Friday, June 20, 2008

A Universe In Harmony

I just couldn't resist posting this video from YouTube. It's called The Hubble Deep Field for the pictures returned by the Hubble telescope of the farthest reaches of our univers.

All spiritual traditions look up into the sky at night with awe and amazment. You'll feel it too after watching this six-and-a-half minute video that shows just how breathtaking - not to mention unfathomably large - the universe really is.

"In 2003, the Hubble Space Telescope took the image of a millenium, an image that shows our place in the universe. Anyone who understands what this image represents, is forever changed by it."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes and Rio Declaration On Environment And Development

Here again is something a bit different than a post on religions; it's about spirits trying to be in environmental harmony; that is, the United Nations General Assembly providing us with 27 principles designed to save and protect the people and the planet.

First, here is a video, an impassioned plea from a young lady who would like some assurance that there will be enough clean air, clear water, and unpolluted food to support the lives of her own children and grandchildren. She made this plea in 1992.

That's right, 16 years ago. Watch this six and a half minute video, then read the Principles that were published by the U. N. General Assembly, and come to your own conclusion as to whether we have stepped up or turned our backs when it comes to protecting the environment and our future generations.

United Nations

General Assembly



(Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992)

Annex I



The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,

Having met at Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992,

Reaffirming the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human

Environment, adopted at Stockholm on 16 June 1972, a/ and seeking to build upon it,

With the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among States, key sectors of societies and people,

Working towards international agreements which respect the interests of all and protect the integrity of the global environmental and developmental system,

Recognizing the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our home,

Proclaims that:

Principle 1

Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

Principle 2

States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Principle 3

The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.

Principle 4

In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.

Principle 5

All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.

Principle 6

The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special priority. International actions in the field of environment and development should also address the interests and needs of all countries.

Principle 7

States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth's ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.

Principle 8

To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all

people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production

and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.

Principle 9

States should cooperate to strengthen endogenous capacity-building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge, and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.

Principle 10

Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.

Principle 11

States shall enact effective environmental legislation. Environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and developmental context to which they apply. Standards applied by some countries may be inappropriate and of unwarranted economic and social cost to other countries, in particular developing countries.

Principle 12

States should cooperate to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead to economic growth and sustainable development in all countries, to better address the problems of environmental degradation. Trade policy measures for environmental purposes should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. Unilateral actions to deal with environmental challenges outside the jurisdiction of the importing country should be avoided. Environmental measures addressing transboundary or global environmental problems should, as far as possible, be based on an international consensus.

Principle 13

States shall develop national law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage. States shall also cooperate in an expeditious and more determined manner to develop further international law regarding liability and compensation for adverse effects of environmental damage caused by activities within their jurisdiction or control to areas beyond their jurisdiction.

Principle 14

States should effectively cooperate to discourage or prevent the relocation and transfer to other States of any activities and substances that cause severe environmental degradation or are found to be harmful to human health.

Principle 15

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Principle 16

National authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.

Principle 17

Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.

Principle 18

States shall immediately notify other States of any natural disasters or other emergencies that are likely to produce sudden harmful effects on the environment of those States. Every effort shall be made by the international community to help States so afflicted.

Principle 19

States shall provide prior and timely notification and relevant information to potentially affected States on activities that may have a significant adverse transboundary environmental effect and shall consult with those States at an early stage and in good faith.

Principle 20

Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.

Principle 21

The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.

Principle 22

Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.

Principle 23

The environment and natural resources of people under oppression, domination and occupation shall be protected.

Principle 24

Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary.

Principle 25

Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.

Principle 26

States shall resolve all their environmental disputes peacefully and by appropriate means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Principle 27

States and people shall cooperate in good faith and in a spirit of partnership in the fulfilment of the principles embodied in this Declaration and in the further development of international law in the field of sustainable development.


This document has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.

Date last updated: 12 January, 2000 by DESA/DSD
Copyright © 1999 United Nations

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Evolution and Religion in 1902 - still worlds apart

Normally I post articles here showing the similarities between various religious groups.

