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Religion of Science

Updated on July 1, 2012

"Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." - Albert Einstein

The question often comes up about how we can keep kids interested in science? After all, as taught in school it is often very boring, dry, stuff. Particularly to young minds that want to be doing and thinking about other things. Albert may have had the solution.

The companion question to that one is: How do we keep adults interested in science? Particularly since their lives are often a complex mess and science isn’t a big priority for them. They don’t see how it fits in with who they are, or how it is going to help, unless they’re MacGyver.

Science is thought of as cold logic, void of emotion.

Many educators seem to think it has to be made fun so kids relate to it as play in some way. Some teachers do a good job of that while others fail miserably.

Still others try to awaken or use a child’s wonder at the world and their place in it. Some kids get it and some don’t. There is no one way to reach all people, so a variety of methods is probably not a bad idea. But unfortunately through no fault of theirs, each teacher has their own particular method, rather than there being a way to tailor a method to suit every individual child.

Because of a set curriculum and the fact that getting the right teacher for any individual is no better than a crap shoot, science almost inevitably becomes a chore for most kids. When are they going to need a science education after they leave school unless they are planning on going in to the field?

Religion, on the other hand, gets a lot of people’s attention. Most people in the world have religious beliefs of some sort; even if not the ones handed to them by parents or their culture. Why is that?

Almost every person at some point in their lives asks themselves the big questions like: Who and what am I? What purpose does life serve? How did we get here?

And with those questions in mind many people turn to religion, because answering those questions is and probably always has been the purview of religion.

Science can tell us many things, but it will never explain the really big questions, right? Well I’m not so sure that’s true.

We seem to forget the obvious: science is the study of us, and the universe, and even our place in it. All those subjects are related. By knowing science and cultivating a logical mind we are using a method of thought that has a good chance at finding the truth about: “life, the universe, and everything.”

But what happens is that most people don’t understand that the logical mind is not dispassionate. They think logic is cold and unfeeling. That puts them off it as way of thinking. The average person trying to embrace logic makes that mistake and tries to emulate Spock from Star Trek. But is logic served by being completely emotionless? Certainly not.

Simply repressing emotion is not healthy. You have them whether or not you want them. Emotion exists for a reason. It often represent needs. Emotions make us do things. They demand a resolution. The only way to deal with emotions is to understand them, work them out, and thereby resolve them once and for all.

That’s often a difficult thing to do and requires logic. The way you perceive things affects the way you feel about them. Logic is a tool of thought. It does not require that you abandon feeling it only demands you abandon irrational ideas when you notice how irrational they are.

In the mid 1900s many controversial and often disturbing experiments were done in aid of explaining emotion. It was thought that rationality was better served without it. But what they found in the end was that rationality is not complete without emotion.

This is illustrated very well in experiments done on people who through brain injury or through surgery no longer feel much emotion. It turns out, for instance, that emotion helps us with pattern recognition and risk evaluation.

It would be irrational to try to do away with your emotion because it comes from the subconscious. This is a complex subject I have written about elsewhere, so I won’t expound on them here.

Religion purports to tell us why thing are as they are. But the answer always boils down to the idea that a god wants it that way. Again, as I have explained in detail elsewhere: That doesn’t tell us much, if anything, even if you think it’s true.

Science tells us how things probably work, based on facts and good evidence. From it we have discovered so very much. And what we have discovered is awe inspiring. From physics to genetics the world and, indeed the universe, reveals its secrets bit by bit. And boy it’s complex, amazing, and often counter intuitive.

To discover the universe is a religious experience of the first order. It gives us the answer to some of those questions we have about our own place in it all. And along with science philosophy it can and does replace religion for many.

What is a religious experience but the feeling of connection to something much larger than self? And indeed science points out blatantly how very connected we are to all things. That which many religions knew intuitively for thousands of years has been confirmed by science in a hundred ways.

Religions often tell us that if we follow them they will show us the true meaning of our lives. Yet they only have philosophical positions to base their answers on. The person who bases their search for self on science has a logical, factual, base for their philosophical perspectives.

