Friday, January 26, 2007


Unfocused Astronomy

Okay, I've admitted before to having been at the mercy, such as it was, of Jesuits during my four years of college and retaining a grudging respect for their intellectual abilities. But frankly, I'm not sure what Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., a Vatican astronomer and curator of its meteorite collection, was talking about in the annual Loyola Chair lecture at Fordham University:
He considers himself a member of the scientific class he calls “techies.” ...

Techies, he told the audience, see the world in terms of processes to be understood, jobs to be done and problems to be solved. Their orientation toward the world is pragmatic, logical and functional, and the common assumption is that most of them are atheists. “And no doubt about it, some of us are,” he said. “But, equally, a lot of us are not.
So far, so fuzzy. What makes this "class" of scientists different than any other and why is there a need for a separate term for them? Are there really any scientists worth considering who aren't pragmatic, logical and functional?
... [T]here is a “serious misfit,” he said, between the typical techie and the typical church. American churches simply haven’t done much to understand techies and reach out to them in ways that would be meaningful.
Well, promoting creationism and dishonest political ploys like Intelligent Design probably have something to do with that. But I can't see how the following, from someone (more or less) speaking for a church that avoids such obvious conflicts, can help:
Scientists and engineers don’t necessarily lack faith, he said, instead, they appear to be searching for a “comprehensive set of rules to live by,” which provides an opportunity for organized religion. Organized religion provides a template, just like the worked-out problems in a physics book, he said, against which techies can compare their spiritual experiences with those that are certified to have been experiences of the transcendent.
"Certified"? This is blatant gobbledygook and not worthy of any Jesuit I ever knew. But then there is this non sequitur to top it all off:
"Remember," he added, "Jesus himself was a techie."
One can only hope that the person giving this account of the lecture has seriously misrepresented the Brother's intent.

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