Cosmos is back on television again, in a reincarnated form hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson in place of the late Carl Sagan (host of the original 1980 series). The original Cosmos is remembered as a minor television classic, ushering in a new era of science programming and bringing the wonders of cosmology to the public in an accessible and enchanting way. The hopes for the new Cosmos seem equally high…
“An ancient Chinese myth tells of ten Suns that existed in primordial times. Prideful and intemperate, as pagan gods are often wont to be, these Suns rode together over the surface of the Earth each day, their combined heat scorching it. Insensitive to the plight of the mortals, the Suns refused to take turns in the sky, and were eventually struck down until only one Sun remained.
I was reminded of this story when I read yet again another example of an atheist inviting religious believers to go “one god more” when critically evaluating their beliefs. For instance, here is noted skeptic Michael Shermer at a recent debate about science and belief in God: “Ten-thousand different religions, a thousand different gods. Our opponents agree with us that 999 of those gods are false gods. They are atheists like we are atheists. What I’m asking you to do is just go one God further with us.”
“I recently read yet another science writer lamenting the United States’ ostensible failure in science education, who sarcastically noted that the only thing America led the world in was “belief in angels.” This, together with the tired cliché about the medievals’ supposed obsession with the number of angels who can dance on a pinhead, runs the modern intellectual gamut about angels. The typical critical discussion of angels, as of God, usually betrays a complete misunderstanding of their natures.”
“Commenting on the study for Science, Emily Underwood writes, “Although humans have long attributed musical qualities to birdsong, cold, hard statistics show that’s all an illusion.” It might seem that we have here another instance of science disenchanting the world. Is reductionism at work yet again, erasing beauty, harmony, music, and art from the picture of the world in favor of the cold and abstract world of science?”
“The point is that the discovery of the Higgs boson, long awaited as it has been, is important in the world of particle physics, and remains important there. It changes nothing in the economical scheme, provides no grand source of power of nature, and doesn’t even serve any new philosophical or theological end. It is an important scientific discovery which is forced to stand on its own.
That doesn’t mean, however, that it cannot be viewed in the broader light of the human intellectual tradition.”
“The Dalai Lama has been awarded this year’s Templeton Prize, an annual honor given by the Templeton Foundation to a figure who, according to the foundation’s website, “has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” In practice, the Prize has gone frequently to thinkers who have investigated the interaction between science and religion. The Dalai Lama, as spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, has also concerned himself with this topic, and has released just this year his newest book, The Universe in a Single Atom, which investigates, in light of each other, Buddhist thought and modern science. While Catholics can certainly laud the Dalai Lama for his affirmation that the materialistic view of things falls short, they should also look at his Buddhist philosophy with some serious reservations. If the Dalai Lama is right in affirming a dimension to reality beyond that known by science, just what that dimension is remains a serious question.”
“In the course of the same discussion, Dawkins made another, more interesting comment that has not received quite the same attention. Speaking to his believing conversational companion, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Dawkins said, “What I can’t understand is why you can’t see the extraordinary beauty of the idea that life started from nothing—that is such a staggering, elegant, beautiful thing, why would you want to clutter it up with something so messy as a God?”