Friday, December 26, 2008

On Paradigms

Enough already with Evolution vs Scripture!

Is that really all there is to say about the two great creative human endeavors of Science and Spiritual Endeavor? Does that debate really exhaust all there is to say about these domains where so much effort and time have been poured?

I have no problem with people like Dawkins and company taking people's intolerance to task. I too am intolerant of the intolerant. But there simply is too much at stake not to take the long view and as an astrophysicist the long view is what I was trained for. In that sense the phenomena of "Religion" stretches far, far back into its roots in Mythology, a word which must been taken in its positive sense of "sacred narratives. Taken in this way the positive roots of Science can be found in Myth as well.

Its only been 50,000 years since the awakened encounter between human self-consciousness and the world began in earnest (a bare instant in cosmic time) so the long view here is the only one which makes sense.

Paradigm change in science comes not when some long standing paradox is resolved but when it is transcended. For decades at the end of the 19th century people fretted about the relativity of the speed of light. Whole books worth of results on the luminiferous aether and its properties were worked out. Einstein did not solve this problem he simply ignored it. Instead of figuring out how the speed of light would change in different moving frames of reference he simply said "It doesn't" and followed the consequences of that radical assumption.

When it comes to Science and Spiritual Endeavor I propose something similar. The tired debate about some particular interpretation of some particular scripture, the narrow debate about some particular idea of a particular form deity, is old and tired and backward looking. We have become a global species folks, a global community with a view that stretches back to the dim past and forward to an infinite future. Time to get inclusive.

There have been, are, and will be many ways in which human beings interpret their encounter with that aspect of experience they feel as "sacred". That is the direction to face now. That is the third alternative rising above battles about God vs Physics. I am certainly a-theistic in that, like my boy Einstein, a personal supernatural deity who always fails to choose the Mets as the world series champs (dang!) does not resonate with my experience, intuition or understanding. But "religion" does only refer to particular arguments about God and his/her/its' imagined powers. That is the long view. To dismiss that view because of the "popularity" of various fundamentalisms around the world is to miss the promise that perspective offers.

So I propose changing the question we ask and seeing where it leads us. The problem is not how does anyones scriptures, sutra's etc match with scientific results but instead how does the aspiration, born of lived experience, drive what is best in Science and Spiritual Aspiration. Perhaps this route taken with radical open-mindedness and radical scepticism - the hallmarks of true science and true spiritual longing - can lead us on a new path away from an antagonism that only serves the antagonists and teaches the rest of us absolutely nothing.

1 comment:

  1. "But there simply is too much at stake not to take the long view and as an astrophysicist the long view is what I was trained for."

    What a pun, I so much enjoyed it.