Science gains don't diminish religionPhilip Stahl's...

the Forum

August 13, 1992

Science gains don't diminish religion

Philip Stahl's interesting and significant letter of Aug. 5 characterizing belief in God as "superstition and magic" reminds one of the famous event where a Soviet astronaut came back from space and, obviously coached by his communist bosses, proclaimed that he had been to heaven and not found God there.

A wise Russian Orthodox priest then noted: "If you have not found God in your brothers and sisters on Earth, you will never find Him in heaven."

Mr. Stahl does not see the point. It is not a question as to what new data a space satellite (COBE) may have returned. We all know that such data will be antiquated in a year or two.

It is not the concern that Stephen Hawking has a new theory. He will have another in a few weeks.

It is not the issue that the universe may have an accordion-type history of expansion and contraction. Everyone knows that astronomers have changed their opinion on that conclusion every five years.

The concern is that science is possible at all. This point haunted Einstein every day of his life and, although he never arrived at religious belief as such, produced in him a profound sense of wonder and a religious awe about the world.

Why is it that the world is intelligible? Why is it that natural events can be expressed in mathematical form -- the most purely intellectual project we have? Why is it that nature is transparent to intelligence? What must be the root ground of being in a universe in which science is possible?

The point of study is not a scientific but a metascientific issue, not what theory is popular at the moment but why there can be scientific theories at all.

For instance, the greatest result of COBE is not support for the existence of cold dark matter. That conclusion is highly preliminary.

It is rather that the world of the very small supports and underpins the world of the very large, that cosmology and particle physics join, that we live in a universe not a pluriverse, that a pattern of intelligibility runs through the entire physical world from top to bottom like a thread of gold through fine cloth.

The more science progresses, the more that realization forces itself on our consciousness. It is why belief in religion flourishes healthy and strong as science develops.

Rev. Frank R. Haig, S.J.

Baltimore

The writer is a professor of physics at Loyola College and president of the Chesapeake section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Humanist credo

Thomas Mehnert is correct in his assertion that the country is experiencing a lack of values and direction (The Forum, Aug. 4). His solution, however, is a recipe for the religious intolerance and warfare that plagues the world

By denigrating tolerance and the rights of others, Mr. Mehnert indicates that there is no place for the values of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or humanists.

Nor is there a place for Christian values other than his own, since the various denominations do not agree on moral issues such as abortion, homosexual rights and the right to die.

Mr. Mehnert errs in characterizing Soviet totalitarianism as an expression of humanist ideology. Humanists are staunch advocates of First Amendment rights, including the free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state.

We support a pluralistic, democratic society and deplore all forms of discrimination. This is the antithesis of what the former Soviet Union represented.

Humanists believe that we possess the intellectual capacity to develop moral principles that are subject to critical, rational evaluation and to being tested by their consequences. Such a system respects and celebrates the diversity of America rather than divides it by imposing the religious values of one group onto the whole.

Kenneth Marasalek

Baltimore

The writer is director of the Baltimore chapter of Washington Area Secular Humanists Inc.

Rockfish 'carnage' isn't limited to Conowingo

I have some anxiety in regard to Jim Heim's Other Voices July 27 article "Carnage at Conowingo."

First, let us talk about carnage. The rockfish carnage caused by the thousands of boats fishing the bay during the trophy season and the fall season far exceeds the carnage from a few people who fish the Conowingo catwalk for rockfish.

I know; I'm one of these catwalk fishermen. The carnage about which I speak is not the fish that are kept during these seasons but the small and oversized fish that are guthooked, released and die.

Additional carnage is caused by commercial netters releasing under- and oversized fish that are dead in their nets.

How about writing about all rockfish carnage? Not that Conowingo carnage is tolerable, but you must compare a dozen fishermen's mistakes on the catwalk to thousands of bay fishermen's mistakes. What is the true overall carnage story?

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