Puebla or "The Plumed Serpent of Science and Religion"

Metanexus: Views 2002.02.09 1790 words

With respect to the relation between science and religion, there alreadyexists a movement, though still fragile, toward a subtle interchange. Wehave begun to talk to each other on levels more profound than before andwith greater openness toward the perspective of the other, aware of theother's competencies, limitations, and most especially of the areas ofcommon interest. By doing this, we have begun re-asking questions ofimportance that concern us both, and it is hoped that this common questbased on a critical openness and interchange will not only continue but willgrow and deepen in both quality and dimension.

This admonition by Pope John Paul II is found on the homepage of the Centrode Estudios en Ciencia y Religion (Center for Studies in Science andReligion) <http://web.upaep.mx/CeCiR> at the Popular and AutonomousUniversity of the State of Puebla (UPAEP) in Puebla, Mexico. In hopes ofadvancing this fragile movement, this subtle interchange, a conferencetitled Science and Religion: Toward a New Culture of Collaboration washeld this past January. For those who are Spanishly inclined, reports aboutthe conference can be currently read at the following UPAEP press websites<http://web.upaep.mx/Boletin/index.htm> and<http://web.upaep.mx/universitario/index.htm>.

It says somewhere in the New Testament that we should be as wise as serpentsand as gentle as doves. When weaving in between the vagaries of science andreligion, particularly in a culture in which there is a predominantparadigm, it is useful to remember that one is not merely addressingsomeone's beliefs, one is also addressing someone's reality. Thus the needto be as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove. But what if one could beboth wise and gentle simultaneously? For example, what if one could bea...feathered serpent? Methinks that it is not for nothing that one of thetreasured myths of Mexico is that of Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent.

I invite you now to explore a little bit of this attempt to walk likeQuetzalcoatl, wisely and gently, between science and religion toward a newculture of collaboration.

And to the organizers of this conference, Eugenio Urrutia Albisua, Juan JoseBlazquez Ortega, and Jaime Francisco Castillo Rodriguez we send a heartfeltand warm thanks.

!Mil gracias!

--Stacey E. Ake

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Subject: Dateline: Puebla or The Plumed Serpent of Science and ReligionFrom: Stacey E. AkeEmail: <ake@Metanexus.net>

Quetzalcoatl is the Nahuatl term for plumed or feathered serpent. Accordingto legend, he was an ancient deity and ruler of the Toltecs (some might say,actually of the Olmecs) in Mexico. The name is also that of a Toltec ruler,who is credited with the discovery of corn, the arts, science, and thecalendar. It is unclear whether the ruler took his name from the god or as agreat ruler was revered and later deified. Eventually, Quetzalcoatl becameknown as the god of civilization.

To find out more about the legend of Quetzalcoatl itself, consult<http://www.encyclopedia.com/articlesnew/10700.html>.

Now, isn't it strange that the god of civilization should be such a rarehybrid sort of creature? As a kind of divine archaeopteryx<http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/birds/archaeopteryx.html>,Quetzalcoatl was a being constantly in transition and yet a unity in hisdiversity, a creation in tension with himself and his surroundings. Such anentity would appear yet again in Mexican history and mythology under thename of Kulkulkan among the Maya. It seems to me that no fairer symbolexists to express the Mexican attitude toward the complexities of life, andhence the intricacies of science and religion. Moreover, given the languageand culture shared by Mexico and the other countries of Ibero-America,whether they be Chile, Spain, Argentina, or Brazil, perhaps there issomething of the feathered serpent in them all.

I mention our fine feathered reptilian friend in this regard because of theconference Science and Religion: Toward a New Culture of Collaborationthat took place from January 29th to February 2nd, 2002, in Puebla, Mexico.The colonial city of Puebla, nestled beneath the twin volcanic peaksIztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, was the site of this Latin American Workshopof the Science and Religion Course Program and the VI InternationalEncounter of the Centers of Culture. Sponsored by the Universidad Popular yAutonoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) <http://web.upaep.mx/>, the Center forTheology and the Natural Sciences <http://www.ctns.org>, and the Centro deEstudios en Ciencia y Religion <http://web.upaep.mx/CeCiR>, it included over200 people from around the globe.

