[ An excerpt from my book, The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim ]
“Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.” ~Henri Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis, 1905
“I spent a lot of time at age eight experimenting… commanding stones to levitate: ‘esir, enots.’ It never worked. I blamed my pronunciation.” ~ Carl Sagan
So, I have this pile of stones, each one representing a scientific fact that could be used to build a solid foundation for what I’ll call the “House of the Origins of Humanity.” Yet, they remain in an unstructured heap, because while each stone may be individually factual, they can be loosely mortared together only by hypothesis, built on the presupposition that humans evolved from lesser forms of primates, who in turn evolved from emergent aquatic species, who themselves evolved from primordial slime. While these individual facts may indeed comprise my pile of stones, they cannot construct an unshakeable foundation, for they lack concrete coherence. So the house remains in the architectural phase. We know where we want to put the stones, we just are not yet sure as to how they all fit together.
Science, as we know it, is defined as a branch of knowledge or study of the physical or material world, dealing with a body of facts and/or truths systematically arranged, showing the operation of general laws gained through observation and experimentation, reflecting a precise application of said fact and /or principles. Science is also the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena, restricted to a class of natural phenomena.
While Science is continually uncovering facts as to variant species that on a hypothetical level demonstrate a mutation within the species, they still lack that definitive Link that results in an exclamation of “Eureka!” This does not nullify the facts – that metaphoric pile of stones – but it certainly wreaks havoc with the proposed hypothesis.
To continue following my House of Humanity construct: Science has proven that there are five characteristics that separate man from other hominoids - a large neocortex, bipedality, reduced anterior dentition with molar dominance, material culture, and unique sexual and reproductive behavior.1 But Science has yet to demonstrate that the discovered variants are actual linkages within the Human species. All we know of a certainty is that scientists have uncovered numerous forms of fossilized prehistoric skeletal remains, leading them to conclude that they are substantiating the line of human evolutionary ascendancy, albeit with many gaps in the progression, therefore no real linkages. But they are pretty damned sure that they are correct in their hypothesis.
What Science and its practitioners have demonstrated is that there exist fossils that provide incontrovertible evidence that various hominid species walked the earth in our primordial past. What they have hypothesized is that they are all linked to human evolution. Even the DNA findings at best are interpolated from what scientists think maybe appears to somewhat be sorta connected to human DNA. They make the stretch to linkage based solely on the educated “hope” that it is “probably so,” despite not having evidence to make it so without a shadow of a doubt. And isn’t that the very same way religious believers cling to their particular version of God?
Science has a love affair with itself. It loves to puff out it’s chest and declare for itself (as do many religions), yet with the last 150 years of research since Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), their accumulated facts have still not gotten them past their original leaping off point; their educated guess that all these finds are somehow linked, demonstrating an unbroken chain of evolutionary mutation resulting in modern man.
While Science has made great advances in the quest for the identification of linkages in the line of human evolution, Science has also been forced to make quantum leaps of faith in order to adhere to pre-established hypothesis. Of course, they wouldn’t call it faith, but that is the practical outcome.
In a very real sense, Science (and I use the term “Science,” here, as representative of the accumulated collective of thought, hypothesis, research and conclusion embodied in a single entity/word), rose up to find and identify fact, and has established its own “truth,” in a sometimes-overt, sometimes-unwitting desire to do an “end run” around spiritual and religious belief. Spirituality existed long before established Science, but somewhere at the very roots of understanding, Science kicked in as soon as someone raised their head and said, "Hmmm... I know the stars are the placental remains of the Great Goddess in the sky birthing the sun and moon. But... is that just a story, or is there something more...?"
The great conflict: science versus religion versus science versus faith
There has existed a conflict between science and spirituality – reason versus faith - since the beginning of recorded history, and it seems as if that fight will continue until time itself ends. For many in the scientific fields, there is a need to eradicate all that is not fact, including faith-based spirituality or it’s organized religious practices, as well as a denial – at least on an intellectual level – that there is some powerful, divine creative force at play in the universe.
According to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, scientists never need to rely on faith, at least " not in the sense of faith as meaning belief in something for which there is no evidence."2 Dawkins, being a self-acclaimed atheist, says that any expression of “faith,” on his part, is based upon his confidence in the scientific method, alone. In agreement with Dawkins is the pop cultural skeptical icon James Randi, who by trade is a stage magician and scientific skeptic. He has made a notable name for himself out of debunking the paranormal and the pseudo-scientific – which is not in and of itself a bad thing. Randi says, when hailing to his experience of being tossed out of Sunday school as a kid, “I am an atheist, tried and true.”3 Since then he has dedicated his life and career to finding ways to prove that science is the end-all and be-all when it comes to the great controversies surrounding the big questions of faith, religion and the great mysterious unknowns of Life and the Universe.
Carl Sagan’s credo, which has become the broadly adopted Skeptic’s Credo states that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”4 and in that mantra they have eradicated the need for any sort of faith-based belief, save that of their own exponential leaps of faith in science and the scientific method, as earlier demonstrated with the inability to find and establish the “missing link.” These very same skeptics will on one hand revile faith, religion and spirituality as outmoded and lacking in reason, while on the other hand accept as fact the presuppositions and as-of-yet unproven theories of things such as evