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Archive for the ‘science and religion’ tag

Dalai Lama Wins Templeton Prize for Work on Science, Religion

by Chris Herlinger
from Religious News Service

The Dalai Lama is best known for his commitment to Tibetan autonomy from China and his message of spirituality, nonviolence and peace that has made him a best-selling author and a speaker who can pack entire arenas.

But somewhat under the radar screen, the Tibetan Buddhist leader and Nobel Prize laureate has also had an abiding interest in the intersection of science and religion.

That interest won Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, the 2012 Templeton Prize on Thursday (March 29), a $1.7 million award that is often described as the most prestigious award in religion.

The Dalai Lama is the highest-profile winner of an award that in recent years had been given to physicists and theologians not well known to the general public, but earlier had been given to the likes of evangelist Billy Graham and the late Mother Teresa.

“With an increasing reliance on technological advances to solve the world’s problems, humanity also seeks the reassurance that only a spiritual quest can answer,” said John M. Templeton, Jr., the president and chairman of the Pennsylvania-based John Templeton Foundation and the son of Sir John Templeton, who founded the prize in 1972.

“The Dalai Lama offers a universal voice of compassion underpinned by a love and respect for spiritually relevant scientific research that centers on every single human being.”

For his part, the Dalai Lama, in a video statement released during a live webcast announcing the prize, struck a modest note. He said he was nothing more than “a simple Buddhist monk,” despite the 2012 Templeton or his 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

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Is God in the Brain?

by Douglas Fields
from Huffington Post

Two weeks ago in Tel Aviv I attended a gala event of neuroscientists from around the world, including three Nobel Laureates, business leaders, wealthy philanthropists, and politicians, most notably Israeli President Shimon Peres. After his introductory speech on science and education in Israel, the President sat and listened intently from the front row of the theater to three Nobel Laureates on stage answering questions about their brain research. At the end of the program the moderator politely asked Peres if he would like to ask the brain researchers a question. He stood, and grasping the wireless microphone before an audience of perhaps 800, Peres addressed the Nobel Laureates, “Can you see God in the brain?”

There was an awkward moment as the Nobel Laureates scrambled to formulate appropriate comments extemporaneously, struggling and fumbling for words in an effort to regain footing after being knocked off the security of their familiar talking points.

Religion and science are rarely mixed, except in confrontation. Amplifying this tense moment was the location: Israel, the hotbed of religious conflict for centuries, and the Jewish state now on the precipice of launching an attack on nuclear sites in Muslim Iran.

Which God? The Christian? Jewish? Muslim? Hindu? The God gene maybe? There is no God — at least not in science books. The moment passed slowly like an unwelcome odor.

But two weeks later, after all the questions I heard posed by international scientists in the week-long meeting, this question stands out as the only one I remember. At the time it seemed embarrassingly naive, but in truth it is a broad, profound, and daring question. “Can you see God in the brain?”

March 5th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Where Do “Sacred” Values Live in the Brain?

by Arri Eisen
from Religion Dispatches

What role does science play in what we believe and in how we understand belief? I teach a college course called “Science & the Nature of Evidence,” in which that question is considered at length. Few of my students (few of any of us, perhaps) have thought about it, and they love the chance to take it on.

It matters what we believe and why we believe it. Not just in terms of religious identification, not just for deciding what and how we do things in our day-to-day lives, but also in relation to politics. Take such monumental policy decisions as those regarding health care, or the military. Do we go with what we feel is right and wrong, or—as is the more commonly understood basis for such policy decisions—do we do what will be best for the most people? How about suicide bombers? Why are they willing to lose their lives for their beliefs? Now, we can begin to better understand the mechanisms of such decisions by combining expertise in religion, philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, economics, and even genetics.

