within modernity it first came to a head with the advent of modern science in the 17th century, with Galileo and Francis Bacon, to be precise, and with the concomitant secularist mentality privileging scientific empiricism which gave rise to Positivism. It began to take center stage with the age of Enlightenment, otherwise known as the age of reason, relegating religion to the realm of superstition, obscurantism and mythology, the first cultural stage later superseded by philosophy and then culminating with the third stage in science, as per Comte’s positivistic theory; something with which Croce contented with explaining, as Ernesto Paolozzi does in this issue, that behind every science there is a philosophy of science.

We have already explored the phenomenon in the previous symposium meetings, especially via a conversation among eight eminent Western philosophers and scholars. There it was at least suggested that if there ever was a period of strong unity in the West after the fall of the Roman empire, it was during the age of faith in the 13 century when religion pervaded daily life and provided a cultural cement of sorts and an identity for all Europeans. Even etymologically religio in Latin derives from the verb religare which means to bind together in unity. Here, on the other hand, we focus on the advent of secularism on center stage with modern science, at the core of which there are Enlightenment’s (18th century) rationalistic deterministic tenets about progress and modernity and secularism.

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In  the first presentation is titled “Why is there something rather than nothing? Philosophical reflections on Secularism and Atheism at the interface of Scientific Rationalism and Religious Revelation, Faith and Reason” the dialogue is placed in the framework of secularism and the Enlightenment and the misunderstandings in both the Western and non-Western camp, of secular humanism. This essay consists of the review of two recent books which seem to confirm what Shahid Lone writes regarding the crossroads reached by modern science, and echo his urgent plea for an urgently needed reconciliation between science and revelation. All in all, this issue of the symposium has turned out to be one of the most thoughtful and insightful presentations offered to the Ovi readership.

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In the second presentation Ernesto Paolozzi offers us a lucid overview and guide to the problems arising from the interface of religion and science. He abstains from bringing on stage any political ideological agenda and remains at the theoretical level wherein he examines briefly but cogently three great philosophers of science, Galileo, Popper, Croce,(who as critic of positivism devoid of the humanistic) while analyzing the controversy between cardinal Bellarmino and Galileo, which is not so clear cut as simply juxtaposing secularism to religion but assumes complex dimensions when both are understood as the search for truth, the ultimate or at times penultimate aim of any philosophical or scientific enterprise. It is indeed the underlying but unexamined theoretical issue affecting the whole EU society today which pretends to solve the problem of the rejecting of religion in Europe and elsewhere in the Western world as simply lack of democracy, human rights and “enlightenment” acumen. This outline will undoubtedly prove very useful in any future dialogues the symposium will pursue on the subject.

In the third presentation Jurgen Habermas examines the same concerns in his prognostication of a post-secular Europe when religion will be accorded a seat and a voice in the public agora and Europe may acquire a more authentic cultural identity rooted in the Greco-Roman world in synthesis with the Medieval and Renaissance Christian world, as we have also seen in the previous meeting. Humanism and the Renaissance (14th till the end of the 16th century) would be incomprehensible without grasping such a synthesis. This is the silver lining of the analysis to be found in the third presentation of this symposium meeting,  here revisited wherein a modern Western philosopher discusses how misguided the secularists’ elimination of the voice of religion from the public square has proved to be.

We’d like to extend a warm welcome and thank you to this issue’s guest contributor, Shahid Lone, a scholar from Indian occupied Kashmir. From his particular perspective, he has some very interesting insights to explore with us regarding the birth of secularism and modern science via a lucid provocative essay (previously published in Modern Diplomacy) on “Intellectual Secularism: the Sickness of all times,” which makes up the fourth presentation and delves into the origins of modern secularism and science and identifies the problem as the outright rejection by modern science of divine revelation as a valid form of knowledge as universally advocated by most major religions of the world. We have placed his essay at the end of the conversation as a last echo of sorts of our dialogue, to be further reflected and pursued in subsequent meetings as a conversation on what I like to call “the Western myth of the Enlightenment,” that is to say the counter-assertion that, as strange as it may seem at first sight, the Enlightenment, far from being the apex of perfection in rational human development, may still have to fully enlighten itself. As Shahid suggests it is high time for religion and science to end their acrimony and enter a fruitful dialogue leading to the original unity; that may indeed prove crucial for the very survival of humanity.

We have broached this subject previously, but secularism in tandem with the bias against religion is too ingrained in Western culture, at least since the “enlightenment” to expect that what has already been briefly enunciated and elucidated here will suffice to eliminate once and for all a whole misguided mindset bent on materialism, positivism and ultimate self-destruction; to persuade it to a change of trajectory. Some will ignore the message or even pretend that they don’t understand it or it is too recondite or anachronistic for their modern enlightened taste. Some, the hard core positivists, may indeed find it difficult to grasp anything beyond the material dimensions of reality.

But, despite it all, in our constant search for truth we cannot give up with the vapid slogan “everyone is entitled to their opinion”; we need to keep harping on the presentation and the exploration of the byways of the above mentioned conundrum of Western modernity and progressivism, even when we feel like a voice crying in the desert. In fact, it can be safely predicted that this particular meeting of the symposium will provoke some spirited disagreements from assorted positivists and debunkers or religion and revelation, which may come to the fore in subsequent issues, but isn’t that what a symposium is all about? Fortunately, Ovi is the kind of magazine that accommodates and discusses all points of view in the best tradition of free speech, without tolerating the descend into ad hominem arguments redolent of slander and bad faith. We sincerely hope that such a dialogue will prove fruitful to all those of us are not out to win arguments or debates (as the sophists of old) but are in search for what is good, beautiful and true.

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 1
Why is there Something rather than Nothing?
Philosophical Reflections on Atheism and Secularism at the Interface of
Scientific Rationality and Religious Revelation: Faith and Reason

A presentation by Dr. Emanuel Paparella

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The Eye of the Helix Nebula

“Philosophy Begins in Awe!”
--Socrates

"I am attempting humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image
of the lofty structure of all that there is."