It won’t come as surprise to anyone that science has already been taken as the basis for philosophy. Materialism/Physicalism is one such philosophical position. But it may surprise some people that this obviously atheist philosophy has morphed into a religion.

There are several atheistic religions. Some forms of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism are religions that do not worship gods. But Pantheism, known as Naturalist or Scientific Pantheism, is the first openly atheistic religion based on science.

I say openly because Pythagoras is reported to have based a religion on math and geometry. But since it was a secret religion, presumably for his pupils and mathematicians only, nothing is really known about it except that it was reported to have existed. He is noted as saying something to the effect that his mathematics was his religion.

One might well ask why an atheist would want a religion. Fact is that many do not. There are many atheists who have no interest in religion or science. Existentialists often see the universe and existence as ultimately futile and meaningless.

But atheism means only one thing and tells us only one thing about a person. It tells us that person does not believe there are conscious gods of any number or sort interested in the affairs of human beings, or in the business of creating and maintaining them.

It tells you only what a person does not believe. It does not tell you what a person does feel or believe. Many people share lack of belief in gods, but that may be the only perspective any given two atheists share. Atheism isn’t a belief; it’s a lack of belief. So for some of us who love the wonder of the universe and a sense of connection to all things, a world view (and you don’t have to think of it as a religion) based in science is perfect.

I think it is wonderful that more and more people are turning to Pantheism to fulfill their desire for community with likeminded people.

In the sense that the totality or universe or nature is what produced us that creative process fulfills the role of a traditional god nicely; except of course that while it nurtures us by providing what we need to survive by virtue of having created the conditions for our existence, it doesn’t monitor our activities. But even so, cause and effect are task masters that demand morality just as stringently as the Jewish/Christian god does. Being moral is not just what is best for all of us, it is logical.

And that is what should be being taught in schools. Kids should understand that science relates to everything, because all subjects are related. At the moment all subjects are taught in isolation as if the universe can be broken up into stand alone pieces. It can’t.

I’m not saying kids should be taught science as a religion. I am saying it should be taught as if it is a religion because it is, in effect, the same thing in the context of the questions it asks and the questions it can and will answer. Science, the science oriented mind, the logical mind, and science philosophy are destined to replace religion.

Now many will object and say that science and religion differ in that religion is spiritual while science is about the material world. But what is spirituality? It assumes we have a soul and that somehow that soul is separate from the more base material world.

Instead of answering that directly, let me say that science is the evolution of religion. It’s new look at the universe. It questions everything and assumes nothing. I don’t know for a fact that there is no soul, but at the same time I have no evidence that a soul exists as described in the religious context.

Is the soul a question that science will ask? No. Not likely. But because all subjects are intimately related, a philosophical study of the findings of science may well point to the answer. Or, if there is a soul, science should eventually run into it indirectly.

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” - Albert Einstein

Science is eliminating the speculation religion has to use, and replaces it with either factual answers or a wait and see attitude. Most people want answers right now. Religion exists because of that human desire. But there is nothing more honest than saying you don’t know if you don’t know. Faith is just speculation.

However, spirituality can be seen in the context of how we feel about the mystery of the world and the universe. Searching for who and what we are, finding ourselves, is a spiritual journey by definition.

Unlike other world views like Christianity, a scientific world view like pantheism is not dogmatic, it is dynamic. There are no hypothesis that are set in stone unless they have been proven time and time again. Even then new evidence can change our world view in an instant.

That’s what real education is all about, isn’t it?


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    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 5 years ago from Australia

      I was one who asked the big question, and am still pursuing those answers. I am more in line to loving Tesla who said science will take huge leaps when it comes to terms with metaphysics. Which, in my mind, is another way of acknowledging consciousness beyond our tiny little brains, and pursuing the quest to go beyond the tiny mind to a broader level of consciousness. And yes, looking in the mirror is a good place to start.

      My education was in a catholic school - hence the boring religious instruction that did nothing to inspire. My broader spiritual experiences started when I was able to question the world and myself in it. This will never come about by believing, but by experiencing.

      I am soooooo very pleased my spiritual teacher has a science background. His teachings are methodical and practical and totally out of this world! That said however, the enquiry broadens. Seeing the macrocosm and the microcosm in so many things, including ourselves, the memes we are part of- wow! And our place within it.

