Everything From Here To There » Blog Archive » Blind Science/Blind Faith.
My first guest post on Billy Corgan’s new blog about holistic livin’.
Blind Science/Blind Faith
Working with the concept of Holistic Living, I reflected upon something that affects me on an almost daily basis: how science and spirituality turn a blind eye to each other to preserve themselves. (I’m not speaking of anyone in particular, but rather the idea of using science or spirituality as the exclusive foundation of a belief system.)
The two extreme arguments go something like this:
Science: The universe is made up of matter. We can, through experimentation and observation, see it.
Spirituality: The Universe is divine. We can, through faith, believe in it.
And the flaws in those arguments go something like this:
Science: Well, ok, 95% of the universe is kind of “missing”.
Spirituality: Prove it? Sorry, that’s not what we do.
At the root of both these perspectives is control. Scientists research and experiment in an attempt to discover the Truth; the unified theory of Everything. The idea seems to be that if Man can completely understand his environment, then he can exert complete control over it. But when science encounters something inexplicable that doesn’t fit within its parameters, it is often ignored, or worse, mocked.
Spiritualists, through prayer and meditation, also attempt discover the Truth; the meaning of life. The Everything. The idea here seems to be that if Man can completely understand the nature of his existence, then he can exert complete control over it—even by surrendering control over it. However, anything in the material universe that might contradict strong spiritual convictions is often ignored, or mocked… or killed.
It seems obvious on paper that everyone’s chasing the same Everything, and the reason why we don’t have It could be on account of a protective blind spot that forces a wedge between the two belief systems.
I wonder what kind of conversations took place when scientists believed that the world was flat, or that the sun orbited the Earth; how many people spoke with absolute certainty, and how many people questioned the accepted Truth of the day? I am particularly interested in the evolution of scientific truths as a student of astrology, hoping that someday it will be at least (re)accepted as a valid scientific theory as well as a metaphysical practice. One of the most common arguments against astrology is that it can’t answer all of science’s questions, when it seems more likely to me, as a believer in astrology’s validity, that science just doesn’t accept the answers because they don’t fit under its umbrella. I could be completely wrong, of course, but I wonder if Copernicus felt the same way.
However, throughout history, some arguments for or against ideas have been supported only by an absolute faith. I grew up surrounded by a group of people who believed they were conversing directly with God—whether or not they were is not the point—and what struck me was, again, this powerful conviction with which they spoke; if they received from God that the Earth is flat, then it would be Truth, despite any sign to the contrary. Beyond the debate of literal facts, many people have died in battles only because of their, or someone else’s spiritual convictions.
The point is that integration of the two belief systems works better than selective acceptance of reality.
Where did all the brilliant breakthroughs in science come from? Someone had an idea first. And where did the idea come from? Part of it is logic, but the spark was that special voice in our heads—call it God, or intuition… the voice that says, “What if…?” But what if no one ever listened to that voice?
And what if we never took that idea and put it through the scientific process? We might still be in the forest staring at the two rocks in our hairy hands, grunting about how we’re sick of eating cold rabbit. (Some might argue we’d be better off, but I digress.)
Most of us probably live somewhere in between the two extremes, so the challenge is to know when we’re using the blind spot to avoid fully integrating them. Am I ignoring something inexplicable in my life because I don’t understand it? Or do I have a conviction that I suspect may be getting in the way of my living a healthy life, but stick to it just because it’s what I believe?
The blind spot between science and spirituality can be cut with Occam’s razor: “plurality should not be posited without necessity”. (Is it a coincidence that Ockham himself was both a scientist and devout Catholic?) The argument is basically that if multiple theories describe the same thing, the simpler one should be used. In this case, the two theories seem to describe the same thing, but because of the blind spot, they argue that they are different.
The thing of it is, there is no room for faith in science, because science can’t handle the uncertainty. And there’s no room for science in spirituality, because the definition of faith says it can’t—or won’t—be proven. But what if they are the evening star and the morning star—two sides of the same belief system? Maybe they just need a new title: spirence!