Today, I have something a little different, an essay written in 1902 showing the compatibility between the Scientific Theory of Evolution and Religion. It's hard to believe we still have not made progress, and in fact have seemed to lose ground, over the last 100 years.

The original article was just three large paragraphs. I have broken it into many smaller ones for the sake of readability in this narrow space.

Check out the drawing at the end, too. It's unrelated to the article, but sure puts a different spin on the arguement!

Classics in the History of Psychology

An internet resource developed by
Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario
ISSN 1492-3713

Herbert Spencer's Service to Religion

By John Fiske (1902)

First published in Essays Historical and Literary, New York, II, pp. 232-237.
Reprinted in G. Daniels (Ed.) (1968). Darwinism comes to America. Waltham, MA: Blaisdell, pp. 106-110.

All religions agree in the two following assertions, one of which is of speculative and one of which is of ethical importance. One of them serves to sustain and harmonize our thoughts about the world we live in, and our place in that world; the other serves to uphold us in our efforts to do each what we can to make human life more sweet, more full of goodness and beauty, than we find it.

The first of these assertions is the proposition that the things and events of the world do not exist or occur blindly or irrelevantly, but that all, from the beginning to the end of time, and throughout the furthest sweep of illimitable space, are connected together as the orderly manifestations of a divine Power, and that this divine Power is something outside of ourselves, and upon it our own existence from moment to moment depends.

The second of these assertions is the proposition that men ought to do certain things, and ought to refrain from doing certain other things; and that the reason why some things are wrong to do and other things are right to do is in some mysterious, but very real, way connected with the existence and nature of this divine Power, which reveals itself in every great and every tiny thing, without which not a star courses in its mighty orbit, and not a sparrow falls to the ground. Matthew Arnold once summed up these two propositions very well when he defined God as "an eternal Power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness."

This twofold assertion, that there is an eternal Power that is not ourselves, and that this Power makes for righteousness, is to be found, either in a rudimentary or in a highly developed state, in all known religions.... I said, a moment ago, that modern civilized men will all acknowledge that this two-sided assertion, in which all religions agree, is of far greater importance than any of the superficial points in which religions differ.

It is really of much more concern to us that there is an eternal Power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness, than that such a Power is onefold or threefold in its metaphysical nature, or that we ought not to play cards on Sunday, or to eat meat on Friday. No one, I believe, will deny so simple and clear a statement as this. But it is not only we modern men, who call ourselves enlightened, that will agree to this. I doubt not even the narrow-minded bigots of days now happily gone by would have been made to agree to it if they could have had some doggedly persistent Socrates to cross-question them....

What men in past times have really valued in their religion has been the universal twofold assertion that there is a God, who is pleased with the sight of the just man and is angry with the wicked every day, and when men have fought with one another, and murdered or calumniated one another for heresy about the Trinity or about eating meat on Friday, it has been because they have supposed belief in the non-essential doctrines to be inseparably connected with belief in the essential doctrine.

In spite of all this, however, it is true that in the mind of the uncivilized man, the great central truths of religion are so densely overlaid with hundreds of trivial notions respecting dogma and ritual, that his perception of the great central truths is obscure. These great central truths, indeed, need to be clothed in a dress of little rites and superstition, in order to take hold of his dull and untrained intelligence. But in proportion as men become more civilized, and learn to think more accurately, and to take wider views of life, just so do they come to value the essential truths of religion more highly, while they attach less and less importance to superficial details.

Having thus seen what is meant by the essential truths of religion, it is very easy to see what the attitude of the doctrine of evolution is toward these essential truths. It asserts and reiterates them both; and it asserts them not as dogmas handed down to us by priestly tradition, not as mysterious intuitive convictions of which we can render no account to ourselves, but as scientific truths concerning the innermost constitution of the universe -- truths that have been disclosed by observation and reflection, like other scientific truths, and that accordingly harmonize naturally and easily with the whole body of our knowledge.

