Monday, 10 December 2007

Reflections on ‘A Devil’s Chaplain’

Engraving of moon phases on bone (30,000 yBP
A Devil's Chaplain

Reflections on ‘A Devil’s Chaplain’ by Richard Dawkins
By Remigius de Souza

My second attempt to continue reading the book, ‘A Devil’s Chaplain’, failed. It is not because I have any bias against science. Being Indian there is a belief at back of my mind that humans go through cycle/s of rebirth, through as many as 8.4 million yonis (life forms such as, a animal, bird, insect, human etc.) – depending upon their karma; even the gods are not spared. I do not expect Darwin or Dawkins should subscribe to this belief.

Typically, like the western, and later the westernized societies, the book, too, boasts, as if no science did exist in the bygone eras before the Industrial Revolution.

The image of the engraved bone plaque illustrated here is 30,000 yBP old, from Blanchard, France. It shows phases of the Moon, engraved by different tools and in different styles of strokes. It’s from the Palaeolithic Era. The schematic representation shows the serpentine mode of accumulating the sequential information within a small area (Source: Eccles, John C., ‘Evolution of Brain: Development of the Self’, Routledge, 1991, p. 135).

Which compartment does the plaque belong? Is it a work of art or science? It is holistic. Modern science is digging in the past and probing the celestial space. Both certainly could help us to see our place in the geological and cosmic times, with humility.

However, it has so far not succeeded to know and understand the human phenomenon – in body, mind and spirit – that is so dynamic. How does the plaque qualitatively rank in arts, sciences or technologies among all the artefacts the humanity has produced from the beginning of time? Are the so-called self-proclaimed superior societies truly so? 

What prompted Darwin to coin the phrase, ‘devil’s chaplain’, I do not know. Perhaps it is because of the hold of Creation myth, or hypothesis, or theory, of faith, of belief on the Christian societies, and that he by his proof of evolution was challenging it or the contemporary society. I believe that the Creation myth expects one to be humble before God, Nature, or mystery that is Life

How ironic that after Darwin (1809-1882), after nearly two hundred years, that the plant and animal species continue to vanish at a faster pace than ever before: ecological collapse. That the rate of rapid climate change and global warming frighten us: environmental degradation. That the reserves of fossil fuels and other finite resources of the earth are depleting progressively at a faster speed: energy crisis. Above all, it is the widespread deadly poverty and deadly deceases such as, HIV-AIDS. These are fallout of the Industrial Revolution, in the name of social and economic development. Its assaults on land and waters and the living beings continue.

Only the coffer of the gene banks and money banks thrive and grow, which, however, has no tangible value. Evolution now takes place on a laboratory table at the mercy of moneys and monopolies. In the past, the Easter Island reduced to a desert. How long would it take the Earth to come to that disastrous state? Could the slogans at world summits, without action, change it?

The western society has grown old with the advent and growth of Mechanical and Industrial revolutions, now identified as one. Small populations, human labour replaced by machine, mass production, sophisticated land, water and air transport, so also weapons of war, establishment and expansion of colonies, greed for more power and profit are some of the characteristics of the western society, which indeed have turned into an addictions. A line between the science and technology too is already blurred.

Science has emerged as a new religion with its several gods – Marx, Freud, and Darwin etc. Technology is its essential ritual, which penetrates in every sphere of an individual and the collective, and their institutions, and followed either mechanically or blindly without checking ground realities. The high priests of science design, the rest of the mass society follows, not knowing the meaning of the great mantra: E=mc2. This has been happening also in many established institutionalized religions.

It ultimately has resulted in founding the so-called global society, which spreads across the world irrespective of their sovereign boundaries in the First World and Third World countries. Along with the new religion of science, there emerged also the myths for the delight of the pundits. 

For example: Marx’s myth. Lawrence Coupe quotes and comments on several authors – Edgell Rickword, Kenneth Burke, Fredrick Jameson, Herbert Simson and Trevor Mellia, Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabrook – who speak of Marx’s myth. Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabrook in ‘The Politics of Hope’ draw a comparison, says Coupe, that suggests ‘both Christianity and Marxism are myths of deliverance’ (‘Myth’, Routledge, 1997, p. 70).

As pundits continue their intellectual exercises, there would emerge many more myths in literary discourse; or they already are there! The recent debate (and dialogue?) between the Creationist and Evolutionist lobbies in the West signifies the Evolution myth is already there, but no deliverance!
As a result, perhaps, the school children there may have to go through a new or revised syllabus for their salvation!

Once in a public speech at a conference, I remarked, “The politicians and the usurers take rebirth as mosquitoes and continue their mission of sucking the blood of the people”, while referring to the hordes of mosquitoes at the conference venue, of course in a lighter vein. However, the wars in various forms, against the poor people and insects have caused their populations too grows: by instinct to save the race and by immunity.
“Be fruitful, and multiply…” Genesis, Holy Bible, 1:28
Now the New Religion of Science practices:
Kill and multiply profits.
Remigius de Souza

07 December 2007
©Remigius de Souza 2000 - 2007

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