Friday, June 19, 2009
Religion, Science and What?!
The Templeton Prize, awarded for contributions to "affirming life's spiritual dimension", has been won by French physicist Bernard d'Espagnat, who has worked on quantum physics with some of the most famous names in modern science.The piece then goes on to interview other scientists with other views. As you reads them, they are all separated by one key issue - do we believe we "understand everything" and if we don't, what do we insert in the "what we don't understand" slot? How ego-centric is that? The very phrasing implies that we are the highest, smartest, brightest there is.
The bizarre nature of quantum physics has attracted some speculations that are wacky but the theory suggests to some serious scientists that reality, at its most basic, is perfectly compatible with what might be called a spiritual view of things.
Some suggest that observers play a key part in determining the nature of things. Legendary physicist John Wheeler said the cosmos "has not really happened, it is not a phenomenon, until it has been observed to happen."
D'Espagnat worked with Wheeler, though he himself reckons quantum theory suggests something different. For him, quantum physics shows us that reality is ultimately "veiled" from us.
And yet, there is a maxim in science. I learned it the first day. The more we learn, the more questions we have. Heck, even if physicists arrive as a theory of everything as they are wont to claim they are on the verge of - it is not really a theory of everything. Can it predict earthquakes? (NO!) Can it forecast weather past 10 days? (NO!) Can it say whether a marriage will survive a lifetime? (HECK, NO!)
The point is this - science does not know everything, despite claims to the contrary. Quantum mechanics is indeed mysterious, but it gives a lot better answers to a lot of questions than a lot of other branches of science.
You see, the essential point is not what we don't know, but that we will never know if for no other reason than there is always more to know. In fact, we can't know. And therein lies the issue.
When science has a problem with religion its becasue they think they can know. It's not about science, it's about ego. It's a personal issue.
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