The doctrine of evolution asserts, as the widest and deepest truth which the study of nature can disclose to us, that there exists a power to which no limit in time or space is conceivable, and that all the phenomena of the universe, whether they be what we call material or what we call spiritual phenomena, are manifestations of this infinite and eternal Power.

Now this assertion, which Mr. Spencer has so elaborately set forth as a scientific truth -- nay, as the ultimate truth of science, as the truth upon which the whole structure of human knowledge philosophically rests -- this assertion is identical with the assertion of an eternal Power, not ourselves, that forms the speculative basis of all religions.

When Carlyle speaks of the universe as in very truth the stardome city of God, and reminds us that through every crystal and through every grass blade, but most through every living soul, the glory of a present God still beams, he means pretty much the same thing that Mr. Spencer means, save that he speaks with the language of poetry, with language coloured by emotion, and not with the precise, formal, and colourless language of science.

By many critics who forget that names are but the counters rather than the hard money of thought, objections have been raised to the use of such a phrase as the Unknowable, whereby to describe the power that is manifest in every event of the universe. Yet, when the Hebrew prophet declared that "by him were laid the foundations of the deep," but reminded us "Who by searching can find him out!" he meant pretty much what Mr. Spencer means when he speaks of a power that is inscrutable in itself, yet is revealed from moment to moment in every throb of the mighty rhythmic life of the universe.

And this brings me to the last and most important point of all. What says the doctrine of evolution with regard to the ethical side of this twofold assertion that lies at the bottom of all religion?

Though we cannot fathom the nature of the inscrutable Power that animates the world, we know, nevertheless, a great many things that it does.

Does this eternal Power, then, work for righteousness? Is there a divine sanction of holiness and a divine condemnation for sin? Are the principles of right living really connected with the intimate constitution of the universe?

If the answer of science to these questions be affirmative, then the agreement with religion is complete, both on the speculative and on the practical side; and that phantom which has been the abiding terror to timid and superficial minds -- that phantom of the hostility between religion and science--is exorcised now and forever.

Now, science began to return a decisively affirmative answer to such questions as these when it began, with Mr. Spencer, to explain moral beliefs and moral sentiments as products of evolution. For clearly, when you say of a moral belief or a moral sentiment, that it is a product of evolution, you imply that it is something which the universe through untold ages has been labouring to bring forth, and you ascribe to it a value proportionate to the enormous effort it has cost to produce it.

Still more, when with Spencer we study the principles of right living as part and parcel of the whole doctrine of the development of life upon the earth; when we see that in an ultimate analysis that is right which tends to enhance fulness of life, and that is wrong which tends to detract from fulness of life -- we then see that the distinction between right and wrong is rooted in the deepest foundations of the universe; we see that the very same forces, subtle, and exquisite, and profound, which brought upon the scene the primal germs of life and caused them to unfold, which through countless ages of struggle and death has cherished the life that could live more perfectly and destroyed the life that could only live less perfectly, until humanity, with all its hopes, and fears, and aspirations, has come into being as the crown of all this stupendous work -- we see that these very same subtle and exquisite forces have wrought into the very fibres of the universe those principles of right living which it is man's highest function to put into practice.

The theoretical sanction thus given to right living is incomparably the most powerful that has ever been assigned in any philosophy of ethics. Human responsibility is made more strict and solemn than ever, when the eternal Power that lives in every event of the universe is thus seen to be in the deepest possible sense the author of the moral law that should guide our lives, and in obedience to which lies our only guarantee of the happiness which is incorruptible -- which neither inevitable misfortune nor unmerited obloquy can ever take away.

I have but barely touched upon a rich and suggestive topic. When this subject shall once have been expounded and illustrated with due thoroughness -- as I earnestly hope it will be within the next few years -- then I am sure it will be generally acknowledged that our great teacher's services to religion have been no less signal than his services to science, unparalleled as these have been in all the history of the world.

End quote.

What if. . .