In my thinking, truth is truth is truth; something that is true cannot really be made more true by either adding to it or subtracting from it. Truth must be thought of as an element, an irreducible simplicity. A lesser truth or a greater truth is a measure of the person making the distinction, not of the truth itself, and often the "measure" is a measure of the person's doubt. Truth is not dependent on whether anyone believes it. There are truths in the world that no one yet believes or even knows about, and some of those particular truths are no doubt crucial truths. Imagine that: crucial truths being ignored out of everyone's utter ignorance.
Quite possibly, I might be the only person in the whole world who believes some of what I believe. That does not matter to me, except I sometimes feel lonely in my beliefs. Many of my beliefs are more correctly described as a knowing of a plain truth — something beyond faith. The separating out between literal truth and metaphorical truth is silliness to me, as if one or the other becomes more true or more significant because of its adjective. Humans are limited by language, especially if the whole of language expressed in the emotions of body language and voice must necessarily be reduced to words on paper. If words fail because there are no words possible to describe something, then "the kingdom of God is like ..." must do. What Jesus said is as important as what Jesus did: truth is truth is truth.
I say with Martin Luther, "This is most certainly true" — and I say it with firm conviction.
The following three essays were first published as comments written by me in response to articles on The Opinion Pages of The New York Times online. The essays are at once not at all related to each other and absolutely related to each other. The relation was unintended, but was also unavoidable. Each essay can stand alone, but I think each essay will gain something by being grouped here with the other two.
Steven A. Sylwester
January 18, 2011
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The Windows of the Soul Need Cleaning
By DICK CAVETThttp://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/14/the-windows-of-the-soul-need-cleaning/
I spent my kindergarten through eighth grade years living in Seward, Nebraska, which is very near Lincoln where Cavett spent many of his formative years through high school. While Cavett had Baptist influences in his upbringing, I had Lutheran influences in mine. I understand the religion behind such a statement as Cavett's that separates humans from all other creatures through a distinction that only gives the trait of consciousness to humans, but I have come to a point of thinking differently about it all.
There is folly in separating living creatures through the distinction of consciousness, and a whole lot of arrogance, too — especially if we as humans do not know or in any way understand the expressive languages used by those other living creatures. My revelation — my consciousness raising — came as the result of living in my home with a free-flying cockatiel for the past 14 years. Pretty Bird is a creature with consciousness, and I state that with sincerity and conviction. My family and I have countless times witnessed firsthand the consciousness of Pretty Bird — and he has taught us much of his language along the way, even to the point of successfully devising bridges between our consciousness and his consciousness to achieve his purposes. And, remarkably, after he has devised a working bridge, he keeps using it with confidence, because he knows that he is communicating with us — his human flock.
The whole question of consciousness in living things exists at a global ecosystem level, too. Much of the global warming controversy unmasks an arrogance among scientists that gives no credibility to the intelligence and the consciousness of Planet Earth, because such a notion that a global ecosystem could have intelligence and consciousness is not easily measured and is simply preposterous by the current accepted premise, which is based on the linear thinking of evolution.
It seems to me that many scientists are alarmists concerning global warming.
I trust in Earth's mechanisms. Furthermore, I believe Earth is an intelligent ecosystem that naturally fluctuates through the means of self-correcting mechanisms between various extremes of climate and the consequent environmental results of those extremes. Most spectacularly, the self-correcting mechanisms are observable in polar ice formations, sea level changes, and volcanoes, and it is very probable that these three observable self-correcting mechanisms are absolutely and profoundly interrelated, and that they naturally trigger at the extreme points of the normal fluctuations of Earth's ecosystem.
If you believe in the haphazards of chance and luck, the opposing alarmist thinking is understandable. After all, the circularity of natural cycles is opposed to the linear requirements of the scientific thinking that is premised on evolution. Fortunately, "scientific thinking" does not require adherence or allegiance to the limited premises of some scientists, even if those "some" constitute a majority. In the end, if intelligence is observable sometimes somewhere in some life forms, then it must be present at all times everywhere in all life forms, including in the life forms known as ecosystems. That "intelligence" is not always visible to us and measurable by us does not determine whether or not intelligence exists. Ultimately, "intelligence" is inherent wherever there is life, and an ecosystem is teeming with life on the very grandest of grand scales.
