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Daily Archives: July 24, 2008

Encounter – 20 July 2008 – science and religion at "the horizon of mystery"

There you go, scientists who are also Catholic clergy: Modelling the origin of time: science and religion at “the horizon of mystery”.

Does science make belief in God obsolete? Cosmologist and mathematician Michal Heller’s answer to this ‘Big Question’ this year won him the world’s largest monetary prize given to an individual, the Templeton Prize. On Encounter Professor Heller explores ‘creative tensions’ between science and religion and talks about his research for a quantum gravity theory that might explain the Planck Epoch. And astronomer Guy Consolmagno SJ has things to say about meteorites, the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan, and beauty.

I am sure some will quarrel with much that was said, but it is also fair to say none of it resembled the vulgar creationism or “intelligent design” we associate with fundamentalists.

Michal Heller:…the doctrine of creation is much richer than identifying it with the initial singularity. Namely, the traditional doctrine of creation says that creation is not just a single moment or single act but it is a process which lasts always. So the creation is a very special relationship between God and the universe: God is giving the existence to the universe and if at any moment God would cease giving the existence to the world it would collapse to nothingness. So, the creation of the universe is not only the initiation of the existence but of the future history.

I think that the best description of the Christian idea of creation is in the form of a question, the question which was formulated by [the] famous philosopher Leibniz and he asked the following question: Why there exists something rather than nothing? This is a very important question and the answer to is – because God has created something. This something is not only the material world. This something is also the set of physical laws which govern that universe. This is why Einstein was used to say – Einstein said, I want to know only one thing – which was the mind of God when he was creating the universe?

Margaret Coffey: So in the end does your faith reside in a question rather than in a God that can be described in a specific sort of language?

Michal Heller: There are some circles in our society, and unfortunately these circles are growing especially perhaps in the United States but also in Europe, in which the idea of God, which is kind of obligatory in that circles [sic], is very naïve. It is a kind of mechanistic God, which of course does not fit into the scientific image of the world and many people – and I suspect that it’s Dawkins case – rejects such an idea of God and they are right because such a god as they imagine does not exist. God is something much, much bigger.

I think that faith in general, religious faith, is always based on questions. The very fundament of religion is asking questions about the meaning of life, about the existence of the universe, why it exists rather than not, what is after our death, especially the meaning of life.

I oppose faith to certainty myself; the thirst for certainty is understandable, but very dangerous — as I have said before. It is also, I suspect, very presumptuous.

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On comment threads and forums

I really am not a great writer of comments. I also have reservations about this as a text type or genre, though I see the value too.

On my own WordPress blogs at the moment the stats on comment threads are:

  1. This blog: 960 comments. (Should there be a prize for whoever writes #1,000? 😉 ) That’s on 1,105 posts and 19 pages.
  2. Floating Life Apr 06 – Nov 07: 1,659 on 1,101 posts and 11 pages.
  3. Ninglun’s Specials: 51 comments on 78 posts and 33 pages.
  4. English/ESL: 204 comments on 186 posts and 28 pages.
  5. The Gateway: 9 comments on 52 posts and 5 pages.

My longest comment thread ever went for some 80+ exchanges, and yes, it did involve Louisiana Kevin!

Some comments are really useful, correcting what I have said, or offering valuable points of view. Some become really good conversations. Some spin off into posts and counterposts on other blogs; that can be a big plus all round. Jim Belshaw and I have quite often done this, the latest example being just yesterday!

Leaving aside spam comments, troll comments, or just plain silly comments, I still have some reservations about the whole process.

Partly it is that comments are often so quickly written. It can be very hard to get the tone right, or to say exactly what one wished to say, especially perhaps if one is in the grip of some strong feeling about what one has just read. Many a time I have wanted to recall a comment. Has that happened to you? This may or may not be to retract it; it is more often a wish I could revise it. Comments, after all, tend to be written on the run, and have all the hallmarks of first draft writing. Most good writers will tell you nobody, but nobody, ever sees their first drafts!

Another reservation I have is the tendency for comments to refer to the last sentence or two of the previous comment in the thread, quite often ignoring the rest of that comment, and even more often ignoring the rest of the thread and the original post. The likelihood of decreasing relevance is obvious. I have been known to stamp on irrelevance, as some of you may have experienced.

At best, comments are neither point scoring nor cheerleading. At best, as I said, they are good conversation.

I was rather touched on a forum recently where a Muslim made what may be described as a somewhat Muslim contribution; I responded. No-one else had answered him, it appears.* He messaged me:

thanks for your reply I would have felt like an alien if no one replied to my post 🙂

I was really pleased by that…

Do you have any thoughts on commenting?

Well, go for it… 🙂

According to my usual comment policy on this blog, you have about two weeks…

I have added a poll over the fold. You can vote for more than one answer!

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Posted by on July 24, 2008 in blogging, personal, site stats