Leaving the Temple

“Most, if not all of modern scientific data—and the interpretation thereof—is provisional in nature, only revealing a small part of the bigger picture.  In this respect, the interpretation of this research is, regrettably, false.   Here, I mean false in as bold and far-reaching as possible: not according to truth or fact; erroneous; incorrect; designed to deceive; illusory.” Erik Andrulis

In a recent post entitled Why Most Published Research is False, Erik Andrulis, scientist and theoretician by profession, challenges the notion that the field of science is capable of providing and condensing whole truths through data and research. My own sense is that science, because constrained as much as all human endeavor is by the nature of our senses, has a limited ability to translate and interpret research and data wholly and accurately into language and practice.

I see that the persistent but often ignored inability to separate the Knower from Knowing impedes our ability to tell the whole story. I love and respect that as a Scientist, Erik not only accepts, but can articulate for a lay audience the limitations of Science, which has become one of the most influential voices in the culture.

Now days, it’s risky for anyone, but especially a professional in the science community, to be critical of Science because acceptance or rejection of accepted dogmas is often used to identify individuals as either believers or heretics, much like Christianity was used in ages past. Okay, so heretics are not likely to suffer the physical torture as in ages past, but cultural shunning is still alive and well and has created an atmosphere in which there is very little tolerance for questioning the conclusions of science and related fields, and especially those that use or cite scientific evidence to support a conclusion or the promotion of an idea or a product.

File:God the Geometer.jpgMay I suggest that science itself has fallen into the grip of a myth, and one of the most persistent and unexamined myths of the western mind; that of the Hero, the same myth that underlies Christianity.

Both address the problem of evil and of human suffering and offer a form of salvation as the solution, even though the problem gets restated by science as having material roots rather than spiritual, with the philanthropic goal of peace through prosperity by creating and using technology for the elimination of pain and suffering, and where paradise on earth means elimination of hardships of the past to feed, clothe and protect ourselves from the elements.

Worthy goals, but without reflection and clarity, the myth of the hero, with his emphasis on action and acting (salvation and saving) risks losing sight of the goal caught up in the thrill of the conquest and battle, either seeking power over demons or power over the elements inside the laboratory.

A Science that is gripped by the power of the hero myth and its fantasy of salvation has faith in a goal that lacks clarity and vision and trusts in its ability to understand the human condition, and to be on the side of goodness which empowers its position in the culture, reaching levels of intoxication similar to those of the Christian zealots it once claimed to be freeing us from. The hero’s good intentions replace the necessity for reflection and justify its every deed, from splitting the atom to modifying genes, because the ends are trusted to justify the means.

Here we find that science and religion do share a likeness in their mythological perspective of playing the part of a powerful hero which requires a weaker victim in need of saving. I see a cultural shift from the salvation of personal sin through spiritual means from the grace of God and King to the salvation of science and technology through material grace and the promise of an end to suffering.

Mythologically speaking, we have traded in our gods of religion for the gods of science and technology.

Science is supported with facts and figures, and offers us the security of the concreteness of stuff that works – all else is deemed anecdotal, meaning unreliable, not to be trusted and often used to discount all claims of a metaphysical nature such as Near Death Experiences, the power of prayer, dreams or any other spiritual practices.

There’s cultural history here in which We, being swept away by the myth of the Hero, under the guise of finally leaving religion behind and getting it right through science, are seduced by the acceptance and power that comes from the fight against the former powers of the old King, the Christian God, and even Superstition, all of which in moderns times have been placed into the shadowy darkness whose defeat as a cultural paradigm is viewed as essential for Progress.

With this criticism I am not promoting a return to the past , but that by looking at the demands of the Hero archetype through its images we might locate ourselves within the myth, and see how it drives and influences the culture through political, religious and scientific beliefs. If we want to save something, what is it and what are we saving it from, and more importantly, what are we saving it for?

“If I told you what it takes to reach the highest high,
you’d laugh and say nothing’s that simple.
But you’ve been told many times before,
Messiah’s pointed to the door.
No one had the guts to leave the Temple.” Pete Townshend

The Scientist

IMG_0221 There’s a delightful interview currently available on Book TV with Curtis White, who argues in his latest book (I have not read it yet), The Science Delusion, that in recent years there has developed a climate of deceit and misplaced authority in the professional science community whose books have become main-streamed in spite of the fact that they do not always stick to their subject; science.

Many of these popular books (The God Delusion, God is not Great) deal with cosmology. neurology and evolution and attempt to explain all sorts of things from why we feel the way we do, how our brains are running our lives (victimizing us with all sorts of pathology that only science can cure), to how our genes are using us to make more/better genes. White, a self-proclaimed atheist, complains that not only has science become needlessly entrenched in a materialist world view, but over steps its bounds with moralistic claims you would expect to hear from religious leaders or politicians.

