Monday, August 11, 2008

Science and Religion - A Middle ground

I consider myself a spiritual person in that I believe in a reality that transcends the material world. This is not inconsistent with my love for reason and my adherence to the scientific method as both the empirical and rationalist underpinnings of science are by their very nature limited to the material realm. My spiritualism extends to belief in an entity of undefinable complexity that is both the ultimate cause of all that there is and the singular answer to the eternal question - 'why?'. Kabbalistic thoughts defines such an entity as Ein Sof (without end) - traditional monotheism sees it as God. Such semantics are irrelevant what is critical are the defining properties of the entity - omnipotence, uniqueness an extension beyond space and time and a resistance to ultimate external qualification.

Now we all tread different paths in life but what we ultimately seek is pleasure. Whether it is the lower pleasures of the physicality or the higher form of enriched knowledge and spirituality - the need is there. Some scientists believe that such a need is hard wired in our genetic code. Others argue for more of a nurture approach. Both may be true but what each postulate fails to answer, as mentioned, is the enigmatic 'why'? The asymptote to all scientific philosophy.

In fact it is the 'why?' to many a question that tames science and prevents this great discipline from entering the narrow road of its own fundamentalism (scientism, behaviourism, extensive logical positivism, mechanistics etc). Scientists should see this as a blessing. Acknowledging one's limits is both cathartic and empowering - after all it clears the road to focus on the necessary and tangible.

However by the same token religion needs science - as no other epistemological instrument is as effective in understanding the material world as is science. Religious zealots who dismiss science when it appears to challenge scripture do so at their own peril. They must learn to broaden their outlook to address the challenges that free inquiry reveals.

In short Albert Einstein was correct when he said - " Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." Its a shame that so many fail to heed these words as they set up camp in the polarized extremes of both pursuits.
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