When the Dalai Lama presented a lecture to the world's largest group of brain scientists in Washington last week, he exposed secularism at its worst on at least two counts.
A number of scientists in the host group, the Society for Neuroscience, were furious that a religious figure would be given such a prominent platform. Hundreds signed a letter of protest. Religion, they said, had no place in such a setting.
But the society's invitation stood, and many in the group went gaga over their very politically correct guest. Indeed, the Buddhist icon reportedly spends quite a bit of time in such settings. "He has been very interested in investigating the brain function of monks who have practiced for many, many years," said Richard Davidson, a professor from the University of Wisconsin, "to investigate how their brain function might have been changed by their practice."
And Susan Lazar, a Ph.D. researcher at Harvard, assured National Public Radio, "There are lots of parallels between Buddhist philosophy and Western scientific philosophy." Then she protected herself just a bit: "Definitely there are some exceptions-reincarnation being one of them."
The scientists make themselves look foolish, as I say, on two counts:
First, in the stubborn insistence of so many of them that there must exist an impenetrable wall of separation between religion and science. And second, in their mindless arbitrariness when they decide it is just fine to break Rule No. 1.
Nor is it just the scientists who make themselves look silly on these fronts. The secular media and the secular educational establishment are of the same mindset-regularly excluding thoughtful religious insights when they want to, but bringing them back in another door whenever that pleases.
All this was evident last week-with the scientists, with the educators, and with their media counterparts-with reference to the continuing discussion about "intelligent design." For the vast majority of them, the Intelligent Design idea is only a stalking horse for fundamentalist religion, and must be kept outside at all costs.
Even the Dalai Lama says, in a recent book, that "if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims."
Yet he has some limits, and rejects so-called scientific materialism. The Dalai won't accept the idea that consciousness is no more than a series of chemical reactions in our brains. That, he notes, wouldn't allow for reincarnation.
For now, then, it all depends on who sets the rules-and who controls the invitation list for speakers for the big scientific, educational, and media conferences.
Two champions of practical Christian worldview thinking-both of them fast friends of WORLD magazine-died last week.
Lanny Moore was a member of the board that first asked me to join this organization nearly 30 years ago. When I proposed a publishing venture for children, explaining news and current events from a Christian perspective, he was one of two board members who caught the vision immediately and backed it with both enthusiasm and venture capital. Lanny believed devoutly in Christian education at every level (he chaired the board of Covenant Theological Seminary), but served energetically as well on the board of the county public-school system in Ft. Myers, Fla. He was an extraordinary businessman and a generous steward of all that with which God blessed him. "Without faith," he reminded us again and again, "it is impossible to please God." He is survived by a remarkable family committed to carrying on his stretching vision.
Rudolph Schmidt was both my uncle and the adviser I respected and trusted the most on any subject. He too was passionate about Christian education, serving for 36 years as dean of records at Covenant College. Just as passionately, he was committed to reaching out to the poor and needy. He was a founder of New City Fellowship in Chattanooga, a congregation that gave multiculturalism a good name with its robust and full-orbed outreach. Over the years, he and my Aunt Collyn used their home to entertain thousands of guests from every tribe and nation; all of them knew their welcome was real and personal. With no children of his own, Rudy Schmidt was survived last week by 103 of us nephews and nieces-and thousands more who happily claimed such a relationship in an honorary way.