virus: Well mused....

Wade T.Smith (wade_smith@harvard.edu)
Mon, 22 Dec 97 18:25:48 -0500


Once again from Chet Raymo- and once again on target.

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SCIENCE MUSINGS Reconciling the 'Adams' of the soul

By Chet Raymo, Globe Staff, 12/22/97

During this week of the winter solstice, Jews and Christians recall
defining moments of their faith. In these darkest days of winter they
celebrate festivals of light, calling out to their hidden god with
longing and expectation.

Americans are among the most religious people in the developed world;
polls show that 70 percent of us believe in a supreme being. We are
also world leaders in science, giving the lie, it would seem, to the
old canard that faith and science are in irreconcilable conflict.

Yet we struggle as a people to reconcile our scientific way of knowing
with our traditional ways of believing. Metaphorically speaking, we
are skeptical rationalists six days a week and people of faith on the
sabbath. Or to put it another way, we are skeptical rationalists
during the daylight hours, and passionate believers during the dark
hours of the night.

The great Jewish rabbi and teacher Joseph Soloveitchik addressed this
tension between reason and faith in his wonderful little book ''The
Lonely Man of Faith.''

Soloveitchik was born in Russia in 1903 into a family of eminent
rabbis. He was trained early in the sacred texts of Judaism, then
enrolled at 22 at the University of Berlin to study physics,
mathematics, and philosophy. In 1932 he accepted the position of chief
rabbi of Boston, where spent the rest of his life. He founded Boston's
Maimonides School and for years commuted to Yeshiva University in New
York, where he distinguished himself as a teacher and scholar. He died
in 1993.

Soloveitchik's man of faith is fraught with conflicts and
incongruities, caught between ecstasy in God's companionship and
despair when he feels abandoned. He is lonely because faith is
inevitably a courageous and private act that springs from an
individual's solitary apprehension of the mystery in the world.

Soloveitchik is aware that his faith has no possibility of empirical
verification, and no utilitarian value; it is, in that sense, out of
step with the times. However, he is not troubled by any potential
conflict between the Biblical doctrine of creation and the scientific
story of cosmic and organic evolution. He fully accepts the scientific
story of the world, but reaches beyond to touch a deeper, more abiding
presence.

The first two chapters of the Judeo-Christian scriptures give us
somewhat different characterizations of the chief protagonist, Adam.
These do not represent different sources or traditions, says
Soloveitchik, but rather two representations of the human soul, which
he calls Adam I and Adam II, corresponding to the Adam of the first
and second chapters of Genesis respectively.

Adam I is driven by curiosity. He wants to know how the cosmos works;
he is less interested in the why. His practical destiny is to ''fill
the Earth and subdue it,'' which he pursues boldly and aggressively.
He is creative and abstract, imitating in his mathematical theories
the creative act of God Himself. His representative in the modern
world is the scientist, mathematician, technologist, and secular
philosopher.

Adam II is also intrigued by the cosmos, says Soloveitchik, but
''looks for the image of God ... in every beam of light, in every bud
and blossom, in the morning breeze and the stillness of a starlit
evening.'' He wants to know why there is something rather than
nothing, and what is the purpose of things and events. His
contemporary representative is the mystic, the poet, the ascetic, the
person of faith.

Adam I is uninterested in questions that cannot be answered
empirically; Adam II is more introspective, more spiritual, trusting
his intuition of the divine. Adam I seeks mastery over nature; Adam II
wishes to be overpowered by nature.

Adam I asks ''how?'' Adam II asks, ''Who is He who trails me steadily,
uninvited and unwanted, like an everlasting shadow, and vanishes into
the recesses of transcendence the very instant I turn around to
confront this numinous, awesome, and mysterious `He'? ''

Although Soloveitchik clearly identifies himself with Adam II, he
asserts that Adam I also follows God's command and achieves dignity
through his work. The completion of creation requires the energies of
both Adams, he says.

Each of us contains something of both Adams in our soul, a tension
that is part of our evolved nature, undamentally human.

If we are to collectively reconcile science and faith, each of us must
confront this tension in our lonely solitude. The person of faith can
acknowledge the dignity and rational primacy of science, and the
skeptical rationalist can open himself or herself to the abiding
presence of the unanswered ''Why?'', who is simultaneously the deus
revelatus (the god who is revealed) and deus absconditus (the god who
hides).

The Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis described this latter experience in
his book of spiritual exercises: ''We have seen the highest circle of
spiraling powers. We have named this circle God. We might have given
it any other name we wished: Abyss, Mystery, Absolute Darkness,
Absolute Light, Matter, Spirit, Ultimate Hope, Ultimate Despair,
Silence. But we have named it God because only this name, for
primordial reasons, can stir our heart profoundly. And this deeply
felt emotion is indispensable if we are to touch, body with body, the
dread essence beyond logic.''

This story ran on page C02 of the Boston Globe on 12/22/97.
Copyright 1997 Globe Newspaper Company.

*****************
Wade T. Smith
morbius@channel1.com | "There ain't nothin' you
wade_smith@harvard.edu | shouldn't do to a god."
morbius@cyberwarped.com |
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