  --Albert Einstein, from "My Credo" (1932)
 

“The starry sky above me, the moral law within me”
--Immanuel Kant, from the epitaph on his tomb

“My God, I confess that you can enlighten my darkness.
I confess that you alone can.
I wish my darkness to be enlightened.
I do not know whether you will;
but that you can and that I wish, are sufficient reason for me to ask.
I hereby promise that by your grace which I am asking,
I will embrace whatever I at length feel certain is the truth.
By your grace I will guard against all self deceit
which may lead me to take what nature would have,
rather than what reason approves.

-- John Henry Cardinal Newman 

The three quotes above and the prayer of Cardinal John Henry Newman just about summarize the philosophy of Nature and Science from Socrates to Kant. Two are from philosophers who also loved science and cosmology and one is from a scientist who loved philosophy; none of them saw philosophy and science as mutually exclusive. Moreover Martin Heidegger begins his famous Being and Time with a question which Einstein considered both scientific and theological: Why is there something rather than nothing?

 

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Maybe there's a way we can bring atheists and theists and the disparate factions and religions together on our little planet. Instead of focusing on the old definitions of "God", that many reject, or on how differently we see and honor "God" across the many religions (consider how the three Abrahamitic religions which have the same God have vehemently opposed each other for centuries), maybe there is a way to use this once divisive term to bring us all together; which does not mean to reduce the whole operation to a mere linguistic exercise, a play on words. In order to avoid such a pitfall we need to bring on the stage the evidence of modern cosmology.

Here we shall explore two rather recent (March 2015 and December 2015) by philosopher Nancy Ellen Abrams titled A God that Could be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of our Planet; and the other by Richard Greene titled E=MC2 and The New Definition of God which can be downloaded at  http://www.TheNewDefinitionofGod.com  The first book by Abrams is a brave attempt to explore the interface of science and religion, or spirituality, if you will, in order to initiate a more productive, lively and inspired discussion on the topic. If for nothing else, the book is admirable because it dares to pose many of the important and challenging questions that arise at the intersection of contemporary cosmology, spirituality, and atheism; a search which beckons us all, believers and non-believers alike.

The book is in fact nothing less than a serious contemplation on the existence and/or nature of God, something that Aristotle was also interested in some 24 centuries ago. It makes for a very worthwhile read. Perhaps one of its best ideas is the description of "God" as an "emergent" phenomenon, one that is literally greater than the sum of its parts. For example, a living organism is composed of unthinking atoms that individually just obey the laws of physics, but when aggregated into a human body, a totally new and wonderful thing emerges. The premise of the book is that God is also an emergent phenomenon and moreover, that creation is not a one shut deal but it is an ongoing phenomenon.

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Those of us who have remained “religious” remember that as children we were taught the concept of revealed religion via "faith"  but as we matured and became more intellectually autonomous, some of us  became agnostics or atheists. We simply were not certain on how things came about in the Universe, and how it could have just "happened," and could there be a God? Those of us who were more philosophically inclined perhaps posed to themselves Heidegger’s question: “why is there something rather than nothing?” Or perhaps we wondered if on finding a watch in the street it would be irrational of me to say that the watch made itself and it has no maker; on the other hand we are aware that God can never be proven scientifically. Which is which? The book, as mentioned above, is a brave attempt to supply some answers, or at least cast some doubts in the minds of assorted agnostics and atheists, even believers.

Let’s have the author speak for her theory. Throughout the book she reminds us that "God" is a word. If we define it, even subconsciously, as something that cannot exist in our universe, we banish the idea of God from our reality and throw away all possibility of incorporating a potent spiritual metaphor into a truly coherent big picture. But if we take seriously the reliable — and, thus, invaluable — scientific and historical knowledge we now possess, we can redefine God in a radically new and empowering way that expands our thinking and could help motivate and unite us in the dangerous era humanity is entering. In other words, if Aristotle and Aquinas could arrive at the idea of God minus the advantages of modern science, we ought to be able to do likewise, now that we have science to help us.

So Abrams reminds us of “one of the most exciting scientific revolutions of our time,” the revolution in cosmology. In the 1970s, the great cosmological mystery was this: If the Big Bang was symmetrical in all directions, why isn't the expanding universe today just a bigger soup of particles? Instead, beautiful spiral and elliptical galaxies are scattered throughout, but not randomly; they lie along invisible filaments, like glitter tossed on lines of glue. Where several big filaments intersect, great clusters of galaxies have formed. Why? What happened to the soup? Where did all this structure come from? Why is this structure teleological, as Aristotle put it, exhibiting a purpose and a design?

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She then gives credit for her inspiration to her cosmologist husband, Joel R. Primack, is “one of the creators of the theory of cold dark matter, which answers these questions by telling us that everything astronomers can see — including all the stars, planets and glowing gas clouds in our galaxy, and all the distant galaxies — is less than half of 1 percent of the contents of the universe. The universe turns out to be almost entirely made of two dynamic, invisible presences unknown and undreamed of until the 20th century: dark matter (invisible matter not made of atoms or the parts of atoms) and dark energy (the energy causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate). They have been in competition with each other for billions of years, with dark matter's gravity pulling ordinary (atomic) matter together and dark energy flinging space apart. Their cosmic interaction with ordinary matter has spun the visible galaxies into being and, thus, created the only possible homes for the evolution of planets and life…The discovery of those two forces has given us an idea of why the Universe is expanding at tremendous speed. Recently it was discovered that it travels at a speed which is eight per cent faster than previously thought. Over the decades, as data confirming this story began to trickle — then pour — in from telescopes and satellites, we kept wondering: What does it mean for us humans that we're not living in the universe we thought we were in? Today, astronomers worldwide accept the double dark theory as the modern story of the universe, but they have not answered this question. Someone must. Does God have to be part of our understanding of the universe? No. But if scientists tell the public that they have to choose between God and science, most people will choose God, which leads to denial, hostility to science and the profoundly dangerous mental incoherence in modern society that fosters depression and conflict. Meanwhile, many of those who choose science find themselves without any way of thinking that can give them access to their own spiritual potential. What we need is a coherent big picture that is completely consistent with — and even inspired by — science, yet provides an empowering way of rethinking God that provides the human and social benefits without the fantasy. How do we get there?”

