"Can that which takes place inside a living organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry?"
"I for so long wanted to be awash in the mystery of it All, but always found myself disrupted by extremists and dogmatists who claimed to know it all—then I realised they were part of the mystery, too."
There is between science and religion a plug ugly chasm that has existed since the Enlightenment, even back to the Renaissance—maybe before. I haven't been keeping track, but a long time.
The battles have been many, and legendary. Galileo was forced to retract grand ideas. Part time astronomer Giordano Bruno was over-cooked at the stake. Some say Copernicus waited until his death to have his findings published. Even Darwin took his time.
Although religion has had the upper fist in personal cruelty over science, science has punched back with a series of amoral inventions. Some of the lowlights include napalm, chemical warfare, laser weapons and, of course, nuclear bombs, which have leveled the quantum field in terms of overall damage. It's as if they're neck and neck, actually—covertly playing off each other with significant detriment to all.
Lately, most scientists dogmatically believe that all we are is matter. Yet they abandon all logic and follow love, without a Petri dish of "proof" that love exists. Religious believers berate scientists about the non-logic of life arising from sludge, yet believe utterly in ninety-nine percent of the scientific inventions that have made the means of waging the battle so much easier.
As for the so-called debate between evolution and intelligent design, the debate seems designed to be anything but intelligent. The famous Scopes' Monkey Trial in Tennessee in the 1920s that fought against mandatory teaching of the Biblical version of Divine Creation offered an unpleasant whiff of things to come.
Generalizing, it's fair to say many observers and participants believe the problem is an unwillingness or inability of either side to listen to the other. I would unequivocally agree that non-listening plays an important role in both stalemates and wars of attrition. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of insightful theories as to what should be done about this chasm.
One of the most important yet rarely mentioned problems (for reasons of the problem itself) is a "colonizing" attitude towards Eastern philosophy and/or theology. I speak here specifically about the Indian library of Holy scriptures known as the Vedas, or Vedanta.
This colonization has left some of the deepest and most spiritually scientific ideas ever spoken banished beyond the pale, wandering in the wilderness, exiled and abused—a colonization useful to both Haliburton-type war creators and the apocalyptic Western Church, including Islam.
I use the word colonization nervously, of course, due to its incomplete anti-white, male-hating, European-bashing catch-all vibe (and the fact that I am one). I wouldn't want this essay to sound like an undergraduate paper in Women's Studies—although it probably should, given that white European males (and so many others) have done so much hating and bashing over the last millenia.
So yes, I'm talking on one level about the decimation of people and their cultures. But on another level I'm talking about the subtle disenfranchising of people (and wisdom) by ignoring, supressing or co-opting their ideas (as I'm probably doing now) through coercion or ignorance, with insufficient credit, gratitude or discussion.
The Vedas are the Elgin marbles of religion: stolen yet barely known.
One, of course, can understand why Christian missionaries in the past (and even Christians today) felt duty-bound to denigrate Vedic cosmology. Subjugation of both a people and their ideas is inherent to the practice. This is evident not only in India and Africa, but with the First Nations right here in Canada and the United States.
The second reason is very important. What on earth were missionaries to do with Vedic ideas of repeated universes (and multiverses), a worldview in the trillions of years (indeed, ongoing eternity) and our universe aged at 8.64 billion years? The entire cycle was completely at odds—almost psychotic—in comparison to the six day or six thousand year Biblical estimates in Christian cosmology.
But science? Other than old fears of persecution or of being pulled back into that closed-system box, why would science colonize these grand ideas? What's the fear behind that lack of acknowledgement and respect?
As quantum physics and cosmology continue to exponentially expand the inner reaches of outer space and vice-versa, scientists seem bafflingly ignorant (I'm generalizing here) that certain scientific theories thought to be cutting-edge today were undeniably outlined millennia ago by half-naked (or even completely naked) yogis sitting in contemplation and chanting Sanskrit at the foot of the Himalayas.
