ev. Sun Myung Moon is the Founder of the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS). The first meeting took place in New York in November 1972. Since then, thousands of scientists and scholars from all over the world have attended the various ICUS meetings organized on three continents.
Right from the beginning the founding father has insisted that ICUS should focus on two themes: the unity of the sciences and absolute values. To the average scientist, the former is abstruse, the latter absurd. From the beginning Rev. Moon was a controversial man.
And indeed, as science has grown, it has split into different disciplines, and sub-disciplines, and sub-sub-disciplines and specialties and principalities each with its own glossary and grammar. In short, there is nowadays such a babble of languages in the House of Solomon that people no longer understand what they say to one another. Science has become a tower of Babel. And in the process, as Seyyed Hossein Nasr put it, "The sciences of nature lost their symbolic intelligibility, a fact that is most directly responsible for the crisis which the modern scientific world view and its applications have brought about."
Rev. Moon was right in insisting upon unity. This is a unity that should be understood in a spiritual rather than in a technical sense. It is a feeling of unification in working for a common cause in harmony and in discipline and with respect for one another.
In my opinion Rev. Moon was also right in insisting upon absolute values as a recurrent theme for ICUS. But most scientists would probably object. They rather tend to agree with Jacques Monod, who in his famous book Chance and Necessity argues that objectivity is the only value compatible with science, "…whereas ethics in essence non-objective is forever barred from the sphere of knowledge."
According to Georg Henrik von Wright, a leading philosopher and outspoken critic of modern science, one could try to capture the outcome of the fight "for the freedom of science" by saying that it ended in a kind of compromise or truce. Science had to relinquish pretensions to be a source of value, leaving to religion authority in matters of good and evil and "supernatural" truth. Religion, again, was to cease to claim authority in questions of "natural" truth, accessible to experiment and observation and logical reasoning on their basis.
Philosophically speaking, this "division of competence" meant a conceptual cleavage between fact and value, between Is and Ought, which did not exist either in Greek or in Medieval Christian thought. One of its implications is the thesis that science is "value free."
As a consequence, as Seyyed Hossein Nasr has pointed out, "The domain of nature has become a ‘thing’ devoid of meaning, and at the same time the void created by the disappearance of this vital aspect of human existence continues to live within the souls of man and to manifest itself in many ways, sometimes violently and desperately."
Obviously Rev. Moon has taken a firm stand on matters that are currently at the center of the debate on the social impact of science and technology, on the materialism of the West vs. the mysticism of the East, on social progress and welfare vs. existential needs and religious inspiration.
No wonder then that he is a controversial man. But he is not a man of controversy. On the contrary, he has devoted his life to unification and unity.
The Unification movement, of which Rev. Moon is the founder and the spiritual leader, is dedicated to bringing the people of the earth and their religious beliefs together into harmony and peace.
What has Rev. Moon asked the scientists to do? Why did he ask scientists to do it? These fundamental questions have been answered in a simple and straightforward way by Rev. Moon himself in his first ICUS address.
First, he notes that "If science had not developed, economic prosperity such as we have today would not have occurred." Second, he declares that in spite of misuses of scientific knowledge "…still the fundamental spirit of scientists has aimed towards the fulfillment of an ideal society for man."
However, and this is his third point, "Despite scientists’ deep desire and diligent efforts, poverty, illiteracy, and disease still prevail in the advanced countries; tensions, wars, and hostilities continue among nations. Thus mankind continues to suffer from sorrow, distress, and pain even in the midst of our luxuriously developed countries."
How come? Because modern science is unable to support any value system whatsoever and thus it cannot uphold morality and ethics. Or as Rev. Moon himself lucidly puts it: "The unfailing response to ‘thou shalt’ is ‘why?’ Unless these questions are answered, the teachings remain unconvincing."
And indeed, within its current metaphysical framework, omnificent science finds itself unable to offer any guidance whatsoever in terms of morality and ethics. From our knowledge of what is we cannot deduce what ought to be.
Having made these—in my opinion at least—reasonable and convincing points, Rev. Moon concludes: "The establishment of new morals and ethics based on the new standard of value becomes inevitable." To bring this about, science must assume, he declares, "a unified character dealing also with the field of moral value."
For Rev. Moon, nature is "God’s textbook of love." That is why science is so important to him. We, the scientists, are the learned men and women able to read and interpret this "textbook of love."
If this seems strange to us, it is only because we have long since forgotten what was originally the sole purpose of our profession. The founder of modern science, Galileo, said it in almost the same words:
Philosophy is written in that great book which ever lies before our eyes—I mean the universe—but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written.
This book is written in the mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.
And what is this "great book" all about? Galileo quoted, during his trial, Tertullian’s dictum: "That men arrive at knowledge of God’s existence first through nature and then through revelation." Galileo added, "Nor does God less admirably disclose himself to us in Nature’s action than in the Scripture’s sacred diction."
But we must not lose the very central point of the whole purpose! Rev. Moon would not be the man he is if he were only a Galilean, a man of pure science and contemplation. He is also of a Baconian spirit; he wants science to be applied, he wants action.
"Science is not for itself," he once said in addressing an ICUS meeting, "but for the welfare of humanity." This is plain English for what Francis Bacon explained in his grand Elizabethan style: "Knowledge, that tendeth only to satisfaction is but as a courtesan, which is for pleasure, and not for fruit or generation."
But to have this beneficial effect, in order to be not only "for the glory of the Creator" but also "for the relief of man’s estate," I am sure Rev. Moon agrees with Bacon’s assertion that
Knowledge must not be sought either for pleasure of the mind, or for contention, or for superiority to others, or for profit, or fame, or power, or any of these inferior things; but for the benefit and use of life. The true and lawful goal of the sciences is none other than this: that human life be endowed with new discoveries and powers.
As in religion we are warned to show our faith by works, so in philosophy by the same rule the system should be judged of by its fruits and pronounced frivolous if it be barren; more especially if, in place of fruits of grape and olive, it bear thorns and briars of dispute and contention.
Could it be that Rev. Moon had to expose himself to unbelievable humiliation, suffering and physical torture, had to travel all the way from the Far East to the United States, had to establish ICUS in order to remind us, the scientists, of what we once all knew but now seem to have forgotten?
I will not answer this question. But let me say this: whatever we feel about religion in general and about the Unification theology in particular, Rev. Moon is no doubt a genuine religious leader, a man of integrity and inspiration. When a man of such extraordinary qualities turns to the scientific community and asks us, the scientists, to do work of spiritual importance, we should all, in the name of science, feel encouraged.
In his address to the Third International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences in London in 1974 Rev. Moon said: "I ardently desire and expect the answers to come from you."
I am afraid he is still waiting.