Ralf Stuttgen’s Views and Perceptions

July 12, 2009 at 3:47 am (Catholic Church, malaria control, Papua New Guinea, philosophy, theology) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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On my recent visit to Papua New Guinea I had some far-reaching discussions with my friend, Ralf Stuttgen. Ralf has many interesting and discerning points of view which are worth airing in the hope that they can be commented on and further discussed by others.

 Our conversations ranged over theological, philosophical, educational and environmental questions and were tackled uniquely and insightfully by Ralf.

 Here are his views:

 Who and what is God? Any definition of God cannot be divorced from our material existence and humanity’s system of values. Fundamentally God is love and with this concept in mind no one with values is essentially an atheistic according to Ralf. By a stretch of the imagination most, I guess, could accept a principal power and reality in the universe named God or something else. Theological definitions must continually be refined and explained in modern terms. Objective truth is not just a question of what is right and what is wrong.

Symbol and myth reveal and divulge theological and ethical truths. Virginity is a symbol of divine wisdom and life is like the rising dawn. There is no doubt in Ralf’s mind that the essence of the Christian message is fundamentally sound, but the interpretation of the message needs to be refined and updated.

 Ralf looks at sin and an appropriate definition; Sin is any act where the damage is greater than the advantages. I suppose in a sense the end justifies the means. All acts have good and bad potentials. Untruths and lies are always involved with sin and the suppression of information. An ill-informed conscience cannot be an arbitrator of good and evil.

 Science fiction can be a useful tool for awakening future generations to development possibilities for in this genre humankind looks at the desirable and the possible.

 On the broad question of the economy, education and development Ralf continually stresses the primary importance of quality education. Any country without an educated population is doomed to a state of undevelopment. Even a state without abundant natural resources but with an educated population has the capacity for significant economic development, look at the South Korean economic miracle and compare this with Papua New Guinea, a country with vast natural resources and a seemingly inability to lift the standard of living for its population. Over the past thirty years or so South Korea has put in place a vibrant education and training programme throughout the country, whereas in PNG the state of education at all levels: primary, secondary, tertiary and technical training is at best poor and only available to a small percent of the population. The result being that South Korea exports the products of a technically advanced economy with vast returns to its educated and well governed population, whereas PNG is increasingly becoming a land that is largely being exploited for its resources by others. The country is plagued with inappropriate and destructive resource exploitation with little return to its people in general. One need only look at the logging and mining industries and the environmental hazards they are creating. Corrupt officials and politicians and overseas companies get their rewards but the uneducated masses get comparatively nothing. One example of poor governance and supervision in PNG is that 60% of the gold extracted from the country is exported illegally. This means that the state gets nothing for this valuable resource.

 Ralf is emphatic in his assertion that education is the solution to all the world’s problems.

Doing it right – Success   Doing it wrong – No Success

Education will improve public health. The most common cause of death is stupidity.

Education will protect the environment, stupidity leads to the killing of wildlife and even over-population. Governments must improve their education systems before they improve their health services. In British India the health services were better than the education services; result over-population.

 Education, Research and the Future

 Our biological, genetic and evolutionary future is tied up with education and new ideas.Let us look at some problems with new insights: Is Western Agriculture appropriate in undeveloped countries? Not always as it requires deforestation; more research is needed into methods of growing food. Humankind should be able to live off trees. The whole world could be covered with trees. Trees are a great source of starch and more research is needed to fully utilize them as food. Sensible conservation will protect the jungles of the world. In the past in PNG when the kunai grasslands were protected from burning it was noticed that the jungle trees come back. It is true to say our scientists need a broader education. 

General reflections

 Who does the Development Bank develop? Answer: The Development Bank. Only take out a loan when land and labour are there with future prospects to guarantee success. Look at the bind the West New Britain oil palm small holders are in trying to repay the Development Bank.

Indigenous people at least should be guaranteed health, fresh air and natural conditions.The reality is that indigenous people must adapt or vanish.The laws of evolution are there. In North America some indigenous people were known as little heads because of their small brain size. Presumably the evolutionary process had past them by. We must face the fact that some genes become outdated Will we in the future condone and allow some form of genetic engineering?

What was the principal cause of the fall of the Roman Empire? The Roman State did not have a Department of Education as an institution preserving and passing on knowledge to future generations.

Global warming has been going on for years, markedly since AD 400. Development and education are historically intertwined with changes of climate.

We must all learn to manage our health. Sleep is the most important anti-malarial. In the future humankind must learn to eat different foods.

The attempt to commercialize the production of sago in the Sepik will be a disaster. The keeping of cattle and wet rice growing are inappropriate as agricultural ventures in PNG as tasks associated with these endeavours are foreign to the people.

Managing rubbish is a problem for PNG towns and cities.

What is a Jew? Ralf looks at this broadly: There are ethnic Jews and theological Jews. Ethic Jews are those with a racial connection to Israel and theological Jews are all people of good will. This is in accord with God’s promise to Abraham:

Your descendants shall be as numerous as the stars in heaven. Your descendants will be as numerous as the sand on the seashore.

The ideas of a better world are not exclusively Jewish but also come from other ancient people such as the Persians and Egyptians. The big question was and is just how to achieve a better world? The answer will come from the chosen people who are all people of good will.

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Review of What Do We Know, What Can We Believe? Anglican News, March 2002

July 24, 2008 at 1:24 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

 

Review of What Do We Know, What Can We Believe? Anglican News, March 2002

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What Do We Know, What Can We Believe? (3)

May 15, 2008 at 4:42 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

 

What Do We Know, What Can We Believe?
“The love of God, the highest truth of religion, does not depend on acceptance of approved propositions. God is loved in spirit and truth not in propositions.”
                                                                                James Wall

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What Do We Know, What Can We Believe? (1)

May 15, 2008 at 4:42 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

 

What Do We Know, What Can We Believe?
 

James Wall starts his book by pointing out that when he was young he was told: “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.”

 

His friend, Tom Hayes at James’s funeral in 2004 said: ” It is only a short book but it covers a lot of ground. Typically of James, the English is pared to the bone.”

 

In this book the reader is taken on a philosophical, theological and scientific journey looking at what we know and what we can believe. 

 

The grist of what James writes broadly speaking goes along these lines: Philosophy seeks to understand the nature of reality,  an intellectual endeavour that is as dynamic as it is reflective. Belief is not knowledge and religions can and do change. “Of course, human beings have always adapted to changes.” “All depend totally on the earth.” ” Neither philosophy nor Christian Theology has kept pace with developments in the arts and sciences.”

 

Given all the evidence we have it is not possible to prove or disprove the existence of God but there are strong motivations for faith. We will never understand God and James quotes St Augustine: “If we have understood, then what we have understood is not God?”

 

The “godlike characteristics” of men and women lead us to know something of God. Love is the rational for everything in philosophy, theology and even science. The reason for reform and change in the Catholic Church and elsewhere.

 

I hope James would forgive me this sweeping generalization of his thoughts but I know that James in challenging traditional beliefs and practices was motivated by devotion and love for humanity.

 

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