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Questions, Questions

truthIn his encyclical last week PopeFrancis/Benedict XVI poses two questions that surely must be at the core of our understanding of the meaning of all human life: What is Truth? What is Faith? Or are they the same thing?

What is Truth?  - what we are told by the scientist?

What is Faith? - knowledge? superstition?


Speaking from the point of view of someone currently preparing for ordination...

Truth is NOT what we get from scientists. Scientists study FACTS. They are very highly specially trained to do that (I used to be married to a scientist). But they cannot give us TRUTH.

TRUTH is what we are striving towards when we take the FACTS and apply our FAITH to them. Notice, I said STRIVING TOWARDS. I would say that Truth is something that is only fully comprehensible by God, and the humans are only capable of rare glimpses of it. I am basing this statement upon the fact that there are greatly divergent Truths all over the world. How can that be? Are they all True? Or, is only MY Truth True, and everyone else is just WRONG?

My job, as a minister, is to assist people in their own responsible search for truth and meaning.

Faith is real... but so are Facts. Truth is where to two come together.
For some, the Truth is that all living beings are equal, so don't drive your car when there are bugs on the road that might get crushed by the tires -- even if you need to drive your wife to the hospital to stop her bleeding to death.

I don't think that quite works.

"All creatures are equal" is real on one level (to some of us). But we can't always apply that without craziness on another level.

The logic of "a zygote is a human in potential so should always have all the rights of a human 'child' " is beautiful on the Euclidean Plane, if you like. But facts and necessities "on the ground" give a different result for our "on the ground" actions.

(Also, I think we need to distiguish two kinds of 'facts'. What some scientists with their latest scan and study say, may actually be just their latest THEORY, ie their latest OPINION. -- Contrast this with the better established 'fact' that when we see blood pouring from an open wound, that person will die soon unless treated. Of course there is a lot of gray area here, some medical problems and treatments being better established than others But even if you ask a scientist, 'what are the odds of abortion saving this woman's life' is a different SORT of question from 'is this egg a 'child' yet'?)
In the Jain tradition, all living beings ARE equal, and the Jain definition of "living" is quite broad. In the Jain view, rocks are also alive, but have only one sense. This is Truth to a Jain, which is why Truth is relative.

In the scientific process, observers collect facts... that is, (in my ex's case) "how many earthquakes of what magnitude have occurred at this site over time?" Then the facts are collated to see if the data suggests a pattern... which it does in California. This pattern suggests that there will be a major earthquake in California in the near future. Of course, this is a theory, based on collected data... but I've been here since the 60s, and we haven't had one at that magnitude yet. So, theories are not facts. Theories are theories based on facts (data). But humans collect data and devise theories.

Scientists cannot really give us moral direction. They are really good at giving us facts and theories, but we have to make our own moral determinations thereafter.
Are ARE equal, but our physical actions cannot always treat them all equally, imo.

The Jains have a principle of 'minimizing harm'. There is no way to live without causing some harm, but we can minimize it.

One aspect of minimizing, is to give prefernce to the creatures that have the most senses (so can feel the harm worst). But we can't just draw a sharp line between species either, and say that with those below the line, anything goes.

For example, say, there are two paths, and both have the same kind of worms crawling on them. We don't just stay home, and we don't say "Who cares, they are just worms." We adjust our route to take the path that for some reason has less worms on it, or adjust our timing to use the time of day when there are fewer worms out.

Or we take preventive action, like putting up good window screens to keep bugs from getting into the house.

Have you looked up Jaina policies on abortion? Encouraging contraception as preventive action would seem to fit, as well as minimizing later term abortions (when the fetus is more developed), etc.

(An exception where Jainas do draw a sharp line, is vegetarianism: not even a little meat."

Edited at 2013-07-13 22:44 (UTC)
I haven't looked specifically at Jain policies on abortion, but I would suspect that it would not be viewed in a positive light.

In Jain thought, all things have a Jiva, which can be thought of as a "soul" but it is envisioned quite differently. Jivas go about collecting karma, good and bad. The goal is to collect as little bad karma as possible. Bad karma can be cleared by certain actions. It is a very, very complex system which I only studied for one semester.

At any rate, it is all dependent on the existence of the Jiva, which cannot scientifically verified, just as there is no scientific proof of a soul. This is where matters of Faith and Truth come in. At what point does a fetus have a Jiva? At what point a Soul? Do Jain fetuses have Jivas and Christian fetuses souls? What about Atheist babies? None of this is provable one way or the other. Hebrew scripture says that a baby does not have a soul until the father breathes it into the baby, and, I don't believe the New Testament says anything about it at all.

I personally, believe that there is only one soul... the soul of a single living organism which is constantly doing everything in its power to survive and grow. Our individual consciousnesses are an illusion, but a necessary one. By each individual consciousness striving for its own individual survival, the organism as a whole continues to grow and improve itself.

Can I prove this? No. But neither can anyone prove the existence either of a soul or of any form of divinity. Some things we just take on faith. I, personally, like the idea of one massive soul and a beneficent divine, but not everyone else does.