30 novembre 2005

Fundamentalists 'threaten scientific progress'

Outgoing Royal Society president lambasts dogma
Groups accused of putting beliefs above evidence
Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian

An upsurge in fundamentalism is seriously threatening the role of science in shaping the modern world, Britain's most senior scientist will warn today.
In a valedictory speech to mark the end of his five year presidency of the Royal Society, Lord May of Oxford will claim that fundamentalist thought in all its guises, from religious beliefs to the ideologies of green lobby groups, is skewing debates over some of the most pressing issues facing humanity, such as climate change and emerging diseases.
Such is the influence of groups that ignore or misinterpret scientific evidence, that the core values that underpinned the Enlightenment and led to "free, open, unprejudiced, uninhibited questioning and inquiry, individual liberty and separation of church and state" are being eroded, Lord May believes.
In his address to the society, titled Threats to Tomorrow's World, Lord May will criticise groups for putting their own traditions, unsupported beliefs and dogmas above scientific evidence. "Fundamentalism doesn't necessarily derive from sacred texts. It's where a belief trumps a fact and refuses to confront the facts.
"All ideas should be open to questioning, and the merit of ideas should be assessed on the strength of evidence that supports them and not on the credentials or affiliations of the individuals proposing them. It is not a recipe for a comfortable life, but it is demonstrably a powerful engine for understanding how the world actually works and for applying this understanding," he will say.
The problem is most prominent in the debate over climate change, Lord May claims, comparing the climate change denial lobby, which is "funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars" by the petroleum industry, with the tobacco lobby, which continues to deny that smoking causes lung cancer. The green groups were not spared criticism."We need to recognise that on the one hand there are huge problems with nuclear energy, while on the other hand there are huge problems with putting carbon into the atmosphere." It was hard to see renewable energy replacing nuclear power "on the timescale we need."
Lord May is particularly critical of the Catholic church and its comments on the use of condoms, which are proven to reduce the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. "The Vatican in particular promotes abstinence outside marriage, and condemns condom use. This disapproval, for all its putative high-mindedness, simply is not an effective strategy for preventing dissemination of HIV."
The speech warns of the emerging problem of creationism being taught in school science lessons as a theory on equal footing with evolution. Lord May called on scientists to be more proactive in making their voices heard.
"Sadly, for many, the response is to retreat from complexity and difficulty by embracing the darkness of fundamentalist unreason. The scientific community should be energetically engaging the political process in all the avenues that can be pursued." He urged scientists to be "more energetic as citizens and getting out there and trying to convince people".
Lord May, an Oxford University professor of zoology, stands down as president of the Royal Society today, making way for Professor Sir Martin Rees, the Cambridge University-based Astronomer Royal.

Limbo consigned to history books

The Times
From Richard Owen in Rome
THE Pope is set to abolish the concept of Limbo, overturning a belief held by Roman Catholics since the Middle Ages.
Limbo has long been held to be the place where the souls of children go if they die before they can be baptised. However, a 30-strong international commission of theologians summoned by the late John Paul II last year to come up with a “more coherent and illuminating” doctrine in tune with the modern age is to present its findings to Pope Benedict XVI on Friday.
Vatican sources said yesterday that the commission would recommend that Limbo be replaced by the more “compassionate” doctrine that all children who die do so “in the hope of eternal salvation”.
There is little doubt that the Pope will agree. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he presided over the commission’s first sessions. He is on record as saying that Limbo has no place in modern Catholicism. In 1984, he told Vittorio Messori, the Catholic author, that Limbo had “never been a definitive truth of the faith”.
He said: “Personally, I would let it drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis.” The commission is currently chaired by Archbishop William Levada of the United States, appointed by the Pope in May to be his successor as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In Christian doctrine, Heaven is a state of union with God, while Hell is separation from God. Christians have long wrestled, however, with the thorny question of what happened to those who died before Jesus, who “brought Man salvation”, as well as the fate after death of children who die in the womb.
Although there is no basis for it in Scripture the traditional answer is Limbo, from the Latin limbus, meaning a hem, edge or boundary. It is described as the temporary resting place of “the souls of good persons who died before the resurrection of Jesus” (limbus patrum) and the permanent home in the afterlife of “the unbaptised who die in infancy without having been freed from original sin” (limbus infantium).

Après la 'réhabilitation' de Galilée par JP2, saluons un nouveau progrès de l'Eglise Caholique. Il lui reste néanmoins beaucoup de chemin avant de rattraper les réalités modernes.

Un Marocain voulait ouvrir un compte avec un billet d'un million de dollars

RABAT (AFP) - Un Marocain de 32 ans a été placé en garde à vue après avoir tenté d'ouvrir un compte bancaire en présentant un billet d'un million de dollars.L'homme s'était présenté récemment à un guichet de la Société Générale Marocaine de Banques (SGMB) à Rabat avec ce billet en affirmant vouloir établir une société de verrerie. L'employé éberlué a appelé sa direction qui a recommandé au client de présenter sa "devise" à la Banque du Maroc (Banque centrale), a indiqué mercredi un responsable de la police.
L'individu s'y est rendu et a présenté son billet qui s'est avéré être un tract publicitaire représentant un chèque libellé en dollars. Il a expliqué qu'il voulait monter son entreprise avec un Saoudien, mais ce dernier a été mis hors de cause.
Selon la police, il risque dix ans de prison pour usage de faux.

Un traitement pour crédulité maladive serait plus approprié.