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And here are her conclusions: science can never tell us with certainty what's true, since there's always the possibility that some future discovery will rule it out. But science can often tell us with certainty what's not true. It can rule out the impossible. Galileo, for example, showed with his telescope that the medieval picture of earth as the center of heavenly crystal spheres could not be true, even though he could not prove that the earth moves around the sun. Whenever scientists produce the evidence that convincingly rules out the impossible, there's no point in arguing. It's over. Grace lies in accepting and recalculating. That's how science moves forward.

And this is her most extraordinary statement worth pondering: “What if we thought this way about God? What if we took the evidence of a new cosmic reality seriously and became willing to rule out the impossible? What would be left with? We can have a real God if we let go of what makes it unreal. I am only interested in God if it's real. If it isn't real, there's nothing to talk about. But I don't mean real like a table, or a feeling, or a test score, or a star. Those are real in normal earthbound experience. I mean real in the full scientific picture of our double dark universe, our planet, our biology and our moment in history.”

Then she mentions the characteristics of a God that can't be real: 1) God existed before the universe. 2) God created the universe. 3) God knows everything. 4) God intends everything that happens. 5) God can choose to violate the laws of nature. The point here is that “this list pretty much agrees with most atheists' reasons for dismissing the existence of God. But this is no place to stop. We've merely stated what God can't be. We haven't considered yet what God could be.” So, basically, what Abrams is stating is that we ought to redefine the definition of God. If we do, this will change the course of cultural anthropology and redefine its future. As far as she is concerned there is something in this universe that is worthy of being called God. Her answer is yes “God could be real.”

I predict that the critique of the above theory about God will soon be coming and it will take this form: what Abrams may have done is not so novel: she has taken a transcendent God (which the Buddhists think can never be defined within immanent time and space, and therefore it is better not even to mention and to talk about Her/Him) and made Him/Her immanent within a material universe; and so we are back to pantheism or immanentism of panantheism. The fact is that God will never be defined and discovered by the mere means of science: physics or biology or even abstract mathematics.

Nevertheless, the book makes for a fascinating read. If it serves no other purpose, it will have put some doubts in the mind of the non-believers among us, that the theories excluding the existence of God may not be so well-thought out as we have assumed all along. The believers, on the other hand, will have to reflect on Aquinas’ assertion that reason does not have to contradict faith and that the two in fact can be in harmony with each other. When faith contradicts reason and common sense, one has to suspect a cult may be afloat. As per Aquinas faith and reason are complementary to each and can in fact support each other. For example, Aquinas saw nothing strange in conceiving God as existing eternally with the universe; that conception did not contradict reason, as far as he was concerned.

II

Let us now consider with Greene the nebula depicted above called Helix, which some have dubbed "The Eye of God." Some of our ancient ancestors had similar thoughts. They understood that God was too big a concept to try to squeeze into one word and so they put in a dash or an underscore between the G and the D, or left the "O" out entirely. That partially or completely empty space would communicate the unfathomability, the ineffability, the infinite nature of the Almighty. This is supported by the sheer visual impact of the Helix Nebula resembling an eye, the eye being what is missing between our consciousness of God and His transcendence. Greene’s special insight is that nebulae actually create life; that these massive and extremely beautiful aggregations of gases, create life as well as stars and planets and virtually everything else in the physical Universe. They are co-creators of sorts, the nurseries of galaxies and solar systems and also contain the elements for plants and animals and humans to develop and thrive. In other words, the atoms and molecules in our bones and heart and skin and brain and everything around us are created inside of these astronomical phenomena. As Karl Sagan loved to quip: “we are made of the stuff of the stars.”

So, in a way of speaking, nebulae continue the work of what many regard as "The Almighty" in creating, and re-creating the Universe. Creation is not static but an ongoing phenomenon, a journey toward a destination we barely comprehend at the moment. One way of thinking about this is that God created the physical universe 13.8 billion years ago with a flash of light called "The Big Bang." Since the stars that God created generally only live 10 Million - 10 Billion years, the entire Universe as we know it would have gone dark and died about 4 billion years ago, except for this amazing universal recycling system.

As the biggest stars in the Universe run out of their nuclear fuel they actually explode - a sort of secondary (or tertiary, etc.) "Big Bang" and spew their guts billions of miles into the Cosmos. Over the next thousands and millions of years the elements from the insides of these exploded stars come together and form new elements and, eventually, form new stars and new planets. That’s why Sagan could authoritatively proclaim that the universe is eternal. Well, Aquinas said it could be eternal. The difference between Aquinas and Sagan is that Aquinas says that the universe could be co-eternal with God as an emanation from God, while Sagan says that since it is co-eternal God has nothing to do and therefore He does not exist. Sounds a bit utilitarian: if you cannot produce stuff, you are useless and we can dispose of you.

And so we arrive at some leading questions. What if we added this scientific understanding to how we depict The Creator"? What if we evolved and updated our definition of "GOD" by bowing to science (which if there is a "GOD", he, she or it would have most certainly also created) and depicting "GOD" in a way that we now know is related to the actual, proven physical creation of stars, planets, our own bodies and The Universe itself? I suppose the way one works out one’s epistemology determines whether or not one remains religious or becomes an atheist. For Abram there are only two categories of knowledge: Cosmological and Theological. They differ only in their subject matter, not in their species. Both require the exercise of faith. Both are rational. Both are deductive. Both are based on an epistemology of falsifiability. Cosmological knowledge pertains to those things with which an observer can interchange mass-energy. Theological knowledge pertains to God: who is no-thing, beyond the Cosmos, and with whom physical interaction is hence impossible.

