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Three more views round out week exploring ‘Journey’

By Nikki Lanka
The Chautauquan Daily

June 28, 2013

The Chinese symbol xin, pronounced “sheen,” has two definitions: heart and mind.

“Isn’t that concept incredible?” Mary Evelyn Tucker asked in Monday’s Interfaith Lecture.

According to the teachings of Confucianism, the synthesis of heart and mind, or of feelings and rationale, need not be viewed as separate entities. Rather, what feels right in the heart should affect what is in the mind — a humanitarian principle that should inform one’s perspective of the universe.

Tucker will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Amphitheater on how the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucius are related to the universe. The  program will also feature lecturers discussing Daosim and environmental ethics.

“Confucianism is one of the rare traditions that says … you are cultivating yourself not just for your own salvation or spirituality,” Tucker said, “but to give back to the world, and for the common good.”

Tucker and her husband John Grim, who spoke at Tuesday’s Interfaith Lecture, founded the Forum on Religion and Ecology, a series of 10 conferences on world religions and ecology.

“We’re saying science and policy are necessary but not sufficient to solve these problems,” Tucker said. “Religions need to be part of the dialogue, and they too are incomplete without dialogue between science and policy and economics.”

Confucianism and Daoism both originated in China. Daoists emphasize the “Dao,” meaning “the way,” a life force present in all existence.

James Miller, associate professor of religious studies at Queen’s University, will speak on Daoist views of the universe. Daoist teachings on the fluid, cyclical nature of life are founded on the inevitability of change.

“To be alive means to be changing and growing and transforming,” Miller said.

Contrary to the practices of many western religions, a Daoists’ relationship with the Dao is impersonal. Miller calls this distinction a main reason for the clash between religion and science. He added that he didn’t fully understand this difference before studying Daoism in his youth.

“I think we expect religions to be things that are conservative or traditional or happened a long time ago,” Miller said.

As new ideas surface, Miller said, religions have a tendency to evolve. In many ways, Daoism is harmonious with evolution, teaching that all creation is related — a notion found in “Journey of the Universe.”

“[Daoism] can provide for a kind of religion and spirituality that is in some ways quite compatible with this modern scientific understanding of our place in the world,” Miller said.

In her lecture, Lisa Sideris, associate professor at Indiana University’s religious studies department, will also address the fusion of religion and science, as well as environmental ethics.

“It seems to me that many of the questions that arise in environmental ethics, at least some of the most vexing, can be seen as emerging within the intersection of science and religion,” Sideris said.

Even though some faiths may not teach environmentalism, people may become passionate about it for other reasons. Sideris used the example that many conservative Christians support environmental awareness in the name of posterity, the innocent and the impoverished.

“Focusing on these values may never get them all the way to affirming some sort of intrinsic value or sacredness in nature,” she said, “but at least some common goals can be seen.”

Neither science nor religion alone can satisfy nature’s importance, Sideris stressed, echoing both Tucker and Miller.

The symbol for xin cannot be understood without the combination of two definitions, and neither can the universe. It is the fusion of science and religion, the lecturers believe, which unveils its significance.

“Science is necessary but not sufficient for informing and motivating environmental behaviors,” she said. “A healthy diversity of religious stories and perspectives is needed to bring people to the discussion of nature’s value.”


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