Grand Scale Culture Wars that Affect Us All
Issues of culture that are battled over bitterly come and go. Society evolves. Conservatism slows but can’t stop it. It’s “all good”. (Well, not all, but much of it.)
Here is the longer-term, larger-vision tension, spawning a multitude of skirmishes:
Is there a true “universe” (unified “field” of every thing and every process)?
Are there two tiers to everything: Natural and Supernatural?
The first is represented most by “science”.
The second by “religion”.
Science (for about 500 years) has moved Western culture way over toward “universe”. This is a great truth.
Religion (for untold eras) has insisted that something/someone lies “beyond” or “outside of” nature or what we can know by our five senses. This also is a great truth.
But how can both be true? The way we use language, literally, they can’t. But let’s stretch the language game in a minute… stick with me.
Let me say that there is both a “universal” unity and an intelligence, maybe a “compassion” that transcends, envelopes and informs that unity.
Among the wonders of science is how much of the way things work has been unraveled. (And of course, the wonderful technologies following. To borrow originally religious language, it’s awesome!) And even how many distinct “things” there are – objects and forces, the smallest of which still may not have been found.
Among the wonders of religion are encouragement and methods to explore our inner worlds and imagine ways in which this “mind and heart” stuff may come from beyond ourselves, beyond matter/energy. In this process, we often increase and focus our compassion. We deal with elements difficult to define and quantify in the typical methods of science. This is one reason that psychology (a field I’ve spent a lot of time in) is looked at by many as only marginally a “scientific” discipline although it often uses the methods of science in its explorations of human behavior and thought.
But many lovers of science would deny any reality to a connection between what is within us and beyond us… or any place for collaboration with either religion or spirituality. There can be no conversation with them on the serious issues explored by science and taught to children and adults in our culture. (While I do not favor teaching “creationism” in public schools, nor support of any religion, I believe strongly that teaching about religion belongs there, skillfully done in a balanced way.)
And may lovers of God (especially the outwardly religious) would reply that the truly important things are only revealed by God…. While science is good, God will still do what God wills to do. (And some of it is gruesome!)
The Nature of a Standoff Much in Need of Resolution
To get slightly more precise, let me phrase it this way:
The supposed “religion vs. science debate” is really a valid and important ongoing tension of realms of knowledge and ways of knowing. We don’t want to be done with the tension but rather that discussion be respectful, fruitful and not extreme on either side.
For perhaps a century or so, “science” has been so dominant as to become “Science”, largely in the form of scientism. The idea of scientism is of taking on the trappings of religion itself… rigid dogma, sense of complete authority, answers for all problems, deciphering the meaning (or non-meaning) of life, etc.
Now Science, along with many secular people into neither S/science nor religion, seems to be oblivious to such a charge or else denies it. Not “true believers” in religion… supernatural religion that is. They consider capital “S” Science to be a pseudo religion, and seem to have some valid basis, although I don’t agree with their supernaturalism.
The perspective of this kind of religion (probably majority in the US, not Europe) is that God is all-powerful and all-knowing. As such, “he” (generally conceived as male… not accidentally) can be counted on to intervene, at least occasionally, with miracles and revelations. Also judgment and eventual salvation of the world. (Oh… as well as saving chosen or choosing individuals – per “Calvinism” or “Arminianism” – the latter not to be pinned on the Armenian people, but on Arminius, a theologian). The main point for now is that this is a God outside of but personally deciding and intervening in the universe… thus a two-tiered universe.
It’s pretty clear how even one unpredictable miracle here or there can mess up a scientist’s whole career… or the entire endeavor of science! Or so many scientists see it. Not to mention the Church legacy of dogma resisting science. So we essentially have very powerful institutions and all their money and influence pursuing often-conflicting agendas. They are driven to keep at bay what they perceive as the threat from “the other guy”. Given the opportunity, the other would put them out of business.
Then what’s a student (or other thinking person) to do?
[Sorry, but since most students’ attention span, aside from assigned reading, is somewhere between Twitter and Facebook, the answer will come in the next post in a few days…. To be sure to be alerted, please “follow” this blog… Thanks!]