Science vs Religion

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Here in the West, generally Europe and the Americas, science is divided from religion, and the two are often antagonistic. I have never believed that to be necessary. Many would disagree.

Some feel the concept of evolution is diabolic. I can only ask why. Do some see it as making humans no different from animals? Are we so insecure that we can’t admit we are closely related to all life in this world, including the apes and monkeys which  seem closest to us?

The acceptance of the concept of evolution seems closely related to geocentrism: the idea that everything revolves around our world. Western science tells us, on the contrary, that our planet revolves around our sun, and that there are billions more suns like it in our galaxy alone, out of who knows how many other galaxies. Is this too much for our self-importance to tolerate? If we can’t feel special in this way, is there nothing else about which we can be confident?

Unless there’s some factor I’m missing, that seems to be the attitude of those who reject the findings of science, and turn to literal belief in the Bible. Why is science so unacceptable?

Some of the reason is probably historic. Christianity seized political power in the 4th century AD, and began persecuting its perceived enemies–for their own good, of course. It was “natural” for the Church to claim all knowledge. Jesus had said humility was one of the virtues. The Church no longer believed that.

Geocentrism was one of the first places science clashed with teachings of the Catholic church. High officials of the Church didn’t buy it, but didn’t react as violently as against witches and Jews.  But when a course for home-schooling teaches geocentrism as fact, 400 years after Galileo, I have to ask, is THIS what religion is about? I think religion is, or ought to be, about the REALLY important questions of how humans ought to behave and develop. Whether geocentrism is true or not is a peripheral question at best, and I think trivial.

There was a reaction among science-oriented people in the centuries following Galileo. Historians looked for natural causes for the miracles described in the Bible. Science-oriented people denied that anything in the Bible was historical. According to one source, the idea of ice ages was conjured up because scientific people didn’t want to admit there had been a world-wide flood, despite evidence that pointed in that direction.

But other stories from ancient times have proved true, despite the belief of scientists. Troy was found to have been an actual city. The Sumerians and Assyrians were also part of history that had been forgotten, until archaeologists uncovered some of their cities, and learned to read their writings. But ice ages remain the dogma, and the Great Flood is still considered a fantasy.

Western science has been very good at what it does, but there are other sciences, and our version has its own faults. One of the other versions is Chinese medicine, founded on an entirely different paradigm from ours, but one that also works. It might not be able to replace our form of medicine, but might well complement it.

Nor is the predominant form of medicine practiced in this country the only one that’s been practiced here. Homeopathy was as well-considered as our current form of medicine until about a century ago, when a determined campagin made it out to be a quack practice, whether that was true or not.

Jerry Garcia, guitarist of the Grateful Dead, marveled at how many different individual realities and beliefs flourish in the world, and yet somehow manage to mesh together. He deplored, however, the clause that insisted each belief was THE only true one. Why, he asked, was that necessary?

The obvious reason is because many humans have an innate desire for power. Years ago my cousin’s daughter began learning how to cook, as well as other skills, at about the age of seven. She decided this made her an adult. And what did being an adult mean? That she could tell the other kids what to do, including her older brother. Years later she is the mother of two children, and apparently a pretty good one. But I can’t forget the insight into the human pwer-drive she gave me. This drive, on a larger scale, seems to be the reason for dogma, and organized religion is not the only dogmatic entity.

Consider the case of Wilhelm Reich. His research was into sexuality (always a sensitive subject), and he took that reseach into a different direction than anyone else had. He eventually left that behind and began even stranger researches. One result of his work was his being sent to prison (where he died) and his writings being burned. This seems a strange thing to happen in the USA, which has always prided itself on freedom of speech. Perhaps stranger yet was that though he had pursued his researches scientifically, keeping detailed records, etc, no one attempted to replicate his experiments, in contrast to usual scientific practice.

Immanuel Velikovsky was another researcher pronounced heretic by mainstream science. One of his main contentions was that the solar system had been unstable in the past, and that both Venus and Mars had come very close to this planet, causing catastrophes, including the plagues of Egypt, as told in the Bible. Whether or not this was true, he managed to make some very accurate predictions that I suggest were not obvious.

One was that Venus was a very hot planet, which has been confirmed. Another was that Venus was once a comet (according to ancient accounts), and had a tail. Although the tail is no longer visible, this too has been confirmed. Yet another was that Jupiter emitted radio waves. That’s been confirmed too.

Although Velikovsky’s first book about this, Worlds in
Collision
, became a best-seller, mainstream science reacted viscerally against his claims. By threatening boycott they forced his publisher to transfer his work to a different publisher, and Carl Sagan made it his business to denounce Velikovsky’s theories. If there was nothing to his ideas, why make such a fuss over them? And how did he manage to make accurate predictions of the sort he did?

One possible reason for mainstream science’s reaction is that it had become a sort of secular religion, which militated against the open-mindedness science is supposed to ideally have. One would like to believe in that open-mindedness, but remembering my cousin’s daughter, I am skeptical about the purity of at least some scientific intentions.

There are also questions science has yet to answer. There are a great many mysteries associated with ancient Egypt, but let’s ask just one: how was the Great Pyramid built?