This image, this way of writing this extraordinarily important and complex three letter word, applies to all of us Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha'is, all indigenous religions and every other religion on the planet. It does not have to be idolatry, the worshipping of a material reality, but a symbolical penultimate way of conceiving the power and majesty of the ultimate Creator who transcends the material. For after all, every single one of us, no matter our religion or belief in or about God was created by a nebula. Every single atom in our body comes from one. Nebulae bring together the many hot, excited, diverse elements of exploded stars and cosmic dust. Perhaps its imagery can bring its seven billion diverse creations here on Earth together as well.

So, it feels accurate, not to mention beautiful, good and true, whether you believe in some sort of Supreme Being, or not, to honor these mini-"Creators" that we can now actually see by putting them front and center in a new, scientific depiction of the word we use to denote "The" Creator. Why was Einstein, an eminent scientist, obsessed with finding out how the universe is built, in discovering the so called “unified theory” which would explain everything in the universe? Let us reflect on his succinct answer: “so that I may know how the mind of God works.” The philosophical problem, as we have seen in the last symposium, consists in examining the real danger of taking an idea of God, which ultimately is a product of our mind, and worshipping it narcissistically or idolatrously. And so the debate goes on.

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2

Sundry Philosophical Reflections on the Nexus between Science and Faith
A presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi

(Translated from Italian by Emanuel L. Paparella)

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The creation of Light

Regarding the relationship of philosophy to science, it may be even appear obvious to remember the Galileo event which has become the icon of the clash between scientific thought and religious spirit, as well as the trial of Giordano Bruno which remains, even today, the icon of the opposition of critical secular thought to theology.

However, if we attempt to exit the realm of symbolism, or rhetoric, if you will, the discussion enters a wider horizon and it becomes possible to enter new interpretative journeys always being careful to keep out of the discussion the political dimension which, as important as it might be, is not relevant to the issue at hand.

The crucial question that we need to ask regards the nature of scientific thought vis a vis theological thought. Within such a perspective, the Galileo event, assumes different shades of meanings; albeit keeping in mind that the condemnation of the scientist and of the Neapolitan philosopher friar remain incomprehensible to our liberal sensibilities.

Let’s briefly examine this complex theoretical issue. What is, after all, the core of the clash between Galileo Galilei and cardinal Bellarmino? The disputation hinges on the dimension to be conferred to scientific thought once it ends up denying certain revealed truths affirmed by theological thought; that is to say, the juxtaposition of two visions of the world. However, was cardinal Bellarmino, who gets condemned a bit too superficially by contemporary historiography, asking the scientist Galileo to renounce his theories, or, as it can also be interpreted, was he asking a modification of a method which would come down in history as the foundation of scientific research?

K.R. Popper, who is a philosopher hardly suspectable of clericalism or anti-scientism, is quite sympathetic toward cardinal Bellarmino who, in many respects, was a refined intellectual, not a mere inquisitor. Fundamentally the cardinal asked Galileo not to renounce his theory in its totality, but to acknowledge that it was a description of certain phenomena, not its ultimate explanation, not the argumentation of an absolute truth to be opposed to the truth of sacred scriptures. With a more modern idiom, the one used by Popper, and perhaps pushing the envelope a bit too much, what the cardinal was asking the scientist was simply for him to acknowledge the instrumentality of empirical sciences, or what another philosopher, Benedetto Croce, would define as an essentially pragmatic utilitarian function.

Popper makes a distinction between essentialist scientists (there are few of those around he says) and instrumentalist scientists. The former hold that sciences, such as philosophy and theology, search for the essence of natural phenomena, absolute truth; the latter (among which he enumerates the vast majority of atomic physicist such as Heisenberg) hold that sciences describe the world without gathering its essence, so that the description of phenomena does not correspond to an absolute truth; but those second kind of scientists offer solutions which are more or less valid for the moment which then further research, or history, will judge from time to time.

So we can safely and paradoxically assert that if we accept the second version of the nature of sciences, as it happens with the theoreticians of complexity, Bellarmino was not that far off the mark in asking Galileo to modify his position.

Of course, to avoid unpleasant equivocations, we cannot forget that on the historical level Galileo had his own political and moral reasons (be it the defense of the autonomy of science or that of philosophical research) which were also theoretical, given that at that point in time we were at the origins of scientific research and its methodology, something which, as proposed by the Italian thinker, was surely innovative and even revolutionary.

But, from the perspective of our particular conversation on this topic, from a purely theoretical approach, the issue is quite interesting. In fact, the issue of the relationship of scientific research and faith, revealed religions and theology, cannot be separated from the philosophical idea which we have of the scientific method. For that same reason our discussion cannot be separated from the philosophical idea we have of the nature (the concept) of theology.

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A comment on Paolozzi’s presentation by the Symposium’s coordinator:

Thank you Ernesto for the various philosophical clarifications and distinctions via  a lucid concise rendition of the issue at hand which masterfully manages to encompass and outline it all in a few concise paragraphs. I find particularly instructive the distinctions made by Croce and Popper, that you bring to the forefront,  within Popper’s wider concept of the principle of falsification in science; also cardinal Bellarmino’s insistence that what Galileo had presented was a theory to be still proven later, not the absolute once and for all truth of a particular scientific phenomenon. The same happened with Einstein’s theory of relativity, it was only scientifically proven later and may be further modified later. Nietzsche too forcibly pointed out that science is always underpinned by a philosophy of science. To go even further back, as your conclusion in fact hints at, we can mention Vico’s New Science or Aquinas Summa, since both those philosophers teach us that science and revelation may be distinguished but they are not mutually exclusive and can in fact be harmonized. If the scholastics and the Christian humanists have taught us nothing else, it is that much. Plenty of territory to explore in our future discussions and debates on the matter. Thanks again for the invaluable clarifications.

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3
Jürgen Habermas on the Vision of a Post-Secular Europe

As broadly outlined by Dr. Emanuel Paparella

 sympo0103_400

Jurgen Habermas

"A European community grounded only in political and economic cooperation
of the member states would lack an intrinsic common bond. It would be built upon sand."

