the Creator: Faith and Science in the New Millennium
Duncan M. Dwyer
it seems that we're at it again. Recently, in our latest attempt
to find god in the details, a team of botanical scientists from
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered what they believe
to be indisputable proof that the Shroud of Turin is the real deal.
a study which media types couldn't resist the urge to deem "an intersection
between science and religion," scientists dated the pollen and plant
specimens embedded in the shroud to somewhere before the eighth
century. These findings are in direct conflict with carbon dating
tests of 1988 that "conclusively" determined the Shroud to have
originated around the thirteenth century. Additionally, the new
tests conveniently exclude any region of the world OTHER THAN Jerusalem
as the geographic origin of the plants found on the shroud.
aside momentarily the issues of who conducted these research studies,
and the media's (and public's) fascination with anything even quasi-religious,
it seems fairly reasonable to ask how these two studies could have
come to such vastly different conclusions.
probably also pertinent to ask why, exactly, the faithful are so
hell bound on finding scientific "proof" to support their spiritual
beliefs. I certainly remember long Sunday-school afternoons in the
basement of St. Mary's church where questions concerning the big
issues of life and death were answered by faith alone. Where has
the church found itself when it goes looking for answers from the
very scientific community that it always portrayed as godless and
heretical? The answer seems to be as simple as the TV terms we use
to describe it: we really are at a crossroads between process and
belief, between proof and faith, and between science and religion.
needs only look as far as the public panic over the recent cloning
of farm animals in Scotland to get a true sense of where we stand.
Our reaction to the news of a cloned sheep was not thoughtful reflection
on the potential progress we could make in the fields of organ replacement
and disease fighting, but a fiery knee-jerk response that had even
the president calling for immediate bans on the procedure.
a month had passed since the immaculate conception of Dolly before
ethicists had concluded we were walking on dangerous ground, moralists
had determined that we were playing god, and Richard Seed had vowed
to create the first human clone sometime this decade. There was
virtually no agreement between the different camps, but everyone
seemed to fall securely into theirs. What was overlooked, however,
was the seemingly overwhelming opinion that what we had accomplished,
for better of for worse, was virtually godlike. Perhaps unwittingly,
we had become the creator.
the first time that we made the decision to use science to "prove
" the authenticity of the shroud, we were opening ourselves up to
serious ethical roadblocks. We might be able to test the fabric
and count in half-lives the years since its creation, but how could
that ever contribute to a true believer 's faith? We could analyze
blood samples taken from the cloth and determine that Jesus Christ's
blood type was AB, but how would that bit of trivia convert even
a single disbeliever? The truth of the matter is that science has
no place in supplementing god; it can only serve to replace him.
that there is a whole movement of people who believe exactly the
opposite of what I have just stated, I understand that many feel
that science is only the expression of god, and by its non-partial
approach to explaining the world (and atom is neither good nor bad
& it just is), it allows religion to be the voice of morality and
ethics in an otherwise commandment-less universe. To this, I would
answer only with the simple idiom which claims that if we can do
it, we will, or conversely that the only thing stopping us from
carrying out all of the duties outlined in god's job description
is that we have yet to figure them all out.
is with this in mind that I propose we cast aside these stepping
stone ethical arguments and really get down to the meat of the matter.
There is no point in wasting our time debating the place of science
in religion and our role in the universe as creators, when we will,
ultimately, do exactly what we are capable of anyway. It's time
that we make a leap of faith. It is time that we seriously consider
taking blood samples from the Shroud of Turin and cloning Jesus.
I'm not necessarily saying that I support this idea. I am only interested
in cutting to the chase and getting this issue out of the way. In
fact, in the interest of marking this most important event in human
history, I propose that we "conceive" Jesus on January 1st, 2000.
That should really get the doomsday fanatics worked up, and will
provide for one hell of a first page in our post-second coming history
months from now when the pundits and provocateurs are seriously
pondering this issue, just remember that you heard it here first.
That way, when the rivers start flowing blood and the heavens starts
raining down fire, you 'll know whom to blame.
M. Dwyer is an Internet Programmer living and working in Waterville