Tag Archives: Science-meets-Theology

Mercy and truth

Doing science and seeking truth may be occasionally unkind to others. Watching a beautiful movie (“Babette’s Feast“, Oscar 1988) I was deeply moved by the speech of the officer Lorens Löwenhjelm about “Barmherzigkeit und Wahrheit” or “mercy and truth” – it goes back to

Ps 85:10 (KJ) Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Also Martin Luther found that remarkable as well as Wolfgang Huber. Yea, yea.

Aleph (Codex Sinaiticus) online in 2009

So far we could admire the wonderful Gutenberg bible in Göttingen (1454)


Current students of theology seem to have much better tools… The exciting news are that Codex Sinaiticus (dating back to 350?) is currently being digitized where NT and half of AT will be available in 2 years or so.
In 1844 Konstantin von Tischendorf discovered the Codex in a paper basket at Saint Catherine monastery of Mount Sinai (I also visited the monastery some years ago but did not find anything useful in the basket). He was allowed to take 43 of the 129 sheets to Leipzig. On another visit he discovered even more papers that were donated to Tsar Alexander. In 1933 former USSR sold 347 sheets to the Britische Museum in London, 6 sheets are still in St. Petersburg. In 1975 another 38 pages were found that are still Saint Catherine. At the moment British Library London, Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig, Russian National Library St. Petersburg and Saint Catherine work together for a digital edition of the manuscript including the use of hyperspectral imaging to uncover erased or faded text. This is quite important as Codex Sinaiticus (together with Codex Vaticanus) has heavily influenced our textus receptus.


Exodus of science from Germany after 1933

A book that crossed my desk only very recently is about the exodus of science from Berlin after 1933. As a child I never understood the second commandment when God said to Mose that

Ex 20:4 I am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

I always thought the idea to be unfair to be under collective guilt. Nevertheless when reading this book (published already in 1994 by Walter de Gruyter) we get a deeper meaning how science is affected for many generations by the displacement of the most prominent scientists.
Particular important in this book is the first chapter of Hubenstorf and Walther that highlights the situation in Berlin. Following world war I, Berlin had become the indisputable center of most scientific disciplines in the German speaking territory. In some disciplines Leipzig, Vienna or Munich may have been competitors, economics had been strong in Kiel, mathematics and physics in Göttingen, history in Marburg, however, for most scientists Berlin had been the highly desired “endpoint” of their career. he Friedrich-Wilhelms university had been the largest university, but there have been many more science organizations like Technical University Charlottenburg, Deutsche Hochschule für Politik, Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften and Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft (that is covered in more detail in another excellent chapter).
Medicine has been hit hardest during the Nazi period by having a large number of Jewish scientists. The resulting repercussions in the realm of science are described at different levels. Starting with a typology of transformation of scientific institutions, the establishment of new disciplines and the establishment of a military science sector, the autors give many historical details about the ways of scientific publishing or the organization of displaced scientists.
The cancer research department of the medical faculty fired 12 or 13 scientists; the hygiene institute dismissed 8 of 12 scientists including later Noble prize winner Erwin Chargaff. Hospital Lankwitz fired all physicians, Neukölln 67%, Freidrichshain 62% and Moabit 56%.
It is a terrible story – you can read how the editor of the Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift Paul Osswald Wolff was replaced by a Nazi supporter. Karger publisher even moved from Berlin to Basel (where they still reside today).
As any good science is strongly connected to teaching it may be understood that breaking this tradition has lead to a punishing of the children for the sin of the fathers to the third a fourth generation. Science politicians may even recognize the downside of spending money into science: they will be blessed by thousands of generations.


Tit-for-tat or altruism in science

No, this essay will not deal with altruism in science but with the science of altruism. There are two new papers from the Fehr group (one in Science on Nov, 3 about diminished reciprocal fairness after magnetic stimulation of the right prefrontal cortex and a second in Nature on Aug, 24 about altruism in two indigenous groups in Papua New Guinea). I was, however, much more impressed by their recent review of human altruism.
Cooperation between genetically unrelated groups is a typical human behaviour (otherwise seen only in ants, bees and the naked mole rat) where there seems a strong reciprocity between selfishness and altruism. Cooperation is rarely stable and may deteriorate under worse conditions. Altruistic rewarding and reputation seeking seem to be the most powerful determinants of future donors’ behaviour where effects of punishing behaviour seem to be underestimated: Cooperation in larger group continues only if punishment of defectors and non-punishers is possible.


Genetic code and God’s language -cont’d-

There is a new book by Francis Collins “The language of God“, one of the leading persons in human genome sequencing. As the commentary says:
Continue reading Genetic code and God’s language -cont’d-