Saturday, June 30, 2007

Can we please put to rest the war between Science and Faith?

Have you ever forgotten anything - an appointment, an important birthday, something at a store, where you left your wallet or keys? Have you ever had an automobile accident that was your fault - due to a laps in attention or judgement? If your mind is capable of having important memory lapses or being responsible for serious accidents, how do you know when you can trust it?

Is it possible that you're really insane, so insane that everyone knows it but you? Is it possible that everyone is just humoring you, pretending that you're normal, but you are actually out of touch with reality? Or maybe you are just dreaming,. Maybe you're a character in someone elses dream, and of course this whole thing seams real, since the other persons imagination wills you to think it's all real. How do you know these possibilities aren't true?

The Eskimos, I'm told, have dozens of words for snow. They would never think of saying, "its snowing," any more than we would say, "Weather is occurring." The statement is to general to be of any use. The specificity of their language causes them to see differences among types of frozen crystalline precipitation that are lost to the rest of us. Is it possible that your language similarly blinds you to many important spiritual distinctions and realities that others, who don't limit themselves to what they can describe or have personally experienced, can see clearly? And is it possible that all human language guides our thoughts into ruts that keep us from knowing reality in other, perhaps fuller, ways? Is it possible for out minds to go beyond the normal limits of our languages?

In ancient times everyone "knew" the earth was flat. Before Galileo's day everyone "knew" the sun rotated around the earth. Before the Civil War many people"knew" that slavery was completely justified. How do we know that many of the things we think we know today won't be shown to be false in the future?

Scientific knowledge is based on repeatable experimentation. As data increases, as hypotheses "work" under repeated testing, one makes an inductive leap form specific results to generalizations, which are accepted as "knowledge" or as "fact." There is a great little handheld game called 20Q. The makers of the game claim that if you think of an object and answer the games questions it will untimely correctly guess what you are thinking. And the game has done just that millions of times for hundreds of thousands of users. However there is a flaw in the game. If you think of gazebo, the game will not be able to guess it... Which raises a great question. Is something true just because it works consistently?

Consider for a moment the thoughts of Albert Einstein:

As far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain , they do not refer to reality.
- Ideas and Opinions

The supreme task of the physicist is the search for those highly universal laws from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path leading to these laws. They are only to be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love.
-The World as I see It

The mechanics of discovery are nether logical nor intellectual. It's a sudden illumination, almost a rapture. Later, to be sure, intelligence and analysis and experiment confirm (or invalidate) the intuition. But initially there is a great leap of the imagination.
-Crossan, The Dark Interval

"A sudden illumination, rapture, intuition, intellectual love, a great leap of the imagination"... They sound like the words of a poet or prophet, not a scientist. But science is a creative process involving many faculties in addition to cold hard reason. The popular MYTHS of the objectivity and certainty not withstanding, knowledge and belief are not enemies. They are partners in the search for truth.

What then is the relationship between faith and knowledge? What if faith, instead of being a step back from the limits of our ability to know and understand, could actually be a flight beyond the rim? What if the word "knowledge," used to denote certainty gained by rationalistic and empirical means, is actually only appropriate foe mundane facts, pedestrian inquiries, common commodities? what if there is another category of reality in the universe, no less real just because it doesn't it doesn't shrink itself to our instruments and portals of "KNOWLEDGE"? What if that category, call it mystery or spirituality or even faith, dwarfs all of our knowledge, just as space dwarfs our little earth? Are we humble enough to look up from the little things we are so proud of comprehending and controlling, to face massive realities and humbling mysteries greater than ourselves, and therefore greater than our ability squeeze into out little boxes of "certainty" and "knowledge"?

Are you willing to step off the narrow ledge of knowledge to soar into broad spaces of faith?

*** If this has helped you in any way, then please consider watching Rob Bells "Everything is spiritual DVD, and or reading Finding faith by Brian McLarian. Both of these resources help me in the shaping and direction of this post.***