Science vs Religion
It really is nonsense, you know. Science deals with matter and energy and the interplay between those two worlds. Religion deals with what matters and what energizes, if I can play with those two words. There is no crossover (or minimal at best). Science and Religion should walk hand in hand through life.
Of course, you realize it is not just religion that runs in non-scientific realms. We should include philosophy, history, law, and a host of other non-scientific subjects. As my friend at the University says, “You can get a degree in the Arts (BA) or the Sciences (BS) and both are equally valid; but to be well rounded you probably need some of both.” I concur. Hand in hand is the way all of the arts (including religion) and sciences should be.
I think the trouble brews when people on one side cross over to the other side, as it were, without justification, reason or often common sense; and invariably without admitting that this is what they have done. I recall Carl Sagan’s opening of his most famous book: “This universe is all there is, all there was and all there ever will be.” How does he know this? It is a plain and clear philosophical statement based on rather obvious presuppositions and it certainly isn’t remotely a scientific statement. I found it a strange way to begin a science book; yet I suspect he wanted to cut off any appeal to religion at the outset, but in doing so I fear he cut off his proverbial nose to spite his face. Since then, scientists (such as Hawking) have toyed with the idea of parallel universes, among other things. So it goes.
On the other side, I know there are sincere people (I trust they are sincere and well meaning, too) who insist that the world was created not all that long ago in a literal seven days. I can see the hair rising up on the back of the neck as I say that. Nothing could be further from even the most basic facts we have been able to discern, scientifically, about the universe in which we live. I do wish, though, we could all try and reason with such people and bring them to a point of common sense rather than ridicule them with our sharp and sarcastic tongues. Ridicule will only deepen the determination – and sarcasm is not a good social skill.
But here it is: Most scientists I know are believers and attend church regularly, and most theologians I know respect the science that made possible a fresh cup of coffee every morning (even if the laws of motion and gravity do not always cooperate when one is still half asleep). But for the most part, theologians and scientists respect and appreciate each other. Rather, it is in the board rooms, the news rooms, the schoolrooms, on the street corners and in the work places and play places where religion and science duke it out – in places where there aren’t any real theologians or scientists. That is where you find the fundamentalist who gets (rightly) angry at being ridiculed but who nevertheless steps into his car, drives home, turns on the lights and watches television to stew. (Technology may be the step-child of science, but without science there would be no child at all). So he enjoys the benefits of science, but I suppose it must be a pick and choose as to what scientific facts he will accept and what he will reject. A sad story.
On the other hand, though, no matter how firmly the other person says they will only accept as “Real” those things that science has proved or likely will prove, you and I both know they do not live in a world devoid of love, beauty, and at least the hope of justice (all non-scientific concepts). No one lives in a world where only scientifically proven things exsist, nor would any sane person want to. But then, philosophy, history, the law, the arts – these are not the issue. It just seems to be religion, and if I may be blunt, I would guess it is often the concept of God that such people find most irksome.
There were ten of us out back some time ago. It was a lovely evening with the sun setting dutifully in the west. One woman remarked at how beautiful the sunset was and in no time there were eight of the ten in agreement. It was a beautiful sunset. The ninth person said it was beautiful, too, what he could see of it. You see, he confessed that he was color blind so all he saw was shades of tan and browns; yet he accepted the word of the other witnesses and said he saw the beauty in what he could see.
Now, the tenth shook his head, and he apologized. “I’m sorry. I have never been able to see sunsets as beautiful.” It was like he was confessing some flaw in his character or make-up. It was like he wanted to see the beauty, a beauty which he had no doubt was there, only he was not capable. We all hugged him and assured him that we all have our blind spots and that was OK.
I suppose he could have been crass. He might have said, grumpily, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” That is this kind of thing we hear a lot of these days. It suggests that beauty is only an opinion and even if everyone in the world disagrees with him, his opinion is still as good as any. There is a subject worthy of consideration, but for now I want to point out what he did not say – what no sane person would imagine saying:
“Beauty is an illusion, a fantasy. You are all living in a fairy tale. Can’t you handle the real world? I think maybe you are all suffering from some pathological delusion.”
Of course no one would really say that about a beautiful sunset, or anything declared “beautiful” because beauty is clearly something real even if it is not a proper concept for scientific study. Yet when it comes to religion in general, and particularly to God…
The Proof for God
Is God a Mathematician? That is the title of a new book by Mario Livio. I am sure it is a fascinating book, but the short answer is, duh! Of course he is, and everything else as well if I read the PR correctly.
In Switzerland, Scientists are touting the new multi-billion dollar, seventeen miles worth of particle accelerator where they hope to find what THEY call “the God Particle” (The glue that holds matter together). It is all nonsense to equate any particle with God, you know. Particles, by definition are neither theistic nor atheistic; but I am sure they are just using the name like some manufacturer might use the terms, “new and improved,” or like so many food venders presently use the terms “natural” or “organic.” It doesn’t necessarily mean what it says.