      Paradoxically however, once you get answers, the enquiry broadens to more questions, and more and more. Which I am greatful for. Being ignorant is slothful. But mixing intelligence with wonder is a more exciting way to experience life - in my opinion anyway. :)

      I don't have much education in physics and science. But interestingly when I pursued the experiences of broadening consciousness thru meditation I was able to follow physics and see it outside of the math - or was I actually inside it looking out. Black holes in space take on new meanings when seen from inside yourself. That's a ride (as Bill Hicks can attest!)

    • Slarty O'Brian profile image

      Ron Hooft 5 years ago from Ottawa

      Jewels and MsDora

      I certainly was not implying that religion was made interesting in school. In the Canadian public system religion is not taught unless you go to a Catholic school or private religious school. So I had no religious education to speak of in school until I sat in at comparative religion and history of religion classes at a university in my area.

      But I did get a lot of science class and wasn't inspired by it at the time.


      On the other hand I was very interested in the big questions from a very early age. I studied a lot on my own by talking to priests and believers.

      But it all came together for me in grade 10 science class when a substitute teacher told us about the laws of conservation. I had a major revelation when I learned that every atom tends toward it's lowest level of energy output.

      That revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly it became clear to me that if that was true, then it explained everything about human behaviour and how the simple becomes complex.

      Since we and all things are made of these atoms, we naturally mimic their behaviour. In fact we are the manifestation of their behaviour.

      It became obvious that while religion had captured my imagination and wonder, science was a way to gather evidence for or falsify the philosophical ideas of religion.

      From there I had one revelation about life after the other through self study of science, including talking to and arguing with working scientists who could set me straight.

      The tragedy is that teacher who blew my mind didn't seem to understand the implications of what she had said. She went through the material methodically and unemotionally, as if it was just an other interesting fact but nothing special.

      Had she known, or had she explained the implications of what she had said, she may have instilled the same wonder in other kids as well.

      It's one thing to tell a kid or an adult that all atoms tend toward equilibrium, and another to tell them what that means in terms of them.

      In the end though, there are several kinds of people. Some are born in wonder every time they look in a mirror. They wonder at what they really are and what this life is all about. Others are too scared to ask or explore. Others don't seem to think there is anything to wonder about it. It is the way it is. No big deal. Still others have such a hard life tat they think of it all as futile or worse.

      Most of these perspectives are candidates for religion since it promises a good life after death if you follow instructions. It's easy, it quenches certain fears, you don't have to think about life because it is all explained: god wants it that way. it gives comfort in the thought that loved ones are never lost.

      But it is built on speculation, and the facts of the human condition. For the perspective that finds wonder or that has always had it, science is the natural alternative. As a rule, people don't become scientists unless they have burning questions about life.

      But I think most people eventually ask the big questions at some point, and I think natural wonder could be cultivated in those who don't already have it.

      After all, how can anyone look at all this and not wonder what the heck is really going on?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      The right teacher for the right job(as you all mentioned) can make a difference. Neither the study of religion or of science can be limited to the school years. What the student needs foremost in school is the motivation to learn-- and they will learn whatever they need to apply to their lives.

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 5 years ago from Australia

      I didn't think religion was a good subject at school. It was boring, confusing and I could not relate to it. Science was similar. Was it the teachers or the times I live in? Religion did not give me any clue that there were mysteries in the world. I'm actually not sure how that came about. I was too busy surviving school to notice those things. I used mythical stories and Disney Land to escape reality, as I think many do via either religion or more of Disney Land.

      I wish I had been taught about all religions and the mysteries of the universe. I wish star gazing was added into the lessons, even if it meant a weekend camping just so that could happen. I wish science was the mystery, I wish it had made me curious. But science classes in school were lame.

      Maybe it's the way we approach learning or being taught. I've learned more on both subjects out of the school system than in it. So not sure what the answer is. But I do know that as it is now, it gets a big F.

      I actually wish Albert had been my dad and instilled wonder and the genetic need for enthusiasm in learning in a system that does not inspire.


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