The above quote is lifted from a brilliant essay published in the Fall of 2002 by Klaus Held titled “The Origins of Europe with the Greek Discovery of the World” (reviewed in this very magazine in a piece titled “Klaus Held on Religion, Science and Democracy in European Culture”. The essay is a must read for anybody interested in exploring the very origins of European culture and concerned about its present trajectory and its future destination. Now that the whole Western world is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis, his words on the inadequacy of a mere economic vision with an attendant banal trade treaty parading as a constitution of sort, resonate with special vibrancy.

Held insists throughout his essay that to forget the vital component of religion which was at the root of science and democracy’s appearance in ancient Greece is to understand precious little of what makes Western culture in general the unique culture that it is. This is a theme previously explored by Christopher Dawson (in his The Making of Europe, 1932; see my piece on him in Ovi, as well as  by George Santayana, an atheist who nevertheless held that the enigma that is Europe will forever elude us without a clear and unbiased understanding of the phenomenon of Christianity.

Two years later, on June 9, 2004, that watershed article was followed by a report by the European Policy Center in Brussels drafted by a senior research fellow, Dr. Jocelyne Cesari. In it Ms. Cesari reports that Europe is the only region of the world which has a general hostility toward religion; that Europeans have a tendency to explain every sign of backwardness in terms of religion…

The European tendency, according to this scholarly report, is to equate Muslim religion, and indeed all religions, with fanaticism. This phenomenon unique to Europe was also documented by the World Values Survey conducted by a group of social scientists who identify its roots in the Enlightenment Period, the period of Voltaire, the very icon of Enlightenment who while asserting that he would defend to death the right of dissent and free speech of any citizen, at the same time, and paradoxically, writes the famed “Mahomet, of Fanaticism” in 1745, without ever retracting his misguided tract. In fact, he dies cursing Dante whom he considered a bigoted Medieval (Gothic was his favored slur) poet and therefore not a great poet. That spirit, according to Cesari and the World Values Survey lives on today.

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But there are hopeful signs that the anti-religion virulence is in abeyance in Europe and one who detects those signs is none other than the most admired and respected of present day European philosophers, Jürgen Habermas. He seems to detect what he calls a “post-secular” age on the European horizon. This has all the self-proclaimed secular humanists, who generally disdain religion and advocate its liquidation, a bit worried lately. Their strident vitriolic statements against religion has been on the increase lately. For they have always fantasized of being at the very cutting edge of what it means to be modern and “enlightened” and now feel such a position challenged not only by theologians and religious leaders but fellow scientists, as we have seen in the above contribution.

I have written a half a dozen articles in this magazine on this misnomer of “secular humanism” which was certainly not invented by the original European humanists in 14th century Italy. Its acknowledged father, Francesco Petrarca, was a deacon of the Church and indeed most humanists were and remained pious believers. Secularism by itself is a neutral term distinguishing the sacred from the secular or temporal. Dante certainly made the distinction and places three Popes in hell for failing to make that distinction and confusing the sacred with the temporal. On the other hand Humanism by itself does not necessarily indicate an unfriendly stance toward religion.

The modern fallacy consists in placing “secular” as an adjective before humanist as if to imply that to be a humanist one needs to be a secularist inimical to religion which is definitely not the case. It is also not the case that all secularists (what the French and Italians call “laicitè” or “laicità”) are ipso facto atheists and agnostics unfriendly to religion. One of those secularists was Robert Shumann who is up for canonization by the Catholic Church, another was De Gaperi who was also a practicing Catholic.

An example of boorish language unfriendly to religion can be lifted from a book by a famous avowed atheistic scientist Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion:: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalo-maniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

One may object that the likes of Dawkins are mere aberration and therefore my argument against them is an ad hominem one, that I am fighting straw men and windmills, but to the contrary I would submit that they are examples of a type of “enlightened” modern prototypes ready to fantasize a bully God while denying his existence, convinced that the sooner religion is liquidated, the better. They are willing and ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater and eliminate the use and the practice of religion because of its abuses.

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Jürgen Habermas, perhaps the most respected and best known present-day European philosopher, especially after the passing on of Derrida, must have surely read Held’s influential essay. Habermas is very much involved in the debate on the EU identity and has even signed manifestos on the same with the late Umberto Eco, the late Derrida and other influential philosophers. In 2005 Habermas delivered a lecture on the occasion of the Holberg prize which then became an article in 2006. See “Religion in the public sphere” by J. Habermas, in European Journal of Philosophy 14: 1-25. The core of that essay is that secular citizens in Europe must learn to live, the sooner the better, in a post-secular society and in so doing they will be following the example of religious citizens, who have already come to terms with the ethical expectations of democratic citizenship. So far secular citizens have not been expected to make a similar effort.

Habermas addresses the debate in terms of John Rawls’s concept of “public use of reason.” At the beginning of the article Habermas introduces two closely linked ideas: on the one hand the increasing isolation of Europe from the rest of the world in terms of its religious configurations, and on the other hand the notion of “multiple modernities.” He challenges the notion that Europe is the lead society in the modernizing process and invites his fellow secular Europeans to what he calls “a self reflective transcending of the secularist self-understanding of Modernity,” an attitude that goes beyond mere tolerance in as much as it necessarily engenders feelings of respect for the world view of the religious person, so that their pronouncements don’t automatically engender derision and contempt a la Voltaire.

In other words, Habermas while advocating reciprocity and the “public use of reason” in the agora and not in the privacy of one church or synagogue or mosque, is proposing a new challenging question: Are religious issues simply to be regarded as relics of a pre-modern era, or is it the duty of the more secular citizens to overcome his or her narrowly secularist consciousness in order to engage with religion in terms of what Habermas calls “reasonably expected disagreement”?That of course assumes a degree of rationality on both sides. It is indeed a challenging argument and constitutes an interesting response by an eminent philosopher to a fast changing global environment, one in which the relative secularity of Europe is increasingly seen as an exceptional, rather than prototypical case.