The conference opened in grand style with a formal inauguration thatincluded a message from Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the PontificalCouncil for Culture. In his missive, he observed that, as Pope John Paul IIsays, 'The church does not fear reason.' No, the church does not fearreason, and thus it does not fear science, either. Not because it belittlesscientific investigation as if it had nothing to teach the church; butrather because the church is firmly persuaded that between the faith and thereason of humankind, between faith and discoveries about the world made byscientific investigation, there cannot ever be any real conflict. For theauthor of the holy books is the same one who has written the book of naturewhich is read by the scientist.

This theme was then developed by Peter M. J. Hess, Associate Director of theScience and Religion Course Program at CTNS, in his talk 'God's Two Books':
Revelation, Theology, and Natural Science in the Christian West. Veryspecific examples of this relationship were given in the presentation ofErnesto de la Torre Villar of the Institute for Historical Investigation ofthe National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). In his talk, Prof. dela Torre, a native of the state of Puebla, outlined the impact ofpre-colombian scientific accomplishments and religious beliefs on thescientific and religious culture of Europe that was being brought to Mexicoby the Spaniards, particularly by friars and Jesuit priests. While Prof. dela Torre's specialty brought us up to the 17th century, Mariano Artigas, ofthe University of Navarra in Spain, spoke about the contemporary state ofthe relation between science and religion in his talk The Dialogue betweenScience and Religion Today. One final talk, titled Evil or the Impotenceof God? The Question of Theodicy viewed from the Experience of HumanSuffering by Luis Fernando Cardona Suarez, of the Javerian University inColombia, inquired into the role of God in the world, given the nature ofdivine behavior in the Book of Job. And thus ended the first day.

The second day found us on a field trip to INAOE, the National Institute forAstrophysics, Optics, and Electronics <http://www.inaoep.mx/>, where MiguelChavez Dagostino gave a wonderful powerpoint presentation on The Connectionbetween the Stars and the Cosmology. This was followed by AlejandroGonzalez Sanchez's thought-provoking talk on The Big Bang, a Contrastabout all that is known and all that is yet unknown about the big bang as atheory of cosmic creation. This was followed by a presentation and lectureby Luis Carrasco Bazua about the large millimeter telescope (LMT), a projectin progress between the INAOE and the University of Massachusetts - Amherst.According to the website <http://www.lmtgtm.org/>:

With nearly 2000 m^2 of collecting area and a surface accuracy better thanthat of the IRAM 30m telescope, the LMT's sensitivity will exceed that ofits nearest competitors by a wide margin. This basic sensitivity isenhanced, for continuum observations, by the single dish's ability to makeuse of incoherent detectors. Moreover, as a completely filled aperture, theLMT will have the optimum sensitivity to low surface brightness emissions atan angular resolution (6-12), which is comparable to maps presently madewith interferometric arrays. As such, the LMT will take a valuable place inthe world's present complement of millimeter-wave facilities.

An ambitious and far-ranging project, this telescope will soon become a toolof great use to astronomers and astrophysicists around the world. Then, fromthe near future to the far distant past, we traveled the same day toTonantzintla, home of the church of Santa Maria Tonantzintla--anotherhybrid, both ancient fertility goddess and yet the immaculate mother of God.To see some pictures of this colonial and yet indigenous church, go to<http://www.inaoep.mx/~sole/turismo/Puebla/Tonantzintla.html>.We then went to the hill made by hands or the great pyramid of Cholulawith the church of the Virgin of Remedios on top<http://studentweb.tulane.edu/~dhixson/cholula/cholula.html> ,<http://www.inaoep.mx/~sole/turismo/Puebla/Cholula.html>or, in Spanish, <http://www.logicnet.com.mx/~zac450/cholul_e.html>.What makes the site of Cholula all the more striking is that we find,against the backdrop of those twin volcanoes, Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl,a great pyramid, dedicated to none other than Quetzalcoatl himself. Thepyramid, whose base is larger than that of Cheops, was begun in thepre-classic pre-colombian era and enlarged four times. Archaeologistsexcavating the hill-pyramid have dug numerous tunnels through the structure,one of which we toured to view a mural of a pre-colombian ritual bacchanal.

