Sep 25 2008

September 2008 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters

Sea of Faith                   Newsletter    
     Dunedin                                             September 2008


Chris Bloore talked and led discussion on: 

                             The New Schism

Chris explained what he had in mind: “There is a growing body of scientific evidence that personality traits are significantly influenced by genes.  In recent years political scientists have linked personality traits with political views, and there has been some work linking religious beliefs with personality traits.  

“There is a growing body of scientific evidence that personality traits are significantly influenced by genes.  In recent years political scientists have linked personality traits with political views, and there has been some work linking religious beliefs with personality traits.  Many psychologists believe personality can be categorized into five classes, relating to conscientiousness, openness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.  In a 2003 meta study led by John Jost, a psychologist at New York University, found that conscientiousness was associated more with conservative political views and openness and to a lesser extent, extroversion were associated with liberal views.  Interestingly, people who scored highly on a scale measuring fear of death were almost four times more likely to hold conservative views.  Dogmatic types were also more conservative, while those who expressed interest in new experiences tended to be liberals.  There are obvious parallels with religious views ranging from fundamentalist to liberal within the Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths. 

The biochemical mechanisms which link genes to the levels of the various neurotransmitters responsible in part for personality traits are slowly being unraveled.  The effect of these brain chemicals on neural activity within various parts of the brain are being elucidated using brain scanning techniques.  We are therefore seeing the emergence of a pathway linking our genetic inheritance to the nature of our religious “beliefs”.  Obviously, genes do not completely determine the issue, but it is increasingly becoming apparent that they do play a significant role.

It is my contention that the polarization of religious believers into fundamentalist and liberal camps may be an inevitable consequence of our evolution as a species.  If so, attempts to persuade, cajole or threaten everyone into a single position within the spectrum of belief is doomed to failure.  It is probable that genes which are conserved within a population have long term survival value.  Breeding, genetically manipulating or culling them out of the gene pool may be counter-productive in the long term.  Liberals and conservatives are therefore faced with the prospect of having to co-exist.  Efforts to find middle ground may be futile, and the energy expended on this task might be better used to accept that diversity of opinion has genetic as well as logical and emotional roots.  This might take the blame out of the discussion, and free us to allow people at all positions along the spectrum to play to their strengths for the good of all.
I’ve recently read, and been impressed by, a new book, “Thank God for Evolution – How the marriage of 
science and religion will transform your life and our world” [by Michael Dowd, Published 2008 by Viking].  Below 
are a few quotes from this book on only one of a number of the interesting themes in it.  At left are the words of a hymn written by the late Rev. Dr Ian Cairns [whom those of you who have been in our group for some time will remember with gratitude and affection]  which I promised at last meeting to share with you.     –  Don.

“ Chapter 4 introduces a ….. distinction between private revelation (divine revelation sporadically received through the experience of single individuals) and public revelation (divine truth ongoingly obtained through the contributions made by a vast community of individuals engaged in the scientific quest).”

“New truths no longer spring fully formed from the traditional founts of knowledge.  Rather, they are hatched and challenged in the public arena of science.  This is the realm of public revelation.
In contrast, private revelation entails claims about reality that arise primarily from personal experiences  –  some of which are compelling.  Alas, private revelations enshrined for centuries in sacred texts cannot be empirically verified today.  Such claims cannot be proven because they are one-person, one-time occurrences, obscured by the passage of time.  Accordingly, private revelations must be either believed or not believed.   When private revelations reside at the core of religious understandings, people are left with no choice but to believe them or not”.    

“Yet today, relations between the realms of science and religion are strained by the sad fact that age-old private revelations have for centuries been held hostage by a pervasive idolatry of both the written word, and tradition.  Private revelations have thus been denied the life-giving breath of ongoing public revelations.”
“Seen through sacred eyes, the entire history of the Universe can now be honoured as the primary revelation of God.   Written scriptures, in contrast, are derivative;  they are secondary revelations.   Stone, vellum, parchment, ink and human consciousness  –  all expressions of nature  –  are prerequisites for the evolutionary emergence of written texts”.        

“When I say “God”, I am not talking about something or someone that can be believed in or not believed in. I’m talking about the Ultimate Wholeness of Reality, seen and unseen  –  the whole shebang  –  which is infinitely more than anything we can know, think, or imagine.”        
“[There are] two complementary sides of the one coin of our experience.  On one side is the realm of what’s so:  the facts, the objectively real, what is publicly and measurably true.  Let’s call this side of reality our day experience.  We talk or write about it using day language – that is, normal everyday discourse.   The other side of our experiential coin I call night experience. It is communicated through night language, by way of grand metaphors, poetry and vibrant images.  Our attention is focussed on What does it mean?  This side of our experience is subjectively real, like a night-time dreams, though not objectively real.  
Night language is personally or culturally meaningful.  It nourishes us with spectacular images of emotional truth”.

“Scientists (using day language) regard “the Universe” as evolving in accordance with the dictates of natural law  ….. 
Theologians (using night language) speak of “the Creation” as having been sourced by God’s will and maintained by 
God’s grace.  Only now can we appreciate that these are different ways of speaking about the same fecund 
processes.  To argue over whether it was God, evolution, or the self-organising dynamics of emergent complexity that 
brought everything into existence is like debating whether it was me, my fingers tapping the keyboard, or the electrical
synapses of my nervous system that produced this sentence.”

Cosmic Celebration

Celebrate the cosmic birthing,
Flash of primal energy:
Swirling gases, densing matter,
Stuff of galaxies to be.
Celebrate the life-force pulsing
through these 15 billion years,
Trillion trillion stars emerging
From the cradle of the spheres.

Celebrate her white-heat furnace – 
life-evoking mother sun;
Celebrate her planet-offspring
Nine, in cosmic dance as one.
Celebrate her favoured daughter,
Earth, in cloak of fragile green;
Cragging rocks, and sounding ocean –
surface-lashed, beneath serene.

Join the mystic dance of species,
Chaining, weaving, circling, one
Strong-competing, close-depending,
Life swift ending, new begun.
Sing our senseful keen awareness – 
Form and sound, scent, taste and hue.
High achieving, passing, transient –
Living dying, born anew.
                           – Ian Cairns,  1996

                     Chairman:    Geoff Neilson   –    Phone  489-6727  –    Email:  Geoff
                     Newsletter Editor:   Donald Feist  –   Phone 476-3268   –  Email:   Don

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