Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Astronomer Royal's Religion

Lord Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, who has "acknowledged he holds no formal religious beliefs, but honors the traditions of the Anglican Church as a member of [the] 'tribe,'"said, "I do participate in services because I value them for their aesthetic and social value," quoted in this article on the recent recognition for his "exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension" and "crucial philosophical and theological considerations that strike at the core of life" — British Astrophysicist Wins Templeton Prize.

Those of us not bound by solifidianism can appreciate the baron's approach, which is also very Confucian, in that the Sage was silent about the existence of the spiritual realm but affirmed the "aesthetic and social value" of ritual. (Also coming to mind is Arturo Vasquez's mentioning of a philosopher who, noting that "Protestantism... requires that Spirit and Thought should be directly engaged in religion," said that "in attending mass and other ceremonies, on the contrary, no exertion of thought is required, but an imposing sensuous spectacle is presented to the eye, which does not make such a demand on one’s attention as entirely to exclude a little chit chat, while yet the duties of the occasion are not neglected" — Hegel on Catholicism.)

While "he holds no formal religious beliefs," the baron has not substituted them, as have many men of science, with blind faith in the god Progress, as suggested by his most recent book, in which he "argued that civilization likely will suffer a severe setback in the next century," suggesting "that humans, with their interconnected world vulnerable to disruption, have no more than a 50-50 chance of surviving until 2100 without some sort of serious event or problem linked to technology or the environment" — Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century--On Earth and Beyond.

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Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Reminds me of something Richard M. Weaver once wrote about the conservative approach to religion. Part of it is motivated by piety, but part of it is motivated by a respect for one's ancestors and their wisdom. Will have to go to the bookcase and find the exact quote later. But the astronomer here seems to embody the second part of Weaver's observation.

2:28 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Thank you. Weaver is, as usual, spot on.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Absolutely. He was a huge Lincoln fan, by the way. So much so that even an unreconstructed Jeffersonian like Clyde Wilson has written that one of Weaver's main intellectual projects was to synthesize Lincoln's insights with those of the Southern tradition. The only reason that didn't happen was Weaver's early and untimely passing. Sigh. Would have been a great contribution by Weaver -- a capstone to an intellectual life of great contributions!

I have had the privilege of visiting Weaver's gravesite in Weaverville, NC, and seeing the house that he lived in there. A very pretty little grave, in a small, neglected cemetery off the main town road.

1:20 AM  

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.