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Dear Ms. Tippett,

I'm a regular listener of "On Being" (and before that "On Faith") on WAMU-FM. I really enjoyed your your last week's guest. She had a very refreshing and inspiring approach to yoga, spirituality and life.
I was surprised, however, to hear that one of your next week's guests will be Father George Coyne. You may not be aware of Father Coyne's role in the Mt. Graham telescope project and controversy and what many of us consider to be a direct attack on Native American beliefs and spirituality, not to mention the telescope complex's impact on an Apache sacred site and precious high mountain ecosystem.
In a statement titled "Personal Observations on the Mount Graham International Observatory," Coyne wrote, "Nature and the Earth are just there, blah! and there will be a time when they are not there...It is precisely the failure to make the distinctions I mention above [between Nature, Earth, cultures, human beings] that has created a kind of environmentalism and religiosity to which I cannot subscribe and which must be suppressed with all the force that we can muster."
It is hard to ignore the ominous tone of the above words, given the historic and often brutal suppression of Native American spiritual leaders and practices by Europeans and Americans, with the direct or tacit complicity of many Christian churches and their representatives.
While I imagine that your show is already taped and thus you will not have the opportunity to question Father Coyne about these matters, I urge you to look into the subject more closely and to consider having someone on your show (a Native American elder or spiritual leader) to talk about sacred site protection, including Mt. Graham.
Beyond the specific issue of the Mt. Graham Observatory vs. Apache culture and religion and its long and acrimonious history (going back over 3o years now), I think the question of a fundamental clash of world views that Coyne's attitude demonstrates is something worth taking seriously. It goes well beyond "science vs. religion" (in fact, in the Vatican and Coyne's narrative of the reconciliation of the two, there seems to be little place for certain excluded religious perspectives). I believe it has to do with a spiritual relationship to and grounding in place and the primal matrix of our terrestrial home, in contrast with a universalizing and abstract spirituality (and science) that tends to overlook the precious particularity of life and consciousness embedded in the mysterious interplay of forces, elements and species here and now.
There is much written on the Mt. Graham story. I would refer you to one article, by Peter Warshall, "The Heart of Genuine Sadness--Astronomers, politicians and federal employees desecrated the holiest mountain of the San Carlos Apache." It's easy to find on the Internet.
Thank you for taking the time to read and reflect on this rather long message. I would welcome an occasion to discuss it further. I will also post something to your blog for your consideration.


Paul Roland