Science + God = ?, You decide.
Mar 26 2009, 01:53 AM
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Aleister Crowley is known to have conjured up this intriguing quip: The method of science, the aim of religion.
Wouldn't that be something? The application of the scientific method, constantly renewing and reviewing your accepted knowledge, coupled with the reverence and grace that comes with religions...my extremities tingle and twitch at the possibilities for humankind!
Anyway, this post is a lobby/religion hybrid, i could have gone either way. A lot of our discussion across the board has considered this very question. We have two distinct camps in human thought, that of science and that of religion. Who is right? Who is wrong? Wouldn't it be the cats pajamas if they were BOTH right and wrong at the same time?
Question: What do you get if you divide science by God?
(one) Answer: "Being"
Note: he isn't the first physicist to get all philosophizer with us...
(from the link)
A prize-winning quantum physicist says a spiritual reality is veiled from us, and science offers a glimpse behind that veil. So how do scientists investigating the fundamental nature of the universe assess any role of God, asks Mark Vernon.
The Templeton Prize, awarded for contributions to "affirming life's spiritual dimension", has been won by French physicist Bernard d'Espagnat, who has worked on quantum physics with some of the most famous names in modern science.
Quantum physics is a hugely successful theory: the predictions it makes about the behaviour of subatomic particles are extraordinarily accurate. And yet, it raises profound puzzles about reality that remain as yet to be understood.
WHAT IS QUANTUM PHYSICS?
Originated in work conducted by Max Planck and Albert Einstein at start of 20th Century
They discovered that light comes in discrete packets, or quanta, which we call photons
The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle says certain features of subatomic particles like momentum and position cannot be known precisely at the same time
Gaps remain, like attempts to find the 'God Particle' that scientists hope to spot in the Large Hadron Collider. It is required to give other particles mass
The bizarre nature of quantum physics has attracted some speculations that are wacky but the theory suggests to some serious scientists that reality, at its most basic, is perfectly compatible with what might be called a spiritual view of things.
Some suggest that observers play a key part in determining the nature of things. Legendary physicist John Wheeler said the cosmos "has not really happened, it is not a phenomenon, until it has been observed to happen."
D'Espagnat worked with Wheeler, though he himself reckons quantum theory suggests something different. For him, quantum physics shows us that reality is ultimately "veiled" from us.
The equations and predictions of the science, super-accurate though they are, offer us only a glimpse behind that veil. Moreover, that hidden reality is, in some sense, divine. Along with some philosophers, he has called it "Being".
In an effort to seek the answers to the "meaning of physics", I spoke to five leading scientists.
1. THE ATHEIST
Nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg is well-known as an atheist. For him, physics reflects the "chilling impersonality" of the universe.
He would be thinking here of, say, the vast tracts of empty space, billions of light years across, that mock human meaning.
He says: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless."
So for Weinberg, the notion that there might be an overlap between science and spirituality is entirely mistaken.
2. THE SCEPTIC
The Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, shows a distinct reserve when speculating about what physics might mean, whether that be pointlessness or meaningfulness.
He has "no strong opinions" on the interpretation of quantum theory: only time will tell whether the theory becomes better understood.
"The implications of cosmology for these realms of thought may be profound, but diffidence prevents me from venturing into them," he has written.
In short, it is good to be humble in the face of the mysteries that physics throws up.
3. THE PLATONIST
Oxford physicist Roger Penrose differs again. He believes that mathematics suggests there is a world beyond the immediate, material one.
Spider in moonlight
Can science explain all of life's meaning?
Ask yourself this question: would one plus one equal two even if I didn't think it? The answer is yes.
Would it equal two even if no-one thought it? Again, presumably, yes.
Would it equal two even if the universe didn't exist? That is more tricky to contemplate, but again, there are good grounds for a positive response.
Penrose, therefore, argues that there is what can be called a Platonic world beyond the material world that "contains" mathematics and other abstractions.
4. THE BELIEVER
John Polkinghorne worked on quantum physics in the first part of his career, but then took up a different line of work: he was ordained an Anglican priest. For him, science and religion are entirely compatible.
The ordered universe science reveals is only what you'd expect if it was made by an orderly God. However, the two disciplines are different. He calls them "intellectual cousins".
"Physics is showing the world to be both more supple and subtle, but you need to be careful," he says.
If you want to understand the meaning of things you have to go beyond science, and the religious direction is, he argues, the best.
5. THE PANTHEIST
Brian Swimme is a cosmologist, and with the theologian Thomas Berry, wrote a book called The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era.
It is avidly read by individuals in New Age and ecological circles, and tells the scientific story of the universe, from the Big Bang to the emergence of human consciousness, but does so as a new sacred myth.
Swimme believes that "the universe is attempting to be felt", which makes him a pantheist, someone who believes the cosmos in its entirety can be called God.
Mark Vernon is author of After Atheism: Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life
Mar 26 2009, 03:42 PM
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There is, of course, a problem with the word "God". Everyone acts as if what the word means to them is what it means to everyone else -- which is demonstrably false. Go back couple thousand years and "Gods" were more plentiful -- possibly making matters even worse -- or not.
I'm not sure about embracing elephants. Certainly if one is blind (and we are), one needs to "lay on hands" over the vast terrain if one is going to develop some sense of the whole. But even if one did that, could one envision one ever standing on its head?
Or rearing precariously on a small platform?
The problem is the human brain has been conditioned to mistake symbols for that which they represent. We don't at all understand the experience of the world we're having RIGHT NOW is largely symbolic. We do not see the world as it is -- but rather as we've been programmed to see it. We don't understand how it is that the symbols trigger us into states of consciousness. And what I'm pointing to is nothing particularly esoteric. This "phasing" in and out of a variety of mental/emotional states so subliminally that we don't even notice can actually be studied scientifically.
Or, as I've quoted Jacob Needleman elsewhere:
At the same time, this distinction also communicates that the search for consciousness is a constant necessity for man. It is telling us that anything in ourselves, no matter how fine, subtle or intelligent, no matter how virtuous or close to reality, no matter how still or violent--any action, any thought, any intuition or experience--immediately absorbs all our attention and automatically becomes transformed into contents around which gather all the opinions, feelings and distorted sensations that are the supports of our secondhand sense of identity. In short, we are told that the evolution of consciousness is always "vertical" to the constant (horizontal or time bound) stream of mental, emotional and sensory associations within the human organism, and comprehensive of them (somewhat like a "fourth dimension"). And, seen in this light, it is not really a question of concentric layers of awareness embedded like the skins of an onion within the self, but only one skin, one veil, that constantly forms regardless of the quality or intensity of the psychic field at any given moment.
Again, from my angle, the problem is we don't understand all this from the inside out. We're quite "happy" to accept a "symbolic representation of knowledge" rather than engage in the direct work necessary to actually know ourselves from the inside out. It is difficult work that requires interest, patience and dedication over a long period of time. In an age of "instant gratification" and "continual distraction" this doesn't bode well. We suffer needlessly from all our gross errors, not understanding ourselves or the universe we live in -- but this needless suffering just drives the spiral onward as we seek to avoid the inevitable stress our ignorance causes.
How can we "escape" a prison that is constantly reforming itself from within our own minds?
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