ETHICAL ISSUES: SCIENCE vs RELIGION
I write this as a career scientist who has had an undeniably spiritual personal experience—a peak experience as defined by Abraham Maslow—and as a philosopher. I do not ask that you believe me (although it is certainly the truth). I ask only that you read on because the subject is interesting.
The rapid advance of science in recent years has brought with it an increase in secularism and, not surprisingly, atheism. However, it should be noted that while denouncing spirituality, atheism itself bears all the scripts of a religion (faith, belief, conviction, confidence, trust, reliance, devotion, dogma, doctrine). Indeed, it makes for an extremely demanding one in that it’s entirely negative and has no particular guiding light other than the passion of those who would sponsor it.
The atheist presupposes (simplistically) that science deals in truth, while religions deal only in belief, a supposition untrue at its core. Science is not about truth, only the pursuit of it. Every ostensibly positive scientific ‘conclusion’ carries with it the challenge to be proven false—that is what science is all about. How different is that, really, from religion? Religion (more correctly, spirituality in general) also seeks truth, and among other things endeavors to handle the moral questions that science cannot.
Nor is religion/spirituality a simple concept. There’s a difference between formal (church) and personal religion. Formal religions have an agenda—that’s what differentiates them—while personal faith is motivated by a spiritual (natural, in fact) ‘will to believe.’ What follows owes much to an article in the Wall Street Journal (Sept 29-30, 2012) by Gertrude Himmelfarb:
The philosopher Henry James, in a series of lectures delivered at Harvard at the turn of the (19th/20th) Century, posited that it is in defense of truth itself that faith is vindicated. James recognized that man is not the end-all (and certainly not the beginning); that there must be a “higher part of the universe.” He concludes that “God (must be) real because he produces real effects.” Atheists summarily dismiss this.
James (speaking primarily of Catholics, a favorite target of atheists) writes that older religions “offer a so much richer pasturage and shades to the fancy” than those born of the Enlightenment. To these ‘intellectual’ religious, “many of the antiquated beliefs and practices to which (they) give countenance are, if taken literally, as childish as they are to (atheists).” But they are childish in the nous of being innocent and amiable rather than in the atheistic sense of being “idiotic falsehoods.”
There is a habit among those with weak arguments to attack the opposition rather than present their own reasonable alternatives. Atheists just say “no”.
My own very real experience confirms that there is a spiritual dimension to mankind, and therefore a real incentive for religion. If you’ve read this far you may wish to investigate Peak Experiences, but know this:
There is no science-religion dichotomy. They simply represent different roads toward the same goal: Truth. The same goal pursued by EXTREME Ethics.