I cannot forgive Descartes. In all his philosophy he would have been quite willing to dispense with God. But he had to make Him give a fillip to set the world in motion; beyond this, he has no further need of God. Blaise Pascal, Penses, number 77 Cosmology itself speaks to us of the origins of the universe and its makeup, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise but in order to state the correct relationship of man with God and with the universe.
Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth, it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer . . . other teaching about the origin of and makeup of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven. Pope John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 3 October 1981.
The discovery of the New World and especially the people inhabiting it was very dangerous to the Christian Church in the sense that it pointed out falsities in a paradigm to which people held great loyalty for its antiquital and divine authority. Humans are opposed to change, for at each moment in history, we like to think our paradigms for the universe and the heavens hold the absolute good and truth. It comes down to a question of pride. In order to change a paradigm, we have to admit that the previous paradigm was wrong; The longer it has been in place, the harder this is.
Like a lie, the longer it is maintained the harder it is to tell the truth, for longevity requires investment of lie upon lie upon lie. When we have invested life after life, profit after profit, scholar after scholar in a paradigm, it holds great value. This is where the antiquities derive their authority, for they give us the paradigms in which we invest. And, this is why we are loyal to our paradigms, to the point of interference with advancement—which ironically, in this case, means toward the absolute good and truth in our paradigms.
Thus, for the same reason, we ought to question our antiquities; The more time and energy we invest the more we lose and the farther we get from the absolute truth and good. Yet there are absolute goods and truths in our paradigms; It is just that our paradigms are not the absolute truth and good. This concept is not unlike the King having two bodies, one being the office and the other being the individual. We have the human spirit and then we have the human incarnate.
The absolute truth and good are in the human spirit, but no one human possesses the knowledge, perfection, or purity to capture the absolute. Our antiquities—scholars and profits—are those who come closest to the absolute truth and good with the knowledge available at the time, to the best of their human imperfection and impurity. Therefor, we cannot blindly throw out our antiquities when their paradigms are humbled, for although not the absolute, there are absolute truths and goods to be maintained and built upon.
We should extract, from our antiquities’, elements of absolute good and truth for application in a new, more perfect and pure, paradigm. This is in part what we are doing when we cite texts, and this adds legitimacy to our works with the antiquities’ authority derived from our loyalty to their paradigms. I suppose I should cite someone here. I agree with Descartes in that everything in the past is wrong, one will only find the truth in them selves. But, one does not throw out the past, we note changes not to be made again and maintain the truths and good.
We know from Descartes that absolute truth is in the human spirit, and from Aristotle that humans are inherently good. Then if, all men do all their acts with a view to achieving something which is, in their view, a good, there will be some absolute good and truth in their acts. In taking the elements of truth and good from our antiquities paradigms and adding them to our own, we transcend the human incarnate working collectively through the human spirit toward the absolute truth and good. In this way too, we reconcile our loyalty to our antiquities.
We are not abandoning our antiquities when we throw out their wrongs, rather we are joining them in combining their truths and good into a new paradigm created by a group of humans, a human spirit, not a fallible individual. Now, how do we determine what to keep, what is truth and good, but by expunging that which no longer applies after the subject of a paradigm’s design changes, after a new discovery. With each new discovery, our first attempt, at understanding, maps it into an existing paradigm.
We call the West Indies, the West Indies, because they fit into the Indies place on the map of the world at the time, and obviously later found not to be. Hence, the quite natural, term paradigm mapping. If a discovery does not actually fit into a paradigm, serious figure doctoring is necessary to keep it there. This is a natural defense reaction brought on again by our loyalty to existing antiquities and paradigms. However, the awkwardness of the mapped paradigm should quickly point out a need for revision.
Here to revise is to make the paradigm fit the discovery not the discovery fit the paradigm. In this way paradigm mapping becomes almost an exercise in developing new paradigms. We would rather, admit to being partly wrong than look ridiculous. A mapped paradigm forces a break from antiquital loyalty enough so that we can see the faults in existing paradigms; All that is left we can, until the next discovery, take to be truth and good. Still, there is another reason for peoples reluctance to change; The existing paradigm may be convenient.
Would you want to change the paradigm if it placed you at the top, in power? This why discoveries become dangerous. They force the change of paradigms, and often a changing of the guard. Existing Paradigms have never been more challenged or changed then by the Discovery of the New World, and especially the people inhabiting it. At the time, the Bible served as both the universal and heavenly paradigm, it was both the science and the religion. More accurately, the Bible was the religion at the time and religion was both science and morality.
Religion can and did then explain life on two levels: the big LIFE—life on an evolutionary (for lack of a better word) timescale, and the life of the individual—life on an ontogenetic time scale. Since the discovery of the New World, and because of the discovery, there has been a movement, long resisted by the Church, de-emphasizing the big LIFE side of Christianity while emphasizing the life of the individual and how to conduct life morally. One of the main challenges, or questions to the Church’s big LIFE authority was: Where did the Cannibals come from?
