Bridging Religion & Science?
It’s not a topic I touch on often, mostly because I can’t be bothered with all the fanatics—of all persuasions—it tends to bring out of the woodwork. I nonetheless decided to republish a reply I made (still caught in the moderation queue) to a Science vs. God thread over at Time Magazine (which is sporting a swanky new design, I like it!).
Basically the question posed was:
Can the disconnect between science and religion be bridged?
Another more pertinent question, in my mind, is: “Should it be bridged?”
I’m a raving atheist. I have never seen, heard, felt or otherwise experienced anything that points to a god-like being in any shape or form. What my life has taught me however, is that the world is driven by systems. Mathematics, physics and so on.
What continually amazes me, is religious people’s lack of acceptance towards the fact that the human body is fallible. Ironic, considering God’s exclusive title as ‘infallible’. Yet we’ve all ‘felt’ creatures under our bed, seen someone move out the corner of our eye and heard footsteps in a dark forest.
Our brain is constantly trying to predict the world; that’s how it works (read the excellent On Intelligence) Why is it so hard to believe that the same process which predicts a path between the dropping of a rock and it hitting the ground, even if you don’t actually see or hear it, is the same process which tries to bridge other, perhaps more abstract events, by inserting ‘God’?
Most religions have set themselves up well (that’s why they are still around, while other similar, perhaps more poorly ‘constructed’ religions are not), but if we turn them on their heads, they suddenly make so much more sense.
God created man in his image… Well, let’s try it the other way around. What if man created God in his image and added human-like behavior (God moves in mysterious ways, just like humans). Suddenly we can identify with and (generally) understand the behavior of this divine entity. Suddenly the universe didn’t spring into being by itself, it was created. Creation. It’s something we humans can relate to. We do it every day.
Suddenly we have a magic, easy to comprehend ‘substance’ that can be used to bridge pretty much any two points in our world view. Don’t know how gravity works? God will’s it. Don’t understand why you keep smoking cigarettes, when you want to quit? God is testing you. You mother was diagnosed with cancer? God has his reasons, do not question them.
We can identify a sovereign authoritative being—we are surrounded with them in our lives—so it’s easy to comprehend for anyone, anywhere that God is behind these things.
Back in what I like to call ‘the real world’, the technical workings of gravity are a bit harder to understand. As is addiction and cancer. And furthermore, they are distant and inhuman. While their effects are clear enough to us, their causes are not available to the human senses. You can see the effect of gravity, it keeps you grounded. But you can’t see why the Earth beneath you keeps you down, but the moon doesn’t…
We can’t visualize the complex mechanics behind gravity, but we can easily understand the ‘magic hand’ of God, keeping everything in place.
After all, that’s how we view the world as children, where our parents were benevolent, caring, invulnerable, perfect beings capable of just about anything.
The question is: Can science and religion be bridged? Should they?
If religion sees something unknown, it’s ‘God wills it!’ and ‘It’s an act of God!’
Science tries to pull back the cover and see the world for what it is. Mind you, not how we perceive it, but how it is. When science sees something unknown, it is unknown.
In my humble opinion, religion and science need to be kept absolutely segregated, for just that reason.
Religion hasn’t granted us the electricity, computers, the internet, space travel, ski wax, synthetic food, water filters and whatever else you think of.
In fact, religion has granted us little more than churches, docility and the meddling of religous people in the affairs of the world.
If God should exist, it seems to me that he, she or it would be just as happy with people practicing their beliefs outside of opulent churches and priests bellowing out ‘the word’.
But then people couldn’t get the same sense of ‘together-we-stand’-edness. Yet another human trait.
How about that?
A perhaps more worrying question is why religion and state are intermingled in so many countries, including my own? For how long must we drag around the shackled of the past? How can personal religion, or the absence of such, be a free choice in a country which chooses to sport a state-religion? How can a forward-thinking country like Denmark, in which a mere 4.1% (source) of its population is actively church-going, look itself in the eyes?
Luckily it doesn’t seem to bear as much weight in our neck of the woods as it does in the US, where Bush seems to confer with God as much as he does his aides.
What’s so grotesque, is that in my eyes he’s actually taking advice from that magic ‘goo’ that connects the unknown space in between two separate points in his world view.
And that scares the shit out of me.
PS: The comments on this entry will be heavily moderated, to save it from drowning in a sea of stupidity.