As I've said, the Vedas speak of an ongoing cycle of universes collapsing and expanding—another modern theory that is gaining scientific ground, with terms like multiverse and the Big Bounce. Why wouldn't science marvel at this remarkable, inexplicable (and possibly accurate) vision? Even just to marvel at how they came up with these ideas?
Personally, I also think Christians should be thrilled that their religious neighbours claim Divine revelation (sort of an ancient Internet) as the source of their information. The followers of Jesus should use it as an example of the greatness of God—additional reading, if you will, alongside the two pages of creation stories found in Genesis.
So it goes in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know?" (the answer being: very little about respect for one's elders). A group of erudite and privileged scholars from the Ivy leagues and Stanford wax scientific with "new" evidence about consciousness and existence, without a single reference to India or yogis, and one anecdotal mention of group meditation and how it dropped the crime rate on the streets of Washington DC (evidently sending it all towards the White House).
Watching the film, I was amusingly reminded of Cristoforo Colombo in 1492 docking on an island thriving with families, leaders and worldviews and proclaiming this uninhabited wilderness finally discovered.
One wonderful response to the Vedas may be instructive—again, more so because science is speaking. The inimitable Carl Sagan wrote in Cosmos that only ancient Vedic cosmology, with its proclamation of our universe being 8.64 billion years old, has come even close to the numbers suggested by modern science. And then he adds, "No doubt by accident."
But what would the odds be of a person three thousand years ago (or more) guessing that the universe is 8.64 billion years old?
That's like guessing the Canucks are going to win the Cup—and being right.
This was a time so long ago you could've drunk out of the River Ganges without floating down it a day later.
How could scientists not want to understand the complex of ideas and conditions that would have to be necessary for some remote yogi to even consider such expansive thoughts?
I don't get it.
Oh...wait, I just figured it out.
If these revelations weren't just random guesses, then the modern scientific worldview of how information is gathered and how ancient people were mental midgets is just plain wrong. Then what? The last thing warring scientists or clergy want is a paradigm shift that results in a collapse of funding and tithing.
Like Visa, tenure and confession have their merits.
But then again, to figure out how these ol' yogis came up with these ideas would be, in some ways, as radical as Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Indeed, it describes a process older even than the origins of life and more complex than doing one's taxes.
Darwin was verifiably wrong anyway. In a world based in the survival of the fittest, the most important trait needed for any form of dignified living (after food, shelter and a good first impression) is clearly humour—preferably at one's self.
Because it's hilarious that we have no idea how thousands of years ago, some diaper-shrouded smiling old Yogi knew that we live in a multiverse complex, energy never disappears (it just changes form), our universe is billions of years old, there are other dimensions in double figures, and variations on the Big Bang and Big Bounce themes have been unfolding for eternity.
Now they've got the Big Hum, which sounds an awful lot like like the Big Aum.
To call the ongoing debate between religion and science "invigorating" (or what it should be: worldview expanding) is according to my precise calculations the intellectual equivalent of watching the nightly news and claiming to be informed.
Long ago, Eastern philosophy and theology began an extraordinary conversation on myriad topics related to the cosmos, self, consciousness and the Divine. Until brilliant scholars and theologians of today passionately engage in explaining and celebrating the hows and whys of the Eastern revelations, the rest of us who care will be colonized between ivory tower Darwinian eye-rollers and agenda-based Christian evangelicals (and those other extremists, too).
So what else is new?
My friends, it's time to decolonize God, reveal the Feminine, liberate Mystery, discuss the Vedas and annihilate video games. We'll eventually get to extremists and nuclear weapons.
I'd like to say you're either with us or against us but I have no idea who "us" is—and seeing as we're all sisters and brothers, we're in this together anyway.
So go hug a fundamentalist—even if it's the fundamentalist inside yourself. I just did. At first he threatened me with hell-fire and then accused me of evolving from primordial soup. My inner fundamentalist goes both ways. I'm afraid to tell him I don't.
But things are looking up. Now we're cuddling and he just finished reading this essay.
Footnotes to come...
|copyright 2006 Pete McCormack|