The church had to find a place for the Cannibals in their existing biblical paradigm. A first response was paradigm mapping; Mendieta found a place for the Cannibals in a parable from Luke 14. As the end of the world neared, a man invited three guests to his meal symbolizing the Jews, Muslims, and the Gentiles. The Cannibals definitely weren’t Jews or Muslims so they must be Gentiles. However, at a time when reason ruled the day, the stretch Mendieta made was easy to see. Why would the Jew and Muslims be so clearly defined by God and not the Gentiles?
And didn’t the apostles preach to the Gentiles the middle east. Jose de Acosta offered a better place for the Cannibals through reason. If the Bible says that all men descended from one man, then the Cannibals reached the Indies by land or by sea—probably by land, for it could not be disproved with 16th century geography. This explanation was good; It did not hurt the Church’s big LIFE authority, for the time in that it did not point out any faults in the Bible’s paradigm. It is interesting that Jose de Acosta was a Jesuit.
For his explanation of the Cannibals reflects greatly the Jesuit movement of excellent education, not excluding the sciences, as well as their interpretation and direction of intention policies toward religion. Although many criticized them for this, as in the Provincial Letters by Blaise Pascal, these moves where necessary to reconcile the science they taught with the religion they preached. Pascal accuses the Jesuits of making things too easy for their followers, and in many way Pascal is right—interpretation and direction of intension can be abused.
But, the spirit of what the Jesuits where trying to do makes it possible for people to live life according to Christian morals and ethics, laid out by the Bible, from a contemporary perspective of the world. But, back to the Church’s problems with the New World, the Cannibals already had their own paradigms of government and morals that often seemed better then Christian ones. Montainge writes heavily on the Cannibals’ paradigms, and how the Cannibals themselves criticize the European paradigms.
The Cannibals found it unusual and contrary to their paradigm, that strong European men would follow a child king, because of hereditary right. The Cannibals did not realize that it was not just hereditary, but divine right as well, which gave the Church power over the King. Yet, the Cannibal strongest warrior paradigm was dangerous to the Church’s power, for it had reason on its side. And why should the Europeans rule over and convert the Cannibals, if they are in way better ruled and more pious. Many of the Church’s arguments center around and Aristotelean states of nature argument.
Sepulveda, argues that the perfect and powerful (Spaniards) should rule over the imperfect and weak (Cannibals), they should destroy the barbarism of the Cannibals and guide them to a more humane and virtuous life. However, reason as Montainge showed quite clearly places the Cannibals out of the barbaric state to which the Europeans claim superiority, and as Mendieta observed some Cannibals remain so pure that they do not know how to sin. Clearly this posed some valid opposition to the Church’s paradigms and power, by presenting an alterative working paradigm.
Such problems do not arise from the religion its self, but from the Christian institution. The goal of Christianity is to direct peoples lives so they can get to heaven, not to explain the heavens. Before there was any concrete science religion had to be both a way of life and an explanation of life. Christianity went wrong in trying to place all confidence in the word of God though human envoys. What documents does Christianity have that came directly from God? Jesus did not write any of the Bible directly.
Not even the Ten Commandments came to us directly from God, free from human envoy. And whether they are God’s exact words or not, they still set down some guidelines on how to live. Even if you throw out the Bible’s story of creation as a literal story of creation, it holds value as a parable—it speaks of the vice of temptation. It could be that creation is speaking of the human race’s descent from one spontaneous creation of human intellect, or the creation of the male and female mind, not literally man and woman.
Christianity has to accept the element of human imperfection in the Bible. Even those divinely inspired are subject to the imperfection of their individual human incarnate. How can any mortal being possibly fully understand God—the things that God puts in the revelations of our profits? Our profits are human, St. Peter couldn’t even speak Latin, Mark, his interpreter, wrote most of his testament through Pete’s witness. But of course, we can still extract valuable lessons from these stories.
And why should humans be afraid to offend God, that perhaps God’s word is not a definitive explanation of the world. Aside from the human understanding point, it is a sign of devotion and flattery that humans, in their hour of need, turned to God for explanation. If as Descartes would have said according to Pascal, all God did, was put a fillip in things to get them going. Look at all that came of it; it is amazing. Before humans had an understanding of how the universe arrived at its current state, they could see that it was divinely inspired and turned to God for explanation.
Yes, God set things in motion and has the power to pull the plug. But that is as far as God goes in that sense of things—beginning and end, and . The human spirit is defining everything in-between. God gives each one of us life of which we can see the end and gives us guidelines for the middle. Hopefully we add something to the big LIFE in which the human spirit exists during our human incarnate life. To be part of that power after life-as-we-know-it, is where religion’s moral side applies. We want to live accordance with God to this end.