The art of knowing how to inject the poisons of science and theology

Syringe. Source: hypescience.com
Carlos Sierra Lechuga, México

Man, nature and the divine1

Science and theology are to the spirit what the syringe is to the living organism; by itself, the syringe is neither good nor bad, its potential for good or evil lies in its content and use: it is good or evil according to what is injected or what is not. The syringe can save lives if a certain brew is given to someone in a precise proportion; it can be so good that we even call its content “medicine” and we think about it as a therapeutic method. But the syringe is, in the same proportion, potentially evil: literally, it can kill. If a medicine is not injected, or if the medicine is inappropriate, or if, being appropriate, it is given in a higher or lower proportion, the content of the syringe becomes harmful and the syringe, a weapon –or even, if the syringe has killed, it becomes the crime’s weapon. But the syringe is neither good nor evil, but only potentially good or evil, and these two depend on what man use it for. In general, the instruments of Medicine are all alike, and that is why we can think of it as the art of knowing how to inject poisons. Science and theology are to the spirit what the syringe is to the living organism, either they poison the organism in a controlled way, and hence they invigorate it, or they inject it its own death.

For the fact is that science and theology are products of the spirit, and as such, the spirit can praise or betray itself. The human spirit creates science to be able to know its own weight among immanence and it creates theology to ensure itself a place among transcendence. Someone could tell me: “that is false, neither science nor theology are human creations, the first one reaches objective truths, and the second one, ultimate truths.” Neither nature nor God are human creations, but the way we deal with them is. To nature, it is irrelevant that we find the inverse-square law to deal with gravitational phenomena, or that we variate –as it is intended today– the measures of the square by a bigger or smaller potency according to the measured distances2; to the Absolute, to be seen as a clear and distinct being3 is less important than it is to us to question us about his being according to our own hopes. Immanence is there, immanent; and transcendence is there, transcendent. It is to man, and only to him, to whom it is important –to the point of gambling his own existence for it4– to be able to know the exact location and time of a particle5, and to whom it is important to know how can a who exist with three who’s6. Electrons are not worried whether we can or can’t get to know about them all at once; in an electron beam about to diffract, electrons do not become depressed for obeying the laws that we have imposed as natural; they will not feel guilt in behaving like a wave, when each of them is actually a particle7, and we will not take them to court for violating the laws of physics. Being God the absolute, would he care that we wore a kipá, that we showed the crucifix that hangs from our neck, or that we considered the ontological argument to be irrefutable? If I wear a kipá it is because to me –a Jewish man– is good to use it, because I need it, because it is me the one who worships, gives cult and credit to God through that way8; God does not wear a kipá. If I show my crucifix or not it will be up to me –a Christian man–; I can also hang it from somewhere, so that I can have something close to me that constantly reminds me of God, but not as an ornament to boast about I, myself, being a member of the chosen ones; God has no chosen ones; if he died at the Cross it was not to boast about anything; his calvary and crucifixion did not occur out of self-boasting; God does not hang a crucifix: He hanged from one. If an ontological argument finally shows the existence of God, it would make God a fact of the world9, as demonstrable as the fact that there is a proportional force to acceleration, and a fact of the world is not worthy of worship, what is fundamental does not end with Q.E.D.10; but if I try to argue about God’s existence rationally, it is not with the purpose that He can finally show himself as God, so that he can be demonstrable; I do it because to me, who already believes in Him, the things I have on my mind become more viable, clear, plausible when I speak with a human language of That One that is above everything human; for before God I take off my hat, though not my head11. In science, the electron will not be depressed for disobeying locality, the identity principle and all other rules established in a human way for a world which is very human, the mesoscopic12; it is clear that a quantum world is shocking, when our own world is many scales above it. We are the ones who worry and have difficulties in understanding that world which is so little, but it is us who worry, because we are the ones who extrapolated what we understood from the world to the world itself. Technically, we can say that we have confused the epistemic with the ontological.

And it is right to say that science is not the discourse about nature, just like theology is not the discourse about on God: science is the human discourse that deals with the relationship between nature and man, just like theology is the human discourse which questions about the relationship between man and God. The second one deals with theandric relations13, the first deals with –let’s say– physiandric relations14. What is fundamental in both discourses is the relationship; to find the structural elements that correlate both realities: human and divine, nature and human. For only by positioning man at the center will the syringe invigorate and not poison by flaw or excess. We are not implying that any of these discourses is subjective, only that man can be seen emerging from both. God alone kills: fideism. The world alone kills: rationalism. Both of which are manifestations of fanatism. The man in between: because it is to me, man, to whom faith is not enough –which is why I make theology–, but it is also to me, man, to whom reason is not enough –which is why I hypothesize in my scientific works. God surpasses me, which is why I need to make it mine; the world seems like foreign territory, which is why I love and give in.

