Kidnapped by Religion

The title is, unfortunately, not mine. My wife sent me a story on NPR entitled “Humility Is Embedded In Doing Science, But What About Spirituality?” by Barbara J. King. The piece is largely an interview with physicist Marcelo Gleiser about his new book, The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected. Of course, now it’s on my reading list. The interview treads the well-worn path of science versus religion. Science is presented as humble (which I don’t doubt, when in the right hands—or the right minds, rather) while religion is arrogant, claiming to know everything. Gleiser states that spirituality has been “kidnapped by religion” but still has a place in the life of a scientist. I wish there were more of them like Gleiser.

Now, I have to admit my data are limited. I read science books—I have since I was a teenager—but with a layman’s eye. My scientist dreams were dashed against the unyielding rocks of complex mathematics, something evolution cruelly withheld from my gray matter. I wouldn’t have survived high school pre-calc without my younger brother’s help. I’ve nevertheless read the pre-chewed, partly-digested science regurgitated for the formulaically challenged, and find myself, like Glieser, awed at the wonder of it all. Still, I also find many scientists—at least those with the loudest voices—claiming that what they’ve discovered is all there is. There is only matter, and we with our three-pound brains have figured it all out, by the gods, without the gods! We know all that can possibly be known will conform to the system our brains have developed, and there are no gods out there and no spirits in here and that pang you’re feeling in your gut is merely physiological, not spiritual.

I haven’t read The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected, but I have found many scientists walking the same trail I’m on. We are those who are seeking the truth, and who don’t assume the answers. Religion need not be arrogant. At its best, it’s not far from science. As a species, we have developed rationality extremely well (even if we fail to use it). Much of biological existence, however, is emotion, or feeling. That we sometimes leave behind. It participates in reality as much as rationality does. I’m reminded of this every time I hear someone in the business world refer to “soft” skills. What mere humans bring to this rationalistic business of making money. We’re just the squishy stuff that CEOs can’t live without because wealth mean nothing if you can’t compare it to someone else’s. Humility? I agree, Dr. Gleiser, we must maintain a sense of wonder. For those of you who say we’re just a number waiting to be quantified, I would humbly ask for 42, if it’s not already taken.


3 responses to “Kidnapped by Religion

  1. Theoretical physics, like religion, seeks to explain the observed world through an understanding of intangible ideas. Take complex numbers: they have a beautiful completeness that real numbers cannot achieve, but they cannot be observed. The complex plane is to mathematics what the spiritual plane is to religion – a beautiful and entirely insubstantial framework that the temporal plane rests upon.

    Pure mathematics has a beauty that inspires belief in the divine, and the idea that scientists should be atheists is a little perverse. Indeed, there are scientists who are aggressively atheist, and I’m not thinking just Dawkins, but so often they have merely elevated science to a religion in its own right. The pursuit of science, unfortunately, is so tied up with the pursuit of funding, that conservative forces and factions of belief often stand in the way of the true principles of scientific endeavor.

    As a scientist, I tend to believe that everything reduces ultimately to mathematics – which is at once beautiful and utterly depressing. As a human, I look for meaning and adventure. To understand the universe is to understand God, if there is a God, and we are a long way from ever truly understanding the universe…


  2. Ser cientista é estar em busca de verdades e para isto devemos saber como as coisas são e como elas funcionam,e a verdade não é inventada ela existe cognitivamente de acordo com a capacidade do QI do que a buscam ,e para tanto deve ser feito com o intuito de um bem comum a todos os ser vivos do planeta e para o próprio planeta,temos que estar apoiado nas teorias empíricas,fora isto,se inventa ficções que nos iludem e nos desviam do objetivo primeiro.Deus é um exemplo de invenção de ficção por QIS primitivos,que teve o seu valor e necessidade,devido as dificuldades que o cosmos nos impôs para a continuação da existencia do ser humano,os animais não tiveram esta nesessidade por não serem cognitivos ao nivel do nosso QI que está em processo de aprimoramento,deus da forma perfeita que definimos não pode existir,pois não ha nada no cosmos que seja perfeito,logo deus não existe,se existisse toda a sua criação teria que ser de igual qualidade perfeita,ai sim deus existiria,pois eu se DEUS fosse a sim eu o(cosmos) teria criado,pois teria o QI perfeito,isto é uma verdade,que não deixa brechas par indagações.Ou tem?E se tem o dialogo está aberto.E cientistas não tem a mesma linha ideológica da busca da verdade,pois a uma infinita forma de se pensar que e devido a diversidade do cosmos,que está presente na formas de religião e institutos científicos de todos os povos do planeta,mas que deveria estar em conformidade com a verdade.


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