by Wes Hopper
One of the urban legends that’s very popular these days is the one about the endless battle between Science and Religion. The two are completely incompatible, we’re told, and the true believers are locked into a fight to the death over who’s right.
Well, that’s pretty dramatic, but not completely true. I’ve presented a paper at a science and religion conference and everyone was downright pleasant with one another. The fact is that there are many folks in and out of both camps that are conversing quite nicely all the time.
After all, the goal of both science and religion is to explain the world that we find ourselves in, so there’s a lot of commonality of purpose. Sharing ideas is quite helpful.
Then why do we hear over and over about this battle to the death?
Well, it turns out that there is a battle going on, and it’s not likely to end soon. It’s the battle between the science fundamentalists and religion fundamentalists!
Fundamentalism is commitment to a set of basic beliefs which are not open to discussion. For the religious fundamentalists, that’s usually a particular set of interpretations of a sacred book. The bumper sticker, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” represents this viewpoint.
For science fundamentalists, it’s usually the combination of a strict materialist view of the Universe and an emphatic denial of the reality of any experiences of mind that aren’t just the result of neurons firing in the brain. So these fundamentalists mislabel themselves as “skeptics” and dismiss all religion and religious experience as mythical nonsense without attempting to differentiate between any of the widely divergent forms.
In addition, they vigorously attack any research that would indicate that evolution is purposeful or that mind might in some way operate outside of the body. That includes research on the power of prayer, or intention, and all other kinds of psi effects.
Dean Radin, chief scientist for Edgar Mitchell’s and a founder of the Parapsychology Research Lab at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, reported that when he recounted some of the overwhelming research evidence for psi effects to a skeptical scientist, the scientist exclaimed, “I don’t believe it’s true! And even if it is true, I still don’t believe it!”
Sounds a lot like the bumper sticker, doesn’t it?
So let’s not let the fundamentalists define the science and religion dialogue. They’re not interested in dialogue. Let’s turn our attention to the revolutionary ideas that may bridge the gap.
In my opinion, the meeting ground between science and spirituality will be found in the study of consciousness and mystical experiences. There seems to be a transcendent reality there which we can access and which explains the experiences of mystics down through the ages. We may even become more confident that the Universe is purposeful!
So let’s let the two groups of fundamentalists fight with each other, and let’s pay attention to the leaders in both science and religion who are having the spirited but respectful conversation.
On the religion side, follow the Dalai Lama, who has said that if science proves anything in Buddhism wrong, he will change Buddhism. Or read the many books by my personal hero, retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, whose devotion to going where good scholarship leads has earned him the ire of religious fundamentalists. Become familiar with the work of Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute, and the mystical teachings of Andrew Cohen.
On the science side, tap into the work of astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s Institute of Noetic Sciences, which melds science and spirituality seamlessly. Read theoretical physicist Amit Goswami’s books on quantum spirituality, and Dr Robert Lanza’s “Biocentrism.”
When you do you will realize that although the fundamentalists get all the press, behind the scenes there’s a quiet revolution going on that will eventually transform both religion and science.
Not for the fundamentalists, but for the rest of us. And that’s good.
Wes Hopper is a graduate Electronic Engineer and a Licensed Teacher in the Unity spiritual movement with a deep interest in the convergence of science and spirituality. He blogs about science and religion on his blog, Science and Consciousness, and he blogs about spiritually based personal development on his blog Daily Gratitude.
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(Tomorrow: Islam and Peace)