Day three began with a talk by Javier Igea of the Vatican Observatory aboutReligious Implications of the Origin of the Universe. The day's theme,that of the human interstices between science and religion, was continued byLudmila Gumen of the UPAEP with her lecture on The Science of Chaos andChaos in Science and by Stacey E. Ake of the Metanexus Institute with herpowerpoint presentation on The Human Being as Genetic Code. The talkedthat followed, The Origin of Life and the Emergence of the Soul, by RafaelVicun(y)a of the Catholic University of Chile, was a balancingcounterweight. And the theme of the day was neatly concluded by Juan Aranaof the University of Seville, Spain, with his lecture on Evolution, Chance,and Finality.

The final lectures of the conference were given by Lucio Florio Saravi, ofthe Argentine Catholic University, and by Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda,of the Pontifical Council for Culture. In his lecture, Florio Saravi spokeabout The Unitrine Image of the Christian God: Its Originality and ItsConsequencies Concerning the Idea of Creation. And in his talk, Challengesand Threats of Contemporary Scientific Culture to Religion, Toca Alamedaobserved that in the dialogue between science and religion it is mosthelpful if the scientist does not have to dismiss his science when he ispraying or thinking about his faith anymore than the believer has to dismisshis faith when he enters the laboratory.

In other words, it is most helpful if, while on our quest for understandingthe dynamics between those twin volcanoes of science and religion, we all,like Quetzalcoatl, remain hybrids, or remain essentially what we are,whether we find ourselves believers and faithful in the laboratories ofscience or observers and experimenters in the domains of the divine.

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This publication is hosted by Metanexus Online http://www.metanexus.net. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Metanexus or its sponsors.

Metanexus welcomes submissions between 1000 to 3000 words of essays and book reviews that seek to explore and interpret science and religion in original and insightful ways for a general educated audience. Previous columns give a good indication of the topical range and tone for acceptable essays. Please send all inquiries and submissions to. Metanexus consists of a number of topically focused forums (Anthropos, Bios, Cogito, Cosmos, Salus, Sophia, and Techne) and periodic HTML enriched composite digests from each of the lists.

Copyright notice: Except when otherwise noted, articles may be forwarded, quoted, or republished in full with attribution to the author of the column and Metanexus: The Online Forum on Religion and Science. Republication for commercial purposes in print or electronic format requires the permission of the author. Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Metanexus Institute.