In my thinking, "intelligence" is evident when deliberate coherent reactions occur in response to provoking actions. The presence of "intelligence" is not limited to life forms that have a presently recognized discernible brain. The world is not only a physical reality that is wholly dependent on known material substances and manifestations. If the world is not wholly material according to what is presently known, then "intelligence" also is not wholly material in its sources and/or in its observable origins.
The question then is this: Is what is unfolding in Nature best described as evolving change or as the revelation of what is and has been?
I vote for the latter.
That said, I am opposed to the unnecessary polluting of all land, air, and water environments and the unnecessary destruction of any natural environments, especially those that are still pristine. An abiding credo of the developed world should be an unwavering determined commitment to pollute less and less, to recycle more and more, to live in harmony with Nature and that which is natural, and to expect consciousness where intelligence can be observed.
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Nine Justices and Ten Commandments
By LINDA GREENHOUSE http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/nine-justices-and-ten-commandments/
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Mystery and Evidence
By TIM CRANE
In my opinion: Yes, without question. In your opinion: No, without question. You might soften to admit that God is real in the minds of believers, but you would quickly add that God is not otherwise real. In my own case, I have had many firsthand experiences that have transformed my faith to a knowing. Among other things, I was exorcised, and I also had a physical encounter with an angel. From your perspective, such claims are problematic. It is easier for you to dismiss me as a liar or as delusional than it is for you to reconsider your own paradigm. But you cannot avoid being arrogant if you so dismiss me, because outright dismissal of my claims reveals an unwillingness on your part to accept that my claims are possible. You cannot prove that my claims are false, but you can state your faith that what I claim is impossible. However, to do so — to state your faith — is to admit to your own religion. Atheism is a religion, pure and simple — it is a faith: an unprovable belief system.
Martin Luther wrote in his Small Catechism:
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
The most elementary understanding of humans according to Luther is that a person cannot not have a god. Anything that is feared, loved, or trusted above God becomes a god, and idolatry then manifests from that beginning. It is unavoidable, it is real, and it defines religion.
Mr. Crane, you answer "No" to the question "Is God?", but you must answer "Yes" to the question "Is god?", for "god" is defined as "a person or thing of supreme value" and every life has such a person or thing, including your own. And so is defined your religion.
Is science a religion?
For some people, yes, absolutely! In fact, such a religion is known as scientism ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism ). Webster's Dictionary defines "religion" as "commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance" and defines "religious" as "relating or devoted to the divine or that which is held to be of ultimate importance." If you ask an atheist scientist to describe what is "of ultimate importance," you will get an answer that praises science — and the answer will describe both god and religion for that scientist, and it will certainly include leaps of faith that are masked as theories.
For example, the Big Bang and the Theory of Evolution cannot be proven. At best, they can only be imagined at the far end of stupendous extrapolations (read: leaps of faith). The fiction that concerns origins is only called "science" because it seems to answer questions concerning geology, dinosaurs, and other fossil remnants. Evolution is the premise alternative to Creation, but nothing more than that. If "In the beginning God created," then God must be thought of as The Supreme Artist, and the simple truth is this: an artist will sometimes start over — will literally gesso over a perfectly fine finished painting that has been on display to paint something new. There were dinosaurs all over the Earth, and now they are gone — from everywhere! God started over with Adam and Eve, and then again with Noah and his family. For all we know, God might have started over four or five times by now — maybe more. And that thinking is plausible, and it explains the geologic record and the dinosaurs, and it is as scientific as any explanation that depends on Evolution.
Is religion antithetical to science?
No. Properly understood, science is a method of investigation that goes: state premise, ask question, make hypothesis, design experiment, do experiment, analyze data, draw conclusions. Science is not the premise. In fact, a legitimate premise can be a leap of faith — like Evolution — like Creation. Think of "If p then q" logic this way: "If premise then question" — the premise asks the question, and then science begins.
What is irrational?
Rational thinking is the logical progression of thought that springs from a shared premise. Only if there is a break in logic in a discussion based on a shared premise can the word "irrational" come into play. People cannot rightly judge the rationality of those who have a different premise. Arrogance claims that the only acceptable premise (faith) is my premise (faith), and such thinking has no place in science. Simply, science should never ever be afraid to ask a question — any question. As it is, science is afraid of questions from the premise that God created, so those questions are not allowed.
Steven A. Sylwester