Then, another recent publication is the book by a former Christian Scientist – a reporter who reportedly went in search of the science part. The conclusion, as I understand it, is she grew closer to some of her Christian Science family and friends, but she did not really find it – not exactly.
I would have been surprised if she found any scientific evidence at all.
Science and the scientific method have a marvelous place in the universe. With mathematics, we may be able to eventually understand everything there is to know about matter and energy and the relationship between the two and science may describe for us the beginning and the end of the universe (especially if it turns out that energy can be created and destroyed after all). But what it cannot tell us is anything of value (for example): why we should be interested in science, mathematics and the scientific method, what good are the scientific laws and discoveries, or why we should care.
To be sure, more of life is understood by means non-scientific than scientific and “proved true” by means other than the scientific method. A BS degree from the university is a valuable commodity, but there are other places where a BA is much more highly regarded.
Consider Art, which is about as unscientific a category as you can find. Greatness (validity) is often a matter of consensus, but not entirely so. The art world depends on documents, expert and eyewitness testimony, and the jury of history in making its determinations. Of course, someone can still insist that the Mona Lisa, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Shakespeare’s Hamlet are not great works of art, and they may try to justify their opinion by suggesting it is all subjective and only (no more than) a matter of opinion in any case. What that suggests to me is one of two possibilities: either the person is a “Contrarian” which I have defined as people who get a kick out of taking a contrary opinion no matter how irrational or unreasonable that opinion may be, or the person is in some serious need of some asylum time.
Of course the above mentioned works are great works of art, and whether we like them or not is honestly irrelevant. The jury of history alone has declared their greatness, as any jury would say, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Consider history, which is totally unscientific no matter how much historians may grumble otherwise. It cannot be understood by mathematics. I cannot be replicated under strict laboratory conditions, and while it may produce some good advice, it does not imply laws that can be applied invariably to the future. History, instead, is again a matter of documents and what the archeologists can discern from their shards. It is determined by expert and eyewitness testimony to the point where it can only be, “rewritten by the victors” (as is often the accusation for unreliability) only so far before it is contradicted by the known facts and again, by the jury of history.
Did Alexander once conquer the oikumene? Did Cleopatra abandon Anthony at a crucial point and thus place Egypt in the grasp of the growing Roman Empire? Did Victoria once rule over an empire on which the sun never set? The answer of history is absolutely yes (true, for real); and while you or I may not see what relevance such things have to our lives, that consideration is, to be blunt, irrelevant. History is one of the only things we have that explains not only who we are, but suggests where we are going, and the jury of history proves the reality of nearly everything quite apart from what science may or may not have to say about it.
The jury would say, “Proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” That has always been the legal answer to the scientific method, and keep in mind that justice is also a thoroughly non-scientific subject; and to be sure, no one (other than a contrarian) wants to honestly live in a world where justice is merely a matter of subjective opinion where one opinion is equal to another. That would put us all in danger of tyranny – subject to whoever was slick enough to obtain the judgeship!
Do juries sometimes make mistakes? Certainly. Juries have been wrong.
Do scientists sometimes make mistakes? Certainly. Science has constantly been revised.
Is this true even when the appropriate procedures are followed to the letter? Yes.
So is science the only arbiter of reality (to determine what is real and what is not real)? Absolutely not. “Proved beyond a reasonable doubt” works just as well for reasonable people. When a jury considers the facts (what hard evidence is available), studies the documents (contracts, affidavits), considers the expert and eyewitness testimony and follows the time tested procedures, they will far more often than not come to a conclusion that is beyond a reasonable doubt. Science (for example DNA testing) may have much to contribute to considerations of the law in a given case, but be clear about this: Law is in no way a matter for scientific inquiry or investigation. Other forms of investigation are involved, and they often relate to motive and opportunity.
I could go on to subject after subject that is essentially if not entirely non-scientific, but in nearly all of it, the truth (reality) is proved in the same way and by the same method, and at this point, someone must be asking, but what about God?
Well, clearly God is not a scientific subject, being neither composed of matter nor energy. God will never be replicated in a laboratory, proved by the scientific method or described by mathematics. So does that mean God is not real? By no means (unless you are truly a contrarian who is also willing to insist that art, history, the law and a myriad of other things are equally unreal). Rather, the “Truth” of God is “proved” by other means.
Consider the documents, the evidence or facts (such as they may be), the expert and eyewitness testimony, the jury of history, and the fact that there are billions of people alive today who will look you square in the eye and declare that God is “Proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” You may not agree, but honestly, it is the atheists who have a terrible uphill battle, and all I can see is Solon, pushing that boulder up the hill only to have it roll down again. I always feel sorry for anyone who has to work so hard to close the mind (and heart).
I will say this again, science and religion have no business being at odds with each other as long as each sticks to its area of study and understanding. It is when the Theologians deign to make definitive statements about this universe of matter and energy and when Scientists draw unwarranted conclusions about reality that excludes any consideration of non-scientific life that we all get into trouble.