Posts Tagged ‘Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture’

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
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    Alasdair MacIntyre: “Catholic Instead of What?”

    Sunday, November 18th, 2012

    The Center for Ethics and Culture of Notre Dame University has posted the 11/9/12 talk by the noted philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, entitled, “Catholic Instead of What?” —

    This presentation was one of those featured during the Center for Ethics and Culture’s Fall 2012 conference “The Crowning Glory of the Virtues: Exploring the Many Facets of Justice.”

    Worth repeated consideration and reflection. . .

    Prof. MacIntyre’s talk from the 2011 ND Center for Ethics and Culture Fall Conference, entitled, “On Being a Theistic Philosopher in a Secularized Culture,” dated 11/11/11, can be viewed here.

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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    Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life HHS Mandate Website

    Saturday, February 25th, 2012

    As promoted by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, please see the very useful and informative website of the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life pertaining to the HHS Mandate.

    For more on the topic of Notre Dame University itself and religious freedom, please see my 2009 essay, Notre Dame’s Forgotten Freedom.

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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    Time for a New Translation of “Reponsible Parenthood” in Humanae Vitae?

    Monday, February 20th, 2012

    The HHS mandate on sterilization, abortifacients, and birth control, and the strong reaction of the U.S. Catholic bishops, has challenged many Catholics to examine whether they agree with the bishops. This controversy has become for many a moment of grace, and many Catholics have been reexamining whether they can commit to accepting and defending Church teaching on life, birth control, and abortion.

    Catholic progressives who support access to abortion and artificial contraception are caught in a hard place, because of the growing unanimity among not only the bishops themselves, but pastors and other persons heading Church institutions that such pro-abortion or pro-choice positions are difficult to recognize as authentically Catholic.

    Some prominent Catholics who would have previously given “cover” to pro-choice politicians have ceased doing so. Some progressive pastors, who could always be relied upon to wink and nod to pro-choice and artificially contracepting Catholics, have stopped doing so, and some such pastors have even openly spoken out against abortion for the first time in their priesthood. These pastors themselves have had to wrestle with reading aloud their bishop’s letter on the HHS mandate. Very few have refused to do so. How can I read this letter, they may ask themselves, and continue to remain on the fence? Those pastors who have refused to read or publish their bishop’s letter or the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ bulletin insert have now been forced to reveal their position publicly.

    It is therefore becoming much harder with any credibility to claim that one can support Planned Parenthood or the anti-life positions taken by Planned Parenthood and remain authentically Catholic in any sense of the word.

    Not only is this a moment of grace for some, but it is also a moment of decision. This moment of decision has led some Catholics to revisit official Church teaching, with the question, Can I accept what the Church teaches?

    When some Catholics begin to reexamine the pro-life and anti-abortion, anti-artificial birth control teaching in the 1968 papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae, they immediately face a problem: the translation is dated, in that the meaning of certain English words in the encyclical have already shifted in meaning since 1968, principally the word “responsible,” as in the encyclical’s phrase, “responsible parenthood.”

    “Responsible parenthood” unfortunately today almost evokes “Planned Parenthood,” and also now may carry with it environmental overtones following the mistaken but popular fears against overpopulating the planet.

    Like any translation, dimensions of the language of the official Latin text of Humanae Vitae are not completely conveyed by the 1968 English translation.

    The noted Australian philosopher, legal scholar, Oxford and Notre Dame Professor John M. Finnis in recent years has thus worked on a new translation of Humanae Vitae, as mentioned in this scholarly article and in this talk.

    Here is a link for videos of Prof. Finnis’s talk at Notre Dame University’s Center for Ethics and Culture in 2008, along with a related talk by moral philosopher Prof. Janet E. Smith on “conscious parenthood.

    The earliest English translations of Humanae Vitae translate “paternitas conscia” in its section ten as “responsible parenthood,” despite the fact that such a translation is not listed in many Latin dictionaries. Roy J. Defarrari’s Latin-English Dictionary of St. Thomas Aquinas translates “conscius” as “knowing or conscious of something with another” taking the genitive, with a second meaning of “knowing something in oneself,” taking the word sibi. Neither usage quite matches the Latin of Humanae Vitae.

    The Latin word “conscius” is rich in meaning. It could mean knowing together as if in a conspiracy. It could also mean shared knowing as in shared intimacy, or in shared consciousness. The meaning may be closer to “intimate knowledge.” While a fuller translation of “paternitas conscia” might be cast as “conscious parenthood” or “intentional parenthood” rather than “responsible parenthood,” much work remains to be done to effectively translate and convey the full richness of the meaning. What is missing in the “responsible parenthood” translation is the mutual and intimate knowledge shared by the married couple, evocative of the Old Testament meaning of knowledge, meaning an act of knowing including sexual intimacy.

    The Rev. Know-It-All and I discussed this point on a Go Ask Your Father radio segment on 2/15/12. He reflected upon a possible vocational meaning in the “conscia” of number 10 in Humanae Vitae.

    Why is all this attention to the translation of a single word so important? Because meanings unfold from the translation of a single word.

    The Church appears to lack good, commonsense arguments in favor of its teaching against artificial contraception. But by focusing on “paternitas conscia” as shared, intimate self knowledge flowing from the sacramental meaning of marriage itself, a powerful revelation of both the meaning and responsibility of marriage can unfold.

    By the way, Prof. Finnis made a very important point in his Notre Dame talk of 2008 that the noted legal scholar John Noonan completely misunderstood St. Thomas Aquinas on the meaning of faith in his 1965 book, Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists, which was very influential in how Humanae Vitae was originally received in 1968.

    Perhaps the title of Blessed John Paul II’s book Love and Responsibility, comes as close as any to more fully translating “paternitas conscia,” implying a knowing and intimate sharing of the responsibilities of the vocation chosen through the Sacrament of Marriage.

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

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