Cyber Corpse 2
Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
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Becoming the Creator: Faith and Science in the New Millennium
by Duncan M. Dwyer

Well it seems that we're at it again. Recently, in our latest attempt to find god in the details, a team of botanical scientists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered what they believe to be indisputable proof that the Shroud of Turin is the real deal.

In a study which media types couldn't resist the urge to deem "an intersection between science and religion," scientists dated the pollen and plant specimens embedded in the shroud to somewhere before the eighth century. These findings are in direct conflict with carbon dating tests of 1988 that "conclusively" determined the Shroud to have originated around the thirteenth century. Additionally, the new tests conveniently exclude any region of the world OTHER THAN Jerusalem as the geographic origin of the plants found on the shroud.

Setting aside momentarily the issues of who conducted these research studies, and the media's (and public's) fascination with anything even quasi-religious, it seems fairly reasonable to ask how these two studies could have come to such vastly different conclusions.

It's probably also pertinent to ask why, exactly, the faithful are so hell bound on finding scientific "proof" to support their spiritual beliefs. I certainly remember long Sunday-school afternoons in the basement of St. Mary's church where questions concerning the big issues of life and death were answered by faith alone. Where has the church found itself when it goes looking for answers from the very scientific community that it always portrayed as godless and heretical? The answer seems to be as simple as the TV terms we use to describe it: we really are at a crossroads between process and belief, between proof and faith, and between science and religion.

One needs only look as far as the public panic over the recent cloning of farm animals in Scotland to get a true sense of where we stand. Our reaction to the news of a cloned sheep was not thoughtful reflection on the potential progress we could make in the fields of organ replacement and disease fighting, but a fiery knee-jerk response that had even the president calling for immediate bans on the procedure.

Not a month had passed since the immaculate conception of Dolly before ethicists had concluded we were walking on dangerous ground, moralists had determined that we were playing god, and Richard Seed had vowed to create the first human clone sometime this decade. There was virtually no agreement between the different camps, but everyone seemed to fall securely into theirs. What was overlooked, however, was the seemingly overwhelming opinion that what we had accomplished, for better of for worse, was virtually godlike. Perhaps unwittingly, we had become the creator.

From the first time that we made the decision to use science to "prove " the authenticity of the shroud, we were opening ourselves up to serious ethical roadblocks. We might be able to test the fabric and count in half-lives the years since its creation, but how could that ever contribute to a true believer 's faith? We could analyze blood samples taken from the cloth and determine that Jesus Christ's blood type was AB, but how would that bit of trivia convert even a single disbeliever? The truth of the matter is that science has no place in supplementing god; it can only serve to replace him.

I know that there is a whole movement of people who believe exactly the opposite of what I have just stated, I understand that many feel that science is only the expression of god, and by its non-partial approach to explaining the world (and atom is neither good nor bad & it just is), it allows religion to be the voice of morality and ethics in an otherwise commandment-less universe. To this, I would answer only with the simple idiom which claims that if we can do it, we will, or conversely that the only thing stopping us from carrying out all of the duties outlined in god's job description is that we have yet to figure them all out.

It is with this in mind that I propose we cast aside these stepping stone ethical arguments and really get down to the meat of the matter. There is no point in wasting our time debating the place of science in religion and our role in the universe as creators, when we will, ultimately, do exactly what we are capable of anyway. It's time that we make a leap of faith. It is time that we seriously consider taking blood samples from the Shroud of Turin and cloning Jesus.

Now I'm not necessarily saying that I support this idea. I am only interested in cutting to the chase and getting this issue out of the way. In fact, in the interest of marking this most important event in human history, I propose that we "conceive" Jesus on January 1st, 2000. That should really get the doomsday fanatics worked up, and will provide for one hell of a first page in our post-second coming history books.

So months from now when the pundits and provocateurs are seriously pondering this issue, just remember that you heard it here first. That way, when the rivers start flowing blood and the heavens starts raining down fire, you 'll know whom to blame.

Duncan M. Dwyer is an Internet Programmer living and working in Waterville Maine.

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