Of course, like anyone else who dares question the gods of modern science, White has been properly admonished, shunned and disqualified for committing the unpardonable sin in the religion of modern scientism; questioning authority. It’s true that he is not a scientist which he states quite clearly but that his conclusions are drawn from a philosophical background and his love of the Romantics (the period, not the rock band).

What the mainstream scientific community has yet to admit is that their special knowledge does not qualify them to speak about language, morality, philosophy or meaning. When the approach of science boils itself down to materialism and claims to have the skinny on all of the stuff, they forfeit any license to be able to say anything at all about the rest of life. And that makes them mad, because science has fought long and hard to prove that there is nothing but stuff.

So they’re stuck with their own conclusion that there simply isn’t anything immaterial. But unaware of the cement they’ve stepped in, they can’t see with their hearts anymore (or don’t trust any sort of poetic vision). Understandably, sacrifices must be made if we are to eliminate God, the gods and all of that silly immaterial superstitious non-stuff.

I, too am terribly underqualified to even speak of such things as Science, and I am a huge fan, but I do agree that the materialist view of the world will be the death of science by their own rules. If modern science keeps insisting that all we are, are bits of accidental star dust, it’s only a matter of time before they convince the rest of us that it’s true, star dust can’t possibly know enough to figure out how we got here, let alone the why of the matter.

Like many other issues in the culture here we see the continuation of the trend towards an all or nothing framing of the topic, “if you’re not with us, you must be against us.”

“I was just guessing at numbers and figures
Pulling your puzzles apart
Questions of science; science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart” Coldplay

She Blinded Me With Science

I am always looking for better, clearer ways to articulate the modern, and somewhat magical implications surrounding the idea of randomness, especially its specific use in the field of evolutionary biology and how that particular use has persuaded many moderns to embrace a mechanistic view of not only biology but all things human. Randomness is what’s left when we can’t see a pattern or find meaning or purpose, or perhaps are hungry for a good mystery, or simply drawn to courting meaninglessness itself. It remains a very human notion evoked when we have nothing else to say, and no way to connect human action to events.

In the modern language of genetics and evolution, too often what is left out of the discussion are the mechanisms of what keeps sameness in play and how important continuity is for reproduction. We are bombarded with talk of change; mutations, adaptations, while the mechanisms for genetic stability, or what keeps organisms continuing to reproduce with amazing sameness, go largely under valued. Life depends much more upon consistency, while change is frequently an aberration. Evolutionary change is hard won, over very long periods of time, which is why it is so hard to see let alone completely understand. This is not an argument against evolution, but more an argument for seeing purposefulness in evolution and noting our under-appreciation for meaning and purpose which are so important to matters of the heart. The concern here is for the power of ideas that underlie our assumptions and filter our world view.

Evolution does not have to be meaningless and without a purpose to be true.

Science can be soulful too. And perhaps science would be a lot more useful if a certain amount of soulfulness were retained and valued instead of avoided as a threat to the hard facts of numbers and equations.

I would argue too, that the problem of studying “the nature of nature” lies in our inability to get outside of the very nature in which we view, study and understand the world. We can’t see beyond the limits imposed by the physical senses of our own human nature; the mechanisms of our consciousness and sensory organs. As Alan Watts and the Zen masters taught, who can see the eye with which we are seeing?

Our being in the world is the best part of life, the part that can never be valued enough. Tossing around the idea of randomness to depersonalize an act or event is at the very least a misunderstanding of the part we can’t help but play. The bumper sticker sentiment calling us to perform random acts of kindness, while well-meaning, depreciates the choices we make, even when they are made with little forethought.

Example: you’re in a queue and seemingly out of nowhere decide to pay for your friends coffee/dinner/beer, random you think? Well, no, as long as you are a free agent exercising your will,  the length of time that has passed between your decision to act and the act itself does not take away from the purposefulness of your choice. No matter the distance between your act and your decision, you still made a choice, nothing  random about your act of kindness. Your personhood causes love to happen, every time you choose love. Being aware of your actions and choices helps you choose consciously, next time. Love remains one of the few powers that we truly possess, never failing us or those we love.

Here is a great article in the New Atlantis that nails the shortcomings of the idea of randomness within the context of evolution.

“In any case, it is startling to realize that the entire brief for demoting human beings, and organisms in general, to meaningless scraps of molecular machinery — a demotion that fuels the long-running science-religion wars and that, as “shocking” revelation, supposedly stands on a par with Copernicus’s heliocentric proposal — rests on the vague conjunction of two scarcely creditable concepts: the randomness of mutations and the fitness of organisms. And, strangely, this shocking revelation has been sold to us in the context of a descriptive biological literature that, from the molecular level on up, remains almost nothing but a documentation of the meaningfully organized, goal-directed stories of living creatures.”