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4
Intellectual Secularism: The Sickness of All Times
A Presentation by Shahid Lone

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Human nature and its knowledge is entirely and linearly entwined, overlapping each other and inseparable from each other. With the passage of time, social evolution, in a sense, has consummated sagaciously and hence at a same time, for every political man (is the economic man, ethical man, juridical man, intellectual man, esthetical man). We diagnosticate universe as world (of mind, life, matter) and correspondingly we study physical, biological and social sciences to peg an understanding of this interdependent and inseparably complex phenomenon.

As far as knowledge regarding the world of matter is concerned, it’s gasconaded, western scholars have managed to make a stupefying and confounding anabasis. Today they describe splitting up of an atom and how Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Kashmir, Hiroshima, Nagasaki et`al can be brought into its radius. They have pierced space and pictured Venus as never before. They have an unsatisfactory research result in biological sciences and hitherto pretense it as “comme il faut” and therefore forfend them to peevish its arrant paucity. Nevertheless contrasting is the scenario in fields of social sciences, wherein they agree by aphorism “heretofore utter disorder in social sciences, succumbing and oxidizing of western civilization if social sciences are not systematized and developed, impediments in their development is because of beggared perspicacity regarding human nature.

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There are enough experienced authorities to support my claim but let me quote just one. In his celebrated book “world chaos”, author and well known psychologist Mcdougall says “our ignorance of the nature of man has prevented and still prevents the development of all social sciences. They are the crying need of our time; for lack of them our civilization is threatened gravely with decay and perhaps complete collapse”. “What then in practical terms is the remedy? I give my answer most concisely by suggesting what I would do if I were a dictator. I would by every means seek to diver all our most powerful intellects from the physical sciences to research in the human and social sciences”.

There arises a question: in spite of the fact that if social sciences are not adequately developed, western civilization will corrode and senescence, why have western scholars failed? They have pierced the atom’s invisible heart but fail to do so in the case of human mind, which essentially is society’s atom, why? If development stages of various philosophies are minutely viewed, then only it can be answered. Western scholars have a predominant and diacritic attitude of mind which results in an acute chauvinism and antagonism con to every intellectual idea pertaining to psychological, biological or physical sciences and bout of intellectual theory, explanation or conclusion, we climactically usher towards concept of god. Learned men have termed this predisposition or antagonistic attitude of mind as INTELLECTUAL SECULARISM and mutually shared by all western scholars but highly manifested in a different form within atheists (Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins).

We know every object has a definite and ultimate origin and hence knowledge pertaining to ultimate origin becomes a part of the total knowledge regarding that object and we aim and aspire for the same by our very nature. For a believer, a rose didn’t came as bolt from the blue but created by god out of his infinite love of beauty, wisdom, power etc but an atheist perceives the being of a rose as an operation executed by nature’s mechanical and material forces. As human beings we are bound to attribute penultimate origin to things known to us and when goofed attributes are associated by the very same nature, then the object and related knowledge can by no means be right.

Certainly yes, scientists must travail to elucidate the whole enchilada not beyond laws of nature framework. However if this universe was created by god or is the source of this creation then it implies aesthetic, moral and mental attributes of creator wriggle in the laws of universe, in the same manner, when an artist makes a picture, all his aesthetic, moral and mental traits gain entrance into that picture or for that matter a seed has the potential to exfoliate in the form of flowers, branches and leaves. Therefore it’s futile to comprehend the nature of that deity and the laws of nature in segregation. This correlation has been beautifully summed up by philosopher-poet of the East, Sir Muhammad Iqbal. He says “Nature as we have seen is not a mass of pure materiality occupying a void. It’s a structure of events, a systematic mode of behavior and as such organic to the ultimate self. Nature is to the divine self as character is to the human self in the picturesque phrase of the Quran it’s the habit of Allah”.

When books written by Muslim scientists and scholars where translated in Europe, there was a frequent reference to god in texts, reflecting their indebtedness towards god who provided them with knowledge and through these texts they wanted readers to know the creator in a better way. They invented modern science and scientific methods on account of a spiritual leaning universe. In Briffault’s book “making of humanity” there is an important passage which starts as “it was under their successors at the oxford school that roger bacon learned Arabic and Arabic science. Neither Roger Bacon nor his later namesake has any little to be credited with having introduced the experimental method. Roger bacon was no more than one of the apostles of the Muslim science and method to Christian Europe; and he never wearied of declaring that knowledge of Arabic and science was for his contemporaries the only way to true knowledge. Discussions as to who was the originator of the experimental method are part of the colossal misrepresentation of the origins of European civilization. The experimental method of Arabs was by Bacon’s time widespread and eagerly cultivated throughout the Europe. The Greeks systematized, generalized and theorized but the patient ways of investigation, accumulation of positive knowledge, minute method of science, detailed and prolonged observation and experimental inquiry were altogether alien to the Greek temperament. The spirit and those methods were introduced into the European world by the Arabs”.

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But currently what is hampering scientific growth in various essential spheres is the intellectual secularism of western scholars who succeeded Muslim scientists. An evident chasm was created between divine, spiritual or celestial and temporal, secular or mundane, between world of spirit and world of matter by Jesus Christ, when he sundered dues of Caesar and god. The roots of intellectual secularism would have been on top of the heap only in unique Christendom’s intellectual environment, since its references rest in Christianity intrinsically. Amidst Christianity, is a contradiction between this and next world. Fruits of next world depend on sacrifices made here. Science and religion live in separate spheres because religion in this world becomes extraneous in the life of a man when it’s meant for the betterment of next world. On the contrary, intellectual sciences are for the prosperity of this world. Belief without reason is what religion impresses on. It is irrational, dogmatic and transacts with an invisible world but scientific conclusions rest on experiment, observation, intellect and reason. Hence when god is referred as part of intellectual argument annihilates the logic of rationale and debate skews in the sphere of religion, where focus is on belief without reason instead against reason, irrationality, prejudice and dogma.