A science or theology that excludes me from their discourse, advocating for natural or divine purity, it is not only harmful, but in fact, it kills. The Inquisition and The Manhattan Project are just two brief examples. We do not want crime weapons, we want medicines: inclusion, consolation, for nothing human is foreign to me15, and science and theology –not God or nature– are human. Both are to the spirit what the syringe is to a living organism: either they poison the organism in a controlled way, and hence they invigorate it, or they inject it its own death. To invigorate or to kill? Science and theology are products of the spirit, and as such, the spirit can praise itself or betray itself… It is about saving a dying man’s life, soaked in mortality, inside a world that seems foreign to him, and detached from a God that exceeds him. If science is about the created world, and theology about the Maker, I ask myself: who is man, so that God remembers him?16

Finally, to reveal the foundation stone of the science-religion pairing, we should ask ourselves about that man who questions about his relation with nature as much as about his relation with divinity. We would have to ask ourselves about that frontier man that suffers both, immanence and transcendence, whose body obeys the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but whose spirit is above sedimentation and erosion. Let’s put at the center of the discourse that man who is a frontier between the stone and the angel; that man who –figuratively– through Newton is human, but who –not only figuratively– through Christ becomes divine.

Bibliography
  • Bachelard, G. La filosofía del no. Amorrortu, Buenos Aires, 2009.
  • Cabodevilla, J. M. Discurso del Padrenuestro. BAC, Madrid, 1986.
  • Camus, A. El mito de Sísifo. Alianza, Madrid, 2006.
  • Descartes, R. Meditaciones metafísicas. Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 2006.
  • Heisenberg, W. Física y filosofía. La Isla, Buenos Aires, 1959.
  • Jaspers, K. La filosofía. FCE, México, 2006.
  • La Biblia, hebreo-español. Sinaí, Tel-Aviv, 2007.
  • Léonard, A. Razones para creer. Herder, Barcelona, 1989.
  • Mendoza, S. et. al. A natural approach to extended Newtonian gravity: tests and predictions across astrophysical scales. Universidad de Cornell, 2010.
  • Unamuno, M. de. Del sentimiento trágico de la vida. Errepar, Buenos Aires, 2000.

Article winner of the "1er Concurso Educativo Latinoamericano de Ensayos sobre Fe y Ciencia" organized by the Latin American Educational Society for Faith and Science (SELFYC for its initials in Spanish), with the sponsorship of the Razón y Pensamiento Cristiano (RYPC) magazine.

This article was translated by Nicolás Manfredi and reviewed by Fernando Bernal, under the grant “God's Evolution” awarded to the Science and Faith Centre (Spain) by the BioLogos Foundation (USA).

__________
  1. Divulgative article for the dialogue between science and faith. Given the nature of this work, no technical terms will be used in writing it, and, if used, they will be clarified as such or signaled through italics –although not all cases of italics are technical terms, but also ways of stressing. This work hopes to bring closer, to invite, to provoke, to make more attainable the roles of science and theology for man, because only in him both can find their common grounds; precisely due to this anthropological concern is that this work is a divulgative article. On the other hand, the title of the present work does not wish to offend anyone, but rather to incite: what is a medicine, if not a carefully injected poison?
  2. Cfr. The named Extended Theories of Gravity; S. Mendoza, et. al. A natural approach to extended Newtonian gravity: tests and predictions across astrophysical scales. Article available on the web page of the library of the University of Cornell, under the ID:http://arxiv.org/pdf/1006.5037v2.pdf
  3. Cfr. The alleged Cartesian Demonstration of God’s existence, God as a clear and distinct idea, R. Descartes, Metaphysical Meditations; in particular its third and fifth meditations.
  4. Contrary to what Albert Camus believed, who affirmed he never saw anyone dying for the ontological argument. Vid. Camus, A. El mito de Sísifo; especially its first chapter.
  5. Werner Heisenberg’s controversial discovery: his Uncertainty Principle
  6. A substance with three persons, patristic idea for the mystery of Trinity.
  7. Whatever the case, Planck and Einstein would be worried about the “particles-waves” of light, or Louis de Broglie about particles of matter in general.
  8. The kipá helps the Jewish to remember that there is always something (someone) who is above him.
  9. As K. Jaspers pointed it out in his chapter “La idea de Dios” from his book La filosofía.
  10. Initials for Quod erat demonstrandum, which is usually written after concluding a mathematical demonstration.
  11. Paraphrasing G. K. Chesterton.
  12. Which would be between the microscopic (the microbial world, but mostly, a much smaller one, the quantum world) and the macroscopic (world in which the astronomical scales move).
  13. In fact, in theology, so that the relation with God is not purely psychological or purely exogenous (the first, as a human projection before a nonexistent divinity, the second, as a God that needs nothing from man and a man incapable of giving something), it is said that in theandric relations there must be apotheoses as well as epiphanies (relations that go from man to God and from God to man).
  14. If not, we have an objectivism and a subjectivism, both incapable of answering the question: how does science work?
  15. Paraphrasing Terence: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto (I am man, nothing human is alien to me), pronounced in his comedy Heautontimorumenos, cited by M. de Unamuno in Del sentimiento trágico de la vida, in ch. 1 and corrected as Homo sum, nullum hominem a me alienum puto (I am man, no other man is alien to me).
  16. Paraphrasis of the Salm 8:4,5. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them? And what is a son of man that you care him?”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carlos Sierra Lechuga, Mexican philosopher, is member of the Círculo de Filosofía de la Naturaleza, Associate Vicepresident Founding-Member of the Academia Internacional Tomás de Aquino and member of the Latin American Society for Faith and Science. He has dedicated himself to the study of issues of philosophy of science, religion, nature, metaphysics and epistemology. He has also been a speaker at the VI and VII Latin American Congress on Science and Religion (University of Oxford).
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