Egyptology (which apparently is not a very hard science) has said that the rock used in its construction was cut with copper tools, and the stones transported and set with human muscle power. The individual stones of most of the structure were quite heavy, maybe a ton or two apiece. The really hard part to fathom is the roof of the so-called King’s Chamber, covered with slabs of about 70 tons apiece. How were these cut, how were they lifted, how were they transported, and how were they placed? Science has yet to give us a believable scenario for these things.

To add to the difficulty of the pyramid, is the fact that it was built with extreme precision. Christopher Dunn, a machinist for 30 years, studied the Great Pyramid inside and out very closely, and was astounded. The rectangular structure in the King’s Chamber he discovered had absolutely precise angles, inside and out. The outer bases of the pyramid weren’t precisely of the same length, but the error was extremely small. How did the ancient Egyptians manage to build on such a huge scale (to begin with) and to build so precisely at the same time? The only reasonable conclusion is that they had both knowledge and technology of which we have very little idea. Dunn added that NOBODY builds with such precision without a very good reason. So far that reason is speculative. Mainstream science hasn’t given us an answer.

The other scientific bugaboo to many Christians is evolution. The only reason immediately occurring to me as to why this is hard to accept is that it doesn’t differentiate us from other forms of life on this planet. That being said, does that make a materialistic concept more likely to have produced the world we see about us than a world created by a Divine Being?

In 1967 Louis Leakey was asked about the “missing link”. He replied that there are HUNDREDS of missing links. Darwin’s conception is that evolution is proceeding (very slowly) at all times. If that’s the case, I think we should have seen during the 5,000 years or so that humans have been writing about history, the evolution of at least one species from another. More tellingly, despite the many fossils we have, we see very few of intermediate forms developing from one species into another. We DO see various forms of life differentiating into different breeds within a species, but not into entirely different species.

The problem with accepting Darwin’s theory that he himself saw was that of flowering plants. Nonflowering plants existed for a very long time, and reproduced asexually. The mechanism of mutation is not enough to explain how flowers and sexual reproduction began. Flowers are dependent on bees and perhaps other means to reproduce. Without an outside entity to fertilize another plant, how could flowers reproduce? As flowers depend on bees, so bees depend on flowers. One or the other could have occurred accidentally, I suppose, but could both occur accidentally at once? That stretches the law of probability a bit too far.

In the second half of the 19th century a young man named George Gurdjieff was growing up in what is now northeastern Turkey. He was an intelligent boy, and his father arranged for him to drop out of school and be tutored by local people with a great deal of knowledge. He was very interested in Western science, but came to believe that it gave an incomplete picture of the world.

While growing up he met a variety of different people with different customs and religious beliefs. He also witnessed “supernatural” events, as he tells us in his semiautobiographical book, Meetings With Remarkable Men. One was someone praying for rain, and rain coming. Another was a faith healing. Still another was a young woman healed by a woman who had been given the method in a dream.

Perhaps even more puzzling was when he saw a young Yezidi boy crying within a circle drawn on the ground around him, unable to step outside it until the lines on the ground were brushed away. Yezidis are a religious group in the Middle East said to believe that the world was created by Satan, but who have a reputation for being very moral nonetheless.

Gurdjieff was unable to find any explanation for any of these occurrences in Western science, which explicitly excludes the “supernatural” from its researches. If it regarded the supernatural as being real, but inaccessible to scientific methods, that would be one thing. Instead, it simply denies there is any reality to the supernatural at all. Of course this is an area in which people can easily be mistaken, through lack of knowledge, but enough examples of “miracles” have been attested to that it seems an area worth investigating. So Gurdjieff believed, and set out on travels to learn what he called “real knowledge”.

Whatever the real knowledge that he sought was, we have the testimony of many people who knew, or at least met him, that he was something entirely beyond their previous experience. He said that most humans exist at a low level, but that higher levels are possible, and the testimony is that he exemplified that possibility.

One writer, who met him, and observed him teaching, said that it’s unusual to meet anyone who embodies an archetype. Gurdjieff, he said, embodied two: The Magus and the Trickster. Such an example of Being is probably unquantifiable by science. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

And Being can be perceptible to us to the extent that we’ve achieved something of it for ourselves. Music, for instance, is a very mysterious art. I don’t think it’s very obvious why it should mean anything to us (musicians and scientists may disagree), nor do I see it as obvious why we experience some music as trivial, and some as profound. There’s a good deal of disagreement about that; few people like every genre of music, and many consider some genres inferior to others.

But there are areas of agreement too. As a boy I became familiar with Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies, and enjoyed them. I probably first heard his Ninth symphony when I was just entering my teenage years, and immediately perceived that it was much greater and more profound than the earlier two. That’s something most people interested in classical music will agree with. Some say his last string quartets are even greater than the Ninth symphony. So far, I’ve been unable to hear that, which may say something about my own lack of Being.

There are areas of experience that few of us are able to define in great detail, though we may be able to experience them. Western science is oriented toward measuring and constructing theories about the material world, and some scientists go so far as to deny there is anything to the world that is not material.

Actually, George Gurdjieff agreed that everything in the cosmos is material, but added that some materials are so fine that Western science has yet to discover them. I think this means that there is a great deal more to the cosmos, to life and to reality than any of our usual sources of knowledge are aware, let alone able to express. To enter into conflict over these areas we can’t even define clearly is a very prevalent form of stupidity, one willing in its extreme to destroy the world rather than admit it might be wrong.

Surely we can learn to do better than that.

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