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This western intellectual secularism has been accentuated by atheists mentioned earlier and further engendered by suppression and penalization between separation of state and church. The moment religion lost its foothold in the polity courtyard officially; it lost its thrust on community and individuals as well. The immediate outcome appeared as secularization of intellectual activity, social education, economic and legal activities. The 21ST century physicists, who perceive matter as visible and real have now added fuel to fire and corroborated prejudice against religion and god. Consciousness, spirit and god appear unreal due to invisibility and can’t be subjected to experiments. When the views of Darwin, a product of rigid and cold materialism and mechanism were raised to pedestal, this prejudice enhanced and was accorded cachet of intellectual idea. He described man as causatum of survival of the fittest, natural selection and struggle for existence. He termed faculties of imagination, conscience and reason as mere chance.

Describing man as a refined form of chimpanzee, Darwinism perfectly suited the western loathing of religion and now every object and natural phenomenon is seen as outcome of chance. Their prejudice against deity being an intellectual concept is so strong that “their ignorance of human nature which they believe to be fraught with dangerous possibilities for the entire human race may be due to the fact that they are ignoring the possibility of notion of god being the only key to a scientific understanding of human nature. Indeed they are not prepared to acquire a scientific knowledge of man at the cost of their intellectual secularism. They cannot conceive the possibility of a theory of human nature being at once spiritual and scientific. When they complain of their ignorance of human nature they have in mind that a scientific theory of human nature, when formulated will be secular or non-spiritual. But it can never be so, for man has something divine in him”.

In one of his letters to Charles Kingsly, T.H. Huxley wrote “sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up preconceived notion, follow humbly whenever and to whatever abysses nature leads or you shall learn nothing”. Following the Darwinian concept of evolution which, of course, suits eminently their intellectual secularism, they believe that what comes first in the sequence of the results of evolution is matter with its physical laws and then comes the animal with his instincts and last of all there appears the human being with his gift of self-consciousness or personality and its capacity to love ideals. The animal is a modified product of matter which becomes alive on account of this modification. It is nothing but matter in its origin. They conclude therefore that since the urge for an ideal in a human being has its origin in his animal nature it can be only a modified form of one or more of his animal instincts. They derive man from the animal and the animal from matter so that ultimately the reality of man is matter.

Thus we see Freud explaining the human urge for an ideal as a distorted and modified form of his sex instinct the object of which is to provide man with a substitute activity in the form of religion, morality, art, science, philosophy, and politics to compensate him for the thwarted and obstructed activity of his sexual instinct. According to Adler man's urge for an ideal is a distorted and modified form of his instinct of self assertion which has been operating all along in the history of organic evolution for the protection of the life of the animal against other hostile and aggressive animals. When an individual is unable to satisfy a particular desire for power he creates. The desire for a relevant ideal and strives after it to compensate himself for his sense of inferiority. Karl Marx is of the view that the urge for ideals in man is only an unconscious distortion of his economic urge. Man strives after an ideal apparently but really his activity is motivated by his economic conditions which he desires to improve. McDougall explains the urge for an ideal in man as a result of the occasional reinforcement of the sentiment of self-regard itself a peculiar compound of all his instincts by the instinct of self assertion. But all these explanations: of the source and purpose of ideals in human nature are logically defective, incoherent and inconsistent. Freud for example does not tell us why and how a man's ideal which according to him is born of his sex instinct is sometimes able to rule and control his sex instinct to the extent of eliminating it totally from his life.

Adler is unable to explain how the instinct of self-assertion the primary object of which is the protection of life creates an ideal for the sake of which man becomes ready sometimes to lay down his life. Similarly the view of Karl Marx does not explain why if the, function of a man's ideal is to improve his economic conditions which are only a means for the preservation of his life, why does he become ready to starve himself to death for the sake of his ideal whenever his ideal calls upon him to do so. Such questions are very, difficult to answer consistently with any of the theories of ideals put forward by these writers. Hence none of them has even faced such questions. The mental attitude of each of these writers is no more reasonable than that of a man who, not knowing how and why tree grows, may insist upon telling us that what exists first of all in the history of the growth of a tree is its stem and later on there appear its branches and leaves and finally there is its seed embedded in a flower. He ignores the original seed of the tree out of which the tree grows simply because it was hidden from his view below the soil and he did not see it. He saw instead only the stalk of the young tree growing out of the soil. Just as he in his ignorance explains the tree out of its stem and not out of its seed which is its real origin so these writers in their ignorance explain the human being out of matter and not out of self-consciousness which is his real origin.

As a matter of fact there is no idea of the place and role of ideals in human nature and human activity more satisfactory and more convincing than this that "the urge for ideals is neither derived from nor sub serves any of those human impulses known as instincts, which man shares with the animals below him on the ladder of evolution. On the other hand it is man's natural and independent urge for beauty and perfection which rules and controls all such impulses in spite of their biological pressure for the sake of its own expression and satisfaction."

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To be brief, the implications of the only true and the only possible explanation of the place and role of ideals in human nature which lead irresistibly to the concept of God, are such that the scholars of the West cannot accept it in view of their creed of intellectual secularism. So strong is this prejudice against the idea of God that when they feel that their study of nature has brought them very close to this idea and it may become difficult for them to avoid it they are horrified and refrain from using the term God and use some other term instead and thereby stop following nature further in the same direction. But since unfortunately the Western scholars are accepted by the world as the leaders of mankind in the intellectual field their prejudice has passed for a rational view and spread far and wide to the comers of the earth. The results have been already very disastrous and more disastrous results are bound to follow. The world's progress in the knowledge of human nature has come to a dead stop and the human and social sciences which could be formulated only on the basis of a correct view of human nature are in a state of disorder. The biological sciences too are not in a hearty state. The theory of the fundamental cause of evolution, which if properly formulated could have made the human race hopeful of a glorious future, has been misunderstood. Its errors are being perpetuated by a clique of influential biologists who insist on maintaining its secular character at all costs.

