Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blessed be He who has imparted His wisdom to His creatures

Sacks and Watson were both awarded Hon Degrees
from Cambridge in the same ceremony in 1993
(photos from Chief Rabbinate and Wikipedia)

There are more gems from The Great Partnership though of course I don't agree with everything he says:
  • Curiosity leads to science, but it also leads to questions unanswerable by science. The search for God is the search for meaning.
  • Wittgenstein wrote: "The sense of the world must lie outside the world" (Tractatus 6.41)
  • Imagine what it would take to explain to someone who had no conception of money, what is involved in withdrawing cash from a dispensing machine. He might watch the process a thousand times, understand precisely the physical properties of the ...card and the ...machine, and still have no idea what had taken place.
  • Monotheism was...the discovery of a God beyond the universe. This idea, and this alone, has the power to redeem life from tragedy and meaninglessness.
  • We cannot prove that life is meaningful and that God exists. But neither can we prove that love is better than hate...Almost none of the truths by which we live are provable.
  • The world as conceived... by the new atheists is recognisably the world of ancient Greece in the third pre-Christian century, the age of the Stoics, Sceptics, Cynics and above all the Epicureans.
  • Western civilisation was born in the synthesis between Athens and Jerusalem brought about by Pauline Christianity and the conversion of Emperor Constantine...It was an astonishing, improbable event and it eventually transformed the world.
  • "Who are you" asks Moses. God replies, cryptically, Ehyeh asher ehyeh. This was translated into Greek as ego eimi ho on and into Latin as ego sum qui sum meaning "I am who I am" or "I am he who is"...But this is the God of...the philosophers, not the God of Abraham and the prophets. Ehyeh asher ehyeh means "I will be what, where or how I will be"., {Though with great trepidation I must gently point out that Lord Sacks knows so well that he doesn't feel the need to tell his readers that it isn't that simple. In Biblical Hebrew there are just two tenses: perfect (v roughly past) and imperfect (v roughly present and future) so what he really means is "I am and will be what, where or how I am and will be"  But of course Lord Sacks is quite right that although God's essential nature doesn't change he really does interact dynamically with his creation - a point that the Greek philosophers didn't understand}
  • [receiving] an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University together with ... James Watson...gave me the opportunity of saying the ancient blessing...thanking God for bestowing wisdom on human beings. Essentially it is a blessing to be said on seeing a great scientist...The Talmud says it is to be said on seeing 'one of the sages of the nations of the world'. {The blessing runs "Blessed be He who has imparted His wisdom to His creatures"}

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