Posts Tagged ‘Jean Bethke Elshtain’

Science vs. Religion vs. Fornicating and Going on the Internet

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

In the science vs. religion debates, how few people who claim to base their lives on either science or religion actually do so!

Instead, we as a society follow politically correct, symbolic, faux science and religion.

If we did base our lives upon real science and religion, we as a society would, for example–

  • Eat right and exercise to avoid disease, and structure our homes, schools, and work environments to help us do so;
  • Treat alcohol and addiction as diseases in terms of public health and homeless assistance policies instead of politicizing “the homeless” to be used as a partisan footballs each election cycle, without actually healing their ills;
  • Treat sexually transmitted diseases in order to cure and to eliminate them, without regard to political correctness that instead enables and thereby spreads them;
  • Follow proper agricultural conservation principles;
  • Consistently focus educational resources based simultaneously upon ability and aspiration and achievement, and not simply upon one or upon another;
  • Maintain our roads, bridges, transportation, utilities, and communication systems in a self-sustaining manner using scheduled preventative maintenance;
  • Run our businesses, our charities, our government, and our bureaucracies based upon established scientific quality control measures to advance better customer service and achievement of mission and purpose;
  • Better match sources of funds with uses of funds in public policy decisions, e.g., pay for alcohol treatment with the alcohol tax, tobacco-related illness with the tobacco tax, instead of funding every other use of funds with a mishmosh of every other source of funds;
  • Regularly measure and test the effects of government action and taxation on a municipal, regional, national, and international basis (political parties are terrified of an unbiased, third entity measuring their actual achievement);
  • Educate prisoners while in prison, since abundant research shows that the more a prisoner is educated, the greater the reduction in recidivism;
  • No longer build homes or businesses in flood plains (which politicians allow generation after rebuilding generation; e.g., please see Ian McHarg’s 1969 book, Design with Nature, for a prediction of exactly where in New Jersey and Staten Island, New York, not to build because of the flooding potential of these locations; McHarg’s predictions were borne out by Hurricane Sandy);
  • No longer build homes, businesses, government projects, schools, or laboratories without adequate safety (especially fire) and without adequate security provisions.
  • But we are no more a scientific society than we are a religious society. We are instead really neither. Our familiarity with science and technology usually ends with the tips of our fingers. Our trust in God too often ends with the mottoes emblazoned on our coins.

    After lip service to both science and religion, when it comes to very important issues of human organization, we as a human society fundamentally ignore both.

    We are instead the uninformed and selfish inertia society, propelled by unenlightened self-interest pointed in the same direction that we may deny we have long been pointed: toward ourselves.

    But even there we miss the mark. Hamartia, for the Classic Greek author the hero’s tragic flaw, for the Christian the New Testament word for sin, literally means “to miss the mark.” We are indeed both a tragic and a sinful society that does not even act effectively in our own self interest:

    “A single sentence will suffice for modern man. He fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted.”

    Albert Camus, The Fall

    In her 11/11/11 talk at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture annual conference entitled, “Forgetting Jerusalem: Has the West Lost Its Way?” University of Chicago scholar Jean Bethke Elshtain updated and paraphrased the Camus quote above as: “We [Modern Man and Woman] fornicated and went on the Internet.”

    In her same presentation above, Prof. Elshtain mentioned hearing Julian Huxley confidently predict many years ago a scientific, non-violent, non-religious society “by the year 2000.”

    Julian Huxley apparently forgot that for scientific principles to be applied to address society’s problems, a certain amount of social altruism is needed.

    But scientific reason has heretofore not been the principal fountainhead of human cooperation and unselfishness. It is religion which has steadily, despite notable failures, urged its adherents to think and to act with the well-being of others in mind. The reason of science follows the altruism of religion.

    Catholicism in particular specifically recognizes not only Rome (Church teaching) and Jerusalem (Scripture), but also Athens (Reason).

    Science needs religion-based altruism in order to implement society-wide its best findings in the human interest. Religion needs science in order to separate altruism from self-centered self-deception.

    Both science and religion require a lifetime of study and work in their pursuit, which may explain why both science and religion–to expand G. K. Chesterton’s famous usage about Christianity–are “found difficult and left untried.”

    The greatest threat to religion is not atheism, but consumerism and one of its effects: weekend sports scheduled during times of worship.

    The greatest threat to scientific advance in society is not religion, but the scientifically-verified fact that approximately 25% of the collegiate population is abusing alcohol to the point that it interferes with their studies.

    The search for scientific truth and the pursuit of religious truth are compatible pursuits which spring from a human hunger for truth.

    Those who search for the truth of both the body and of the Spirit need each other in order to implement the best of their gifts of knowledge and wisdom to positively change our world.

    Otherwise, just fornicating and just going on the Internet will continue to shape society according to both tragic and sinful human inertia.

    Science is needed to prevent and to recover from tragedy, and religion is needed to prevent and to recover from sin. Both tragedy and sin stand in the way of human progress.

    Because the world thirsts for both an end to tragedy and an end to sin, science and religion can work together to more quickly advance a better humanity and a better world.

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
    All Rights Reserved


    God, Freedom, and Public Life

    Thursday, October 6th, 2011

    I wish I could attend, but a massive bureaucratic task prevents me–

    God, Freedom, and Public Life

    On the occasion of the publication of God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.


    Jean Bethke Elshtain
    University of Chicago

    Hans Joas
    University of Chicago

    Martin Marty
    University of Chicago

    Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
    Archbishop of Chicago

    Thursday, October 6, 4-6:00 PM

    Mandel Hall
    1131 East 57th Street
    The University of Chicago

    From the promotional material by the Lumen Christi Institute:

    “In his latest book, God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, Cardinal George makes the case that religious faith plays a necessary role in American public life. Addressing the challenges of secularism and pluralism head on, he outlines a contemporary vision for our national life that respects human dignity and religious liberty, while also stressing the central contributions that diverse expressions of religious faith make to the common good of society.”

    Cardinal George’s essays confront the public predicament facing believers, Christians, and Catholics in particular. They deserve much wider currency.

    I offer the following excerpt, which typifies his thought:

    If the conversation about human dignity beings not with the human genome but with the fuller understanding of personhood presented by the Church, what shape will it take? There are three points to take into consideration when answering this question.

    First, one will speak of human dignity as a property of human nature received at the moment one comes into existence, something that can be neither gained nor lost throughout the course of one’s life. It’s given.

    Second, human dignity will also be understood in terms of an identity achieved, for example, as a wife, a father, as servant of the poor. Existential dignity is intrinsic, but it can be either enhanced or diminished by the kind of life one leads. We are not fully the beings we are meant to be at the moment we come into existence; rather, God grants us the freedom and ability to choose in part what we become. This is the stuff of tragedy when promises are not fulfilled and of triumph when capacities flourish.

    Third is the dignity that comes to us through freely accepting God’s graciously offered gift of salvation and life in him. We are the kinds of beings who can accept God’s grace and live as adopted sons and daughters of God. The end of this life of grace is eternal life marked by the fullness of truth and love. We have human dignity in that we are beings who possess the capacity to receive the gift of salvation. This is our destiny, and in the beatific vision we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

    Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, pp. 110-111. (I separated the original one paragraph into sections for better comprehension).

    © Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
    All Rights Reserved