If the scholars of the West had not been suffering from theophobia and had had the courage and the good sense to accept the advice of one of them, Mr. Huxley, quoted above, that is, to "follow nature wherever and to whatever abyss it may lead," they would have successfully crossed the point at which their knowledge of the human and social sciences has come to a halt and would have accepted as true the only explanation of the role of the urge for ideals in human activity that is rationally possible. In such a case intellectual secularism would have disappeared from all sciences including the biological and the physical sciences automatically. For when we change our view of man we have to change our view of the entire universe. A spiritual view of man is incompatible with a secular view of any part of the universe and its knowledge.

Some of the most eminent physicists of the world have already come to the conclusion that the ultimate nature of electric energy which has caused the material world to evolve to the stage of its perfection is a conscious force which has a mathematical mind. Yet they refuse to accept the conclusion, which is obvious to a man of religion, that this conscious force is the will or the creative desire of God. Similarly some eminent biologists have arrived at the conclusion that there is an internal conscious drive in an organism which regulates its growth in a chosen direction and which is the cause of all organic evolution from its earliest stages to the last. They call it the life-force, the elan vital or the vital' impetus and attribute to it some qualities of mind consciousness. But they like their physicist brothers also refuse to come to the next conclusion which is equally obvious to a man who believes in God that this life force is the will or the creative desire of God which has expressed itself in a form that is appropriate to the animal stage of evolution.

Again, all psychologists believe that man has an urge for ideals and some of them believe also that it is an urge for beauty and perfection. But no psychologists have. cared to arrive at the next immediate conclusion that this urge can be perfectly satisfied only by an ideal of the highest beauty and perfection which can be no other than God and that it is the will or the creative desire of God that is expressing itself in the historical process urging the human society to act for the achievement of their own highest beauty and perfection.

A physicist may say, "I do not know anything beyond the mathematical nature of the Reality of matter that I have discovered. I do not know that it has moral qualities and I do not want to compensate my lack of scientific knowledge as a physicist by the teachings of revelation although I believe in revelation." Similarly a biologist may say that he has no scientific knowledge of the other qualities of the life-force that it may be possessing and he has no reason to suppose that it is God on the authority of revelation. A psychologist too may make a similar reply. But really there is nothing to prevent the physicists, the biologists and the psychologists from adopting the will or the creative desire of God instead of a mere mathematical mind a life force or an instinct as a provisional conclusion or hypothesis explaining the cause of material, biological or human evolution just to discover how far it can explain other facts of which no satisfactory explanation is yet available. If they had done so they would have found that the hypothesis does really explain a host of such facts and also opens the way to the knowledge of a host of new facts of the worlds of matter, life and mind. What is more they would have been able to coordinate and integrate their separate sciences into one Science of the Universe which would have ultimately explained everything, would have served as the Common Weltanschauung of humanity and would have united them as a single family of God. But what has actually stopped the physicists, the biologists or the psychologists from doing so is nothing but prejudice aversion from religion and an irrational secular attitude towards the universe.

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My plea is that there is a point in the development of secularized scientific knowledge where the most fundamental of all the facts of revelation common to the teachings of all the great religions of the world, namely the idea of God and scientific knowledge, embrace each other as two inseparable companions each merging itself in the other and giving a tremendous rational support to the other, so that it cannot be distinguished which is science and which is revelation. When that point is reached scientific knowledge can no longer progress without its other companion. That point has been already reached and now scientific, knowledge cannot progress headlong unless it is made to embrace its inseparable other companion from whom it was unfortunately separated and whom it has been travelling through the centuries to rejoin. The idea of God is no longer a myth. It is a scientific fact which explains, orders, enlightens, enriches and reveals other scientific facts.

Author’s Note: This article appeared on April 4, 2016, in the magazine Modern Diplomacy

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A comment on Shahid Lone’s presentation by the Symposium’s coordinator

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Thank you Shahid for this informative essay which offers us a non-Western Islamic perspective on this thorny issue of the relationship of revelation to science. I for one do not agree with everything stated in the presentations of this particular meeting. However, considering all that has been placed under the light of reason in this issue and the various books perused on the subject, it appears to me that we need not be overly pessimistic on the current trend of that relationship. What you counsel at the end of your essay; a hoped for reconciliation between science and revelation is already well on its way. Indeed, the spirit is primary and light seems to be the bridge between spirit and matter, as Einstein surely understood.

Let me mention here on passant the latest findings by Northwestern University scientists of tiny light flashes signaling the moment human conception occurs. They seem to evoke the larger cosmic-sized truth found in both science and Sacred scriptures: namely the creation of the universe, which cosmically can be described as the very origins of all moments of conception, an explosion of light. The researchers used special chemicals to mimic the moments of conception. In each case, they discovered, the decisive moment was accompanied by a small burst of zinc atoms. The eruptions appeared as flashes of light because of fluorescing agents used by the scientists.

Now, according to science – at precisely a moment of conception known as recombination & decoupling – an incomprehensible outburst of light accompanied the creation of hydrogen and helium, the first atoms of the embryonic cosmos. To this day, the so-called cosmic microwave background – is visible to certain kinds of powerful telescopes. According to inflation and big bang theories, it didn’t end there. Hydrogen atoms eventually began to fuse, the way they do in a hydrogen bomb. In a flash of light, the first stars came into being. They, in turn – like colossal stoves – cooked up the heavier elements known to us today. Including the zinc atoms that explode, like fireworks, every time a human being is conceived.

It is extraordinary that here the Bible seems to agree with science: the universe was conceived in a paroxysm of illumination we’ve ever seen. According to Genesis 1:3, that event happened at exactly the moment God uttered the immortal words, “Let there be light” and the timing for it occur physically had to be correct to the millionth of a second.  John 1: 5 assigns a sacred status to light; it is in fact identified with the Creator: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 

But let the needed debate begin and continue.

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 END  OF 69th SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (15/05/2016)

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