12/07/2007

Religion or Science?



Arguing the primacy of science or religion is a waste of time. It is like arguing whether Spring is more important than Fall, whether music is more important than words, whether the right foot is more important than the left.

It is desperately silly for a scientist to claim that God does not exist. It is even sillier for an evangelist to disclaim the mechanics of evolution based on chapter one of the Bible. Just as a laboratory experiment can never determine God's being, the fundamental equations of physics will never be solved by a hymn. Science and religion are not conflicting but complimentary realms of human experience: particle and wave, the apple and its flavor.

When we engage science and religion in debate, or argue that one should explain the other, we forget that neither are bodies of fact. They are, rather, methods. They are utterly different ways of seeing. A human being who wishes to be whole must learn to use both, just as we learn to see with two eyes.

There are those who claim to have "proof" in either camp. They have data proving the existence of God, or data proving humans to be the bastard children chance; data proving creation in seven days, or data proving multiple random universes. We must once and for all get this point: we can always find data to support our prejudices. In the realm of faith, proof is meaningless.

Science is a not a method to prove or disprove religion, but a method to arrive at laws and techniques for transforming our physical environment. To achieve this pure material end, science sets up rigorous tests under "laboratory conditions." The laboratory method is a tool to satisfy our need for food, warmth, shelter, bodily health and protection. Science is no more, no less.

But laboratory method cannot explore phenomena such as rapture, compassion, prayer, or the light of self-transcendence. Science must kill these experiences in order to study them - like frogs in freshman biology. Science dissects what is on the table, not what is outside the carefully constructed boundaries of the experiment. Science may analyze the human brain, but can never know anything about the consciousness who analyzes that brain. For as soon as the scientist turns his attention from the brain on the table to his own awareness, he ceases to do science and begins to do meditation.

It is equally true that rapturous, self-luminous cosmic awareness will never solve the equations of string theory, or run the engine of my car when I need to get to the hospital.

Let the scientist meditate before entering the laboratory. Then she might better decide whether to use her research for peace or for war. At the same time, let the man of faith study physics to enrich his wonder for the incomprehensible majesty of God's creation.

Science and religion will only converse when they take up the invitation of the poet:
Out beyond the boundaries of right and wrong,
there is a field:
will you meet me there?
- Rumi

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