Science & religion: another take

Quixote has an interesting post on his site on the expanding universe, dark energy, and how much science doesn’t know:

A philosopher would recognize in the language of this discussion a metaphysics that nearly tears any pretense of scientific materialism to shreds. What’s funny is that these scientists don’t seem to realize it. For example, assessing the current lack of scientific explanation for the accelerating expansion, Harvard astronomer Christopher Stubbs tentatively allows, “It could well be that there’s some big piece of reality that we don’t fully understand.” Gee. Ya think?

He closes the post with a quote from Stuart A. Kauffman’s Breaking the Galilean Spell:

… The Galilean spell that has driven so much science is the faith that all aspects of the natural world can be described by such laws. Perhaps my most radical scientific claim is that we can and must break the Galilean spell. Evolution of the biosphere, human economic life, and human history are partially indescribable by natural law. This claim flies in the face of our settled convictions since Galileo, Newton, and the Enlightenment.

Kauffman is somewhat of a mixed bag; as I commented on Quixote’s site, at times he is unusually perceptive:

The first injury is the artificial division between science and the humanities. C. P. Snow wrote a famous essay in 1959, “The Two Cultures,” in which he noted that the humanities were commonly revered as “high culture” while the sciences were considered second-class knowledge. Now their roles are reversed: on many university campuses, those who study the humanities are often made to feel like second-class citizens. Einstein or Shakespeare, we seem to believe, but not both in the same room. This split is a fracture down the middle of our integrated humanity.

I believe it is important that this view is wrong. Science itself is more limited by the un-prestatable, unpredictable creativity in the universe than we have realized, and, in any case, science is not the only path to knowledge and understanding.

He then goes on to decry what he calls a “reductionist scientific worldview,” which says that we live “in a world of fact without values.” Ah, but here’s the thing; his goal in all this is to reinvent the sacred, based on a new worldview where spirituality emerges creatively, in ways we are unable to predict.

But if we cannot even prestate the possibilities, then no compact descriptions of these processes beforehand can exist. These phenomena, then, appear to be partially beyond natural law itself. This means something astonishing and powerfully liberating. We live in a universe, biosphere, and human culture that are not only emergent but radically creative. We live in a world whose unfoldings we often cannot prevision, prestate, or predict—a world of explosive creativity on all sides. This is a central part of the new scientific worldview.

Like John Lennon, Kauffman is a dreamer, and like Lennon, he is incredibly naive. He means to redefine science to include this emergent creative spirituality (because, certainly, a real Creator God cannot exist), moving away from strict modernism, but holding on to a naive belief in progress, saying that we need a new vision of Eden. He actually believes that this new worldview has the potential of healing the rift between science and spirituality, that somehow materialists and supernaturalists will both be happy with his new worldview. I sincerely doubt he’ll have many takers.

The progress myth has failed; science cannot deal with the problem of evil, it only changes its form. We solve one problem only to create others, our cures for depression cause suicides, and our labor-saving devices have resulted in us working more on the average. You can try to embrace evil in a Zen-like fashion, as Kauffman seems to have done, but that too, is unsatisfactory.

The level of denial that Kauffman and others have attained is incredible. If, as Kauffman says, “the science itself compels it,” then see the evidence for what it is – not evidence of some mysterious emergent creativity, but of a continuity of creativity which goes back to the beginning. He is perceptive enough to grasp that there is knowledge which current science cannot acknowledge; but he fails in denying the obvious.

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