Room for both views
The following two letters are in response to an ongoing ethics discussion involving readers who have various perspectives on the “hows” and “whys” of science and theology.
There is never a corollary answer to “why” when science answers the question “how.” It is hardly a canard since the “why” question is beyond the scope of science. One only has to ask a child's question, such as “Why are there so many stars?” to understand that scientifically “how” and theologically “why” are very different. Science may explain how the stars got there by its evidence and theories, but never why. Just as science changes with the times and increased knowledge, so does theology build on itself and advance. Both views are necessary and beautiful.
Science, faith not mutually exclusive
Reader S. Scott Murray's response on the ethics of how versus why offered some viewpoints that require further discussion. Science and faith are not mutually exclusive, but can complement each other. Many of the scientific discoveries and breakthroughs in the past centuries were brought about by scientists of Christian faith. A prime example is Isaac Newton, who devoted a great deal of his time to theology. The fact that the big-eared elephant has a superior “heat exchanger” to dissipate its body heat does not lend proof to “evolution favored survival.” It could as well be interpreted as “intelligent design with purpose.”
Science deals with quantifiable mass and energy, but ethical and moral issues cannot be addressed by science alone. These issues are related to individual souls that include the mind, emotions, and will, which are all unquantifiable. We should be in awe knowing that so many physical constants are fine-tuned to support life on our planet. It is also a wonder that human beings desire to seek the meaning of their existence. The beauty of the universe should cause us to humble ourselves in practicing our profession.
Exploring energy efficiency starts now
Some interesting letters were included in your January issue, including a few on the topic of natural or manmade warming and waste. However, I think many people are missing the basic point. Most Americans are too wealthy to do anything about the problems that are beginning to arise. Gas prices go up, but not enough to significantly change our lifestyle. We use lots of water because we can afford to. We recycle so we can be “green” and it makes us feel good, but it does not have a real financial benefit.
If we are concerned about our carbon footprint we can buy a hybrid car, but at the back of our minds we know that the extra complexity and technology updates will mean that the purchase price and overall maintenance will cost just about all we save on gasoline. However, when we go on a long trip we can boast about how little gas we used. If we visit the Caribbean, we see every house has a solar hot water heater on the roof. This lifestyle uses a lot less water than the U.S. average and more people ride bicycles than drive cars. In Europe, houses have more insulation and are more energy efficient than in the U.S., and the cost of energy has an effect on that.
What can we do for our lifestyle and environment? Design efficient rooftop water heaters and backyard windmills. Create efficient digesters for our waste so we make energy there. Explore ways to generate electricity at home from all kinds of waste. All these ideas need motion control specialists to transport, contain, process, and dispose of the effluent in efficient and environmentally sound ways.
Many small things like this build a consciousness of change. Twenty years from now, if we have self-contained houses with no need to connect to the electricity grid, integral water purification, biowaste fertilizer, and homegrown organic produce, it will be because we embraced change in 2008.
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