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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

The non-negotiable faith in us

July 4, 2009

3 Jul 2009 Mukul Sharma

Those who thought western faiths were in a reconciliatory mood and that the
Vatican's Galilean blunder was a thing of the past, after the Pope admitted
the church had made a mistake, should be having serious second thoughts.
Science, and evolution in particular, are still anathema in such religions.
Take the case of Richard G Colling, past chairman of the biological sciences
department at Olivet Nazarene University in the US.

Five years ago he wrote a book called Random Designer: Created from Chaos to
Connect with the Creator in which he dared to suggest that that God uses
natural selection to accomplish His purposes. Or as Colling put it: "...God
is bigger, far more profound and vastly more creative than you may have
known. (He) cares enough about creation to harness even the forces of
Darwinian randomness."

As far as the Christian college where he had been teaching for over a decade
and a half was concerned this was as apostatic as throwing a whoopee party
for atheists and, of course, retribution came swift. Under tremendous
pressure from parents and local churches the president of the governing
board prohibited him from taking general biology classes any more and banned
other professors from assigning the book. The reason? The manual of the
college states that the Church of the Nazarene believes in the biblical
account of creation and opposes any godless interpretation of the origin of
the universe or humankind.

This at a time when many are trying to effect a bridge across the vast and
acrimonious divide that has come up between faith and science with shrill
voices on both sides absolutely refusing to recognise even a single word of
dissent. The Templeton Foundation, for example, awards an annual $1.6
million prize to someone making an exceptional contribution to affirming
life's spiritual dimension.

Perhaps this is where Buddhism's teachings are so relevant in the modern
context and the Dalai Lama should probably be praised for his efforts at
integrating science into spirituality. Not only does he want nuns and monks
to learn the basics of physics, chemistry and mathematics but, according to
him, a good Buddhist should embrace clear-cut scientific evidence. Meaning,
if a religious dictum is proven wrong, it must be amended and that all
religious teachings - even those based on the Buddha's own words - are
subject to sceptical inquiry.

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