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February 2nd, 2012 at 10:41 am

Eyeopener: ‘Journey of the Universe’ on PBS

by Celia Wren
from Commonweal Magazine

Painted stars splay across the ceiling of an old Greek church. A flower blooms in slow motion. Tree roots twine serenely round the rocks of an ancient ruin. The images in the nonfiction film Journey of the Universe are luminously beautiful—and so well meshed that their flow feels almost effortless. But a great deal of effort has gone into this hour-long work, which aims to knit modern scientific knowledge and religious and humanistic perspectives into a seamless, eye-opening chronicle of cosmic and earthly evolution.

Indeed, the genesis of Journey—airing on PBS stations beginning December 3 (check local listings)—stretches back more than three decades, to the publication in 1978 of an article titled “The New Story,” by Thomas Berry, the influential thinker who taught at Fordham University and directed the Riverdale Center of Religious Research. “The New Story” argued that humans were positioned between important narratives—namely, the scientific narrative about the unfolding of the universe and the creation stories offered by religious traditions. Might a new narrative be possible—one that integrates these worldviews?

Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Thomas Swimme, scholars who worked closely with Berry (he died in 2009), have responded to the challenge. The two have coauthored both the film Journey of the Universe and the companion book, published by Yale University Press. Tucker, who codirects the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, has also done yeoman’s work on Journey’s educational DVD, hosting twenty half-hour conversations with scientists, educators, and environmentalists, including Sr. Marya Grathwohl, OSF, of Earth Hope in Wyoming, and Sr. Paula Gonzalez, SC, of EarthConnection in Cincinnati.

It’s the affable Swimme—professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies—who hosts the film, speaking with enthusiasm about matters like the Big Bang (he prefers the term “The Great Flaring Forth”); the arrangement of the solar system (he illustrates it with vegetables, using a cabbage for the sun); the significance of plate tectonics; the advent of life on earth; the nature of photosynthesis; and the development of art and language among humans. The film even addresses the phenomenon of compassion, suggesting that it is a natural, if rather marvelous, part of human evolution—perhaps an extension of the maternal instinct (a shot of a koala and her baby helps illustrate this theory).

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Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven,’ God is not ‘necessary’ for creation

From Washington Post

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking said in an interview with the UK Guardian published Monday that he rejects the idea of heaven, calling it a ’fairy story’ for people afraid to die. Hawking also wrote in his 2010 book The Grand Design that he believes God was not ‘necessary’ for the creation of the universe and that ‘spontaneous creation‚’ instead explains existence. Hawking seems confident in his conclusion about God, but then again so do believers. Who is right? Can God and science co-exist?

Among the many respondents are Muqtedar Khan, Christopher Stedman, and Susan Brooks Thislethwaite.

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May 23rd, 2011 at 8:59 am

The Promise of a New Era in Our Conversation About Faith

From The Huffington Post

In 1953, Professor C.D. Broad of Cambridge University published a paper titled “The Argument From Religious Experience.” Broad, who was not a religious man, responded to Bertrand Russell’s challenge to philosophically prove the existence of God, and in his paper he evaluated beliefs from different world religions and cultures, concluding, “The claim by any particular religion or sect to have complete or final truth seems to me to be too ridiculous to be worth a moment’s consideration. But the opposite extreme of holding that the whole religious experience of mankind is a gigantic system of pure delusion seems to me to be almost (though not as quite) farfetched.”

After 58 years and numerous other attempts, Broad’s conclusion seems to me to be the most mature and reasonable assessment that I have come across.

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Appreciating Religion and Science on Evolution Weekend

From The Huffington Post

For the sixth time, hundreds of religious congregations on six continents will participate in an event designed to demonstrate that the most exciting scientific findings pose no threat to deeply held religious belief. Indeed, the leaders and members of these congregations recognize that as science teaches us more about how the natural world functions, their faith becomes stronger rather than weaker. And, although there are some who find it difficult to accept, participants are fully comfortable embracing the basic principles of science without having to forsake the most important aspects of their faith.

The weekend of Feb. 11-13 is the sixth annual Evolution Weekend, an event sponsored by The Clergy Letter Project, an organization of more than 14,000 clergy members and scientists.

Click here to read entire article.