Thursday, October 06, 2005

The real Science vs. Religion issue: A Farewell to Arms

The current debate over evolution by natural selection or intelligent design is ultimately a futile exercise. Even if it was possible to prove the issue from either side - and it isn’t - whatever processes shape life don’t need our endorsement.

Where we can and should affect the outcome of the science and religion debate is the issue of weapons of mass destruction.

An advisory board task force, commissioned by the Department of Energy, has recently recommended the U.S. redesign its Cold War-based nuclear arsenal so as to meet this deeply religious president’s vision of smaller, more dependable and more lethal weapons. (See www.seab.energy.gov/news.htm, but take a deep breath first)

Never mind that we face adversaries who carry bombs in tennis shoes, that we have already burdened our descendants with unconscionable debts, and that even nature appears to be tiring of our presence on the planet (expressed by tsunamis, hurricanes and bird flu). Now the neo-Strangelove’s among us want to start a new arms race (against tennis shoe-clad adversaries), but are conscientious enough to suggest moving the operation away from Livermore, California so as to avoid ‘a threat to the civilian community.’ (No point harming civilians til the weapons are used.)

Between1945 and 1990, the U.S. and Soviet Union between them spent, by some estimates, over $10 trillion to research, design and produce 50,000+ nuclear warheads, many still in place and on hair-trigger alert. And from the U.S. side, all of those dollar bills bore the inscription “In God We Trust” (though apparently not enough). And all of those dollars and rubles came at the expense of the public’s health, education and well-being.

If we want to make the science/religion debate meaningful, this is the arena where we must put a stake in the ground. For sixty years, we have all been too silent in the face of this unconscionable waste of natural, intellectual, financial and moral resources. It must stop, once and for all. Even the Cold War argument that “They have them, so we need them” is meaningless today.

Ninety percent of wars now are religiously motivated, and 90 percent of the victims are civilians. There are no more ‘just wars.’ The only way war will stop is to make it so unprofitable that the merchants of death will have to look elsewhere for investment opportunities. We must hold personally accountable the bankers, the politicians, the warriors, the churchmen and the others who promote and profit from the very real risk of biocide – the death of life itself on the planet.

The lines are oddly drawn. Many military men, scientists and engineers are against this DoE project, even as some clergy favor it as hastening the ‘rapture’ and the end-times.

In every pulpit, every classroom, every public square, and in a tsunami of emails to representatives, we, the people must at last say ‘Enough. This stops now!’

The path will no doubt parallel what Gandhi noted in his struggle: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they beat you up, and then you win.

But if we do not shut down this undertaking, the issue of further evolution of life on the planet, either by natural selection or intelligent design, will be moot.

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