Metanexus: Views 2002.02.09 1790 wordsWith respect to the relation between science and religion, there alreadyexists a movement, though still fragile, toward a subtle interchange. Wehave begun to talk to each other on levels more profound than before andwith greater openness toward the perspective of the other, aware of theother's competencies, limitations, and most especially of the areas ofcommon interest. By doing this, we have begun re-asking questions ofimportance that concern us both, and it is hoped that this common questbased on a critical openness and interchange will not only continue but willgrow and deepen in both quality and dimension.This admonition by Pope John Paul II is found on the homepage of the Centrode Estudios en Ciencia y Religion (Center for Studies in Science andReligion) <http://web.upaep.mx/CeCiR> at the Popular and AutonomousUniversity of the State of Puebla (UPAEP) in Puebla, Mexico. In hopes ofadvancing this fragile movement, this subtle interchange, a conferencetitled Science and Religion: Toward a New Culture of Collaboration washeld this past January. For those who are Spanishly inclined, reports aboutthe conference can be currently read at the following UPAEP press websites<http://web.upaep.mx/Boletin/index.htm> and<http://web.upaep.mx/universitario/index.htm>.It says somewhere in the New Testament that we should be as wise as serpentsand as gentle as doves. When weaving in between the vagaries of science andreligion, particularly in a culture in which there is a predominantparadigm, it is useful to remember that one is not merely addressingsomeone's beliefs, one is also addressing someone's reality. Thus the needto be as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove. But what if one could beboth wise and gentle simultaneously? For example, what if one could bea...feathered serpent? Methinks that it is not for nothing that one of thetreasured myths of Mexico is that of Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent.I invite you now to explore a little bit of this attempt to walk likeQuetzalcoatl, wisely and gently, between science and religion toward a newculture of collaboration.And to the organizers of this conference, Eugenio Urrutia Albisua, Juan JoseBlazquez Ortega, and Jaime Francisco Castillo Rodriguez we send a heartfeltand warm thanks.!Mil gracias!--Stacey E. Ake=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=Subject: Dateline: Puebla or The Plumed Serpent of Science and ReligionFrom: Stacey E. AkeEmail: <ake@Metanexus.net>Quetzalcoatl is the Nahuatl term for plumed or feathered serpent. Accordingto legend, he was an ancient deity and ruler of the Toltecs (some might say,actually of the Olmecs) in Mexico. The name is also that of a Toltec ruler,who is credited with the discovery of corn, the arts, science, and thecalendar. It is unclear whether the ruler took his name from the god or as agreat ruler was revered and later deified. Eventually, Quetzalcoatl becameknown as the god of civilization.To find out more about the legend of Quetzalcoatl itself, consult<http://www.encyclopedia.com/articlesnew/10700.html>.Now, isn't it strange that the god of civilization should be such a rarehybrid sort of creature? As a kind of divine archaeopteryx<http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/birds/archaeopteryx.html>,Quetzalcoatl was a being constantly in transition and yet a unity in hisdiversity, a creation in tension with himself and his surroundings. Such anentity would appear yet again in Mexican history and mythology under thename of Kulkulkan among the Maya. It seems to me that no fairer symbolexists to express the Mexican attitude toward the complexities of life, andhence the intricacies of science and religion. Moreover, given the languageand culture shared by Mexico and the other countries of Ibero-America,whether they be Chile, Spain, Argentina, or Brazil, perhaps there issomething of the feathered serpent in them all.I mention our fine feathered reptilian friend in this regard because of theconference Science and Religion: Toward a New Culture of Collaborationthat took place from January 29th to February 2nd, 2002, in Puebla, Mexico.The colonial city of Puebla, nestled beneath the twin volcanic peaksIztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, was the site of this Latin American Workshopof the Science and Religion Course Program and the VI InternationalEncounter of the Centers of Culture. Sponsored by the Universidad Popular yAutonoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) <http://web.upaep.mx/>, the Center forTheology and the Natural Sciences <http://www.ctns.org>, and the Centro deEstudios en Ciencia y Religion <http://web.upaep.mx/CeCiR>, it included over200 people from around the globe.The conference opened in grand style with a formal inauguration thatincluded a message from Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the PontificalCouncil for Culture. In his missive, he observed that, as Pope John Paul IIsays, 'The church does not fear reason.' No, the church does not fearreason, and thus it does not fear science, either. Not because it belittlesscientific investigation as if it had nothing to teach the church; butrather because the church is firmly persuaded that between the faith and thereason of humankind, between faith and discoveries about the world made byscientific investigation, there cannot ever be any real conflict. For theauthor of the holy books is the same one who has written the book of naturewhich is read by the scientist.This theme was then developed by Peter M. J. Hess, Associate Director of theScience and Religion Course Program at CTNS, in his talk 'God's Two Books':Revelation, Theology, and Natural Science in the Christian West. Veryspecific examples of this relationship were given in the presentation ofErnesto de la Torre Villar of the Institute for Historical Investigation ofthe National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). In his talk, Prof. dela Torre, a native of the state of Puebla, outlined the impact ofpre-colombian scientific accomplishments and religious beliefs on thescientific and religious culture of Europe that was being brought to Mexicoby the Spaniards, particularly by friars and Jesuit priests. While Prof. dela Torre's specialty brought us up to the 17th century, Mariano Artigas, ofthe University of Navarra in Spain, spoke about the contemporary state ofthe relation between science and religion in his talk The Dialogue betweenScience and Religion Today. One final talk, titled Evil or the Impotenceof God? The Question of Theodicy viewed from the Experience of HumanSuffering by Luis Fernando Cardona Suarez, of the Javerian University inColombia, inquired into the role of God in the world, given the nature ofdivine behavior in the Book of Job. And thus ended the first day.The second day found us on a field trip to INAOE, the National Institute forAstrophysics, Optics, and Electronics <http://www.inaoep.mx/>, where MiguelChavez Dagostino gave a wonderful powerpoint presentation on The Connectionbetween the Stars and the Cosmology. This was followed by AlejandroGonzalez Sanchez's thought-provoking talk on The Big Bang, a Contrastabout all that is known and all that is yet unknown about the big bang as atheory of cosmic creation. This was followed by a presentation and lectureby Luis Carrasco Bazua about the large millimeter telescope (LMT), a projectin progress between the INAOE and the University of Massachusetts - Amherst.According to the website <http://www.lmtgtm.org/>:With nearly 2000 m^2 of collecting area and a surface accuracy better thanthat of the IRAM 30m telescope, the LMT's sensitivity will exceed that ofits nearest competitors by a wide margin. This basic sensitivity isenhanced, for continuum observations, by the single dish's ability to makeuse of incoherent detectors. Moreover, as a completely filled aperture, theLMT will have the optimum sensitivity to low surface brightness emissions atan angular resolution (6-12), which is comparable to maps presently madewith interferometric arrays. As such, the LMT will take a valuable place inthe world's present complement of millimeter-wave facilities.An ambitious and far-ranging project, this telescope will soon become a toolof great use to astronomers and astrophysicists around the world. Then, fromthe near future to the far distant past, we traveled the same day toTonantzintla, home of the church of Santa Maria Tonantzintla--anotherhybrid, both ancient fertility goddess and yet the immaculate mother of God.To see some pictures of this colonial and yet indigenous church, go to<http://www.inaoep.mx/~sole/turismo/Puebla/Tonantzintla.html>.We then went to the hill made by hands or the great pyramid of Cholulawith the church of the Virgin of Remedios on top<http://studentweb.tulane.edu/~dhixson/cholula/cholula.html> ,<http://www.inaoep.mx/~sole/turismo/Puebla/Cholula.html>or, in Spanish, <http://www.logicnet.com.mx/~zac450/cholul_e.html>.What makes the site of Cholula all the more striking is that we find,against the backdrop of those twin volcanoes, Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl,a great pyramid, dedicated to none other than Quetzalcoatl himself. Thepyramid, whose base is larger than that of Cheops, was begun in thepre-classic pre-colombian era and enlarged four times. Archaeologistsexcavating the hill-pyramid have dug numerous tunnels through the structure,one of which we toured to view a mural of a pre-colombian ritual bacchanal.Day three began with a talk by Javier Igea of the Vatican Observatory aboutReligious Implications of the Origin of the Universe. The day's theme,that of the human interstices between science and religion, was continued byLudmila Gumen of the UPAEP with her lecture on The Science of Chaos andChaos in Science and by Stacey E. Ake of the Metanexus Institute with herpowerpoint presentation on The Human Being as Genetic Code. The talkedthat followed, The Origin of Life and the Emergence of the Soul, by RafaelVicun(y)a of the Catholic University of Chile, was a balancingcounterweight. And the theme of the day was neatly concluded by Juan Aranaof the University of Seville, Spain, with his lecture on Evolution, Chance,and Finality.The final lectures of the conference were given by Lucio Florio Saravi, ofthe Argentine Catholic University, and by Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda,of the Pontifical Council for Culture. In his lecture, Florio Saravi spokeabout The Unitrine Image of the Christian God: Its Originality and ItsConsequencies Concerning the Idea of Creation. And in his talk, Challengesand Threats of Contemporary Scientific Culture to Religion, Toca Alamedaobserved that in the dialogue between science and religion it is mosthelpful if the scientist does not have to dismiss his science when he ispraying or thinking about his faith anymore than the believer has to dismisshis faith when he enters the laboratory.In other words, it is most helpful if, while on our quest for understandingthe dynamics between those twin volcanoes of science and religion, we all,like Quetzalcoatl, remain hybrids, or remain essentially what we are,whether we find ourselves believers and faithful in the laboratories ofscience or observers and experimenters in the domains of the divine.=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=This publication is hosted by Metanexus Online http://www.metanexus.net. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Metanexus or its sponsors.Metanexus welcomes submissions between 1000 to 3000 words of essays and book reviews that seek to explore and interpret science and religion in original and insightful ways for a general educated audience. Previous columns give a good indication of the topical range and tone for acceptable essays. Please send all inquiries and submissions to. Metanexus consists of a number of topically focused forums (Anthropos, Bios, Cogito, Cosmos, Salus, Sophia, and Techne) and periodic HTML enriched composite digests from each of the lists. Copyright notice: Except when otherwise noted, articles may be forwarded, quoted, or republished in full with attribution to the author of the column and Metanexus: The Online Forum on Religion and Science. Republication for commercial purposes in print or electronic format requires the permission of the author. Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Metanexus Institute.

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