Tag: Religion

Charles Darwin and Origin of Species

Janet Browne, from Harvard University, came to Colby this week to talk about Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species. Janet Browne in class discussed how her work is involved in studying about Darwin’s work especially about his works on different species. Her book “Origin of Species,” informed me, in depth, about Darwin’s early childhood, early works, and how his early works have been the root for all his later studies done about his thesis.

A fascinating fact I learned about Darwin was that he had a very religious background. I thought Darwin would be a scientist who would have questioned the widely accepted religious idea that God created Earth and all living things. In the book, “Origins of Species” it mainly focuses on Victorian science, which has a strong relationship with religion and science which had a strong influence on Darwin’s career.

According to Janet Browne, Darwin merged theology and natural science. One of the most significant decision by Darwin for his career and his life was going on the Beagle Voyage. Darwin could not have achieved any of his life’s work if he had not boarded on the Beagle Voyage. From Browne, it sounded as if Darwin was too comfortable with his surroundings at the time and he couldn’t explore the anything outside his realm is he did not leave England. Darwin was also not fond of using humans in his experiment. He decided to look more into the geology. He looked at volcanoes erupting, earthquakes, and shapes of coral reefs which were instrumental in confirming his later studies. He took all these notes about his observations of different animals, plant, and geology. Darwin also encountered Fuegians in his voyage. The captain of the voyage, as well as Darwin himself, thought the Fuegians were savages and thought Christianity was a way to civilize them. Darwin noticed that the indigenous Fuegians and the Europeanized Fuegians were vastly different. Darwin in cases of this could be seen as a racist by many. Darwin later went to the Galapagos and noticed different organisms looked so similar to each other. Darwin categorized these animals as different varieties, however, he later realized that the reason why the animals were different was that of adaptation evolution these animals went through. After coming back from Britain, Darwin thought hard about his research he linked geology and biology. He also attempted to visualize the evolutionary change.

I believe that following your passion and having a wide perspective on any matter is extremely important. Darwin was very enclosed to his specific community in England; he couldn’t have done his research on evolution if he didn’t travel to other parts of the world and observed all the different geological and animal subjects. If Darwin did stay in England, he might have been a priest which his parents wanted him to be. Without Darwin’s work, most people today will not know that natural selection was what made evolution possible and still believe that God created new species. It is indisputable that Darwin eliminated god from science which made it possible for scientific explanations for all natural phenomena and created an intellectual and religious revolution.

Origins of Southeast Asian National Identity

Professor Arnout Van der Meer came to our class to speak to us today about the Indonesian nationalism. Van der Meer talked about how the Southeast Asian countries are overlooked but considers these countries such as for as Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Borneo, and etc…as one of the most diverse and crucial areas for trade, religion, and culture. Various religions, cultures, technology, and commodities from the West, the Middle East, and East Asia came to all one place which was located in the countries that were bordering the Java Sea. Professor Van der Meer mentions how colonialism was the start of how it made the Southeast Asian region a multi-cultural hub.

In the lecture, Professor Arnout Van der Meer talks about the national identity of Indonesia from colonialism. He talks about Soemarsono, as an instrumental figure in looking at Indonesian identity. He famously said that lighting the oil lamp represents Indonesia. Wick is like our Buddhist Heritage. Lamp oil is like Islam and Islamic modernism. The lampshade is like Dutch Wester culture (Science & Technology). He says we need to one last thing which is too light the oil lamp which represents regaining Indonesian national identity. Soemarsono was the one who sparked the socio-political emancipation of Javanese. Soemarsono’s revolt overhauled the system of cultural hegemony. This sociological revolution can be considered the origins of national awakening in Indonesia.

Personally, a fascinating part of the lecture was Soemarsono’s biography and how he came to embody his own metaphor. He helped spark the national awakening in Indonesia. He also comes from a well-respected, wealthy, and well-educated family. He was from an aristocratic family of the Javanese. He is also a practicing Muslim. Soemarsono surprisingly had a western education, and he was one of four Indonesians to go to a foreign international school of high privilege. Soemarsono grew up with foreign and Dutch students. Soemarsono’s political ideology for Indonesian national identity is the Asian Modernity, which is to maintain own traditions rooted in Hindu-Buddhist past meanwhile, adopting western science and technology. The second was to have Islamic morality which is a proper form of behavior such as, no alcohol, opium, and gambling. Finally, he believed in democracy and equality and a modern form of government. Later on, he ended up having a civil service career in Batavia, Indonesia.

Professor Arnout Van der Meer mentions that “The Onion Theory, ” can explain for the national identity and culture of Indonesia. The Onion theory states that layers of cultural identity can be stripped away to pinpoint the core and the root of the national identity of the indigenous people, however, this theory doesn’t account for changes in time. Professor Arnout Van der Meer, again, mentions that the Dutch colonialism and the religion of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism all created layers of that mixed through the Indonesian national identity.

The view of having new layers of culture to make it your own culture is indeed a plausible theory. However, the theory must consider changes in tim., There will always be a root for every national identity, and every nation should have the right to protect their core national identity. However, through time and history, new layers of culture and religion will be added on and with changes in time these new layers of culture and religion will be added to the root of the national identity and other cultures that don’t fit with the core national identity will be discarded.

Is Astrology a Religion?

I’m not an astronomer. I’m a computer scientist and fiction writer. So after Monday night’s lecture I was grasping for a take away, and I was struggling. I left the lecture with new found knowledge on red shifting, deuterium, and the hubble effect, but I had no new, definite insight on origins — the topic of this years humanities lab. After some thought, it dawned on me that I was approaching it from the wrong angle. I was asking myself the “how”, and no the “why”. I was asking “how was the universe derived from such confined origins” and “if the big bang was truly the creation of all, then what was before? What is nothing?”. I should have been asking “why do we need to seek for an origin in the stars” and “why do we cling to the belief that the big bang was the start of the universe?”.

My immediate answer: our obsessive need to define our origin through physics derives from our need for affirmation — a confirmation bias. That’s why Steven Hawking’s No Boundary proposal has ruffled so many feathers: it upends the commonly accepted, preexisting hypothesis of absolute creation. Similar to the general public’s reaction when proposing the world is not indeed flat (but rather continues on the ‘other side’), we have a hard time digesting that our universe may simply be a string of a higher-dimensional cosmos or a galactic reflection mirrored across this opaque primordial soup.

Of course, this is not unlike our desire to color our origin story with all shades of religion. A simple rule of thumb I carry as a fairly agnostic individual: we can neither positively confirm nor deny a Gods existence, thus claiming God is real is just as ignorant as claiming He is a farse. Similarly, we can neither confirm nor deny that the ‘big bang’ was the creation our universe. Moreover, just as religious individuals cling to their beliefs for the comfort, faith, or sanity, the scientifically minded cling to cosmic events. Disproving the big bang’s role in the creation of our universe would be adjacent to debunking religion.

But where does this leave us in the realm of our humanities lab? Obviously we’re are grounded many million years later on an apparently stable planet in an apparently stable galaxy. I arrive at the conclusion that all origins are hierarchical. The origins of man making fire led to the origins of cooking food over a fire, which in turn lead to the origins of gastronomy. Similarly, the origins of language led to the origins of story, which in turn lead to the origins of religion and so much more. My point is this: if origins can be traces up a lineage tree, it is only natural for human curiosity to trace it to the top — the origins of all origins. So, to come full circle, perhaps the greatest question to ask, and the question religion and astronomy alike attempt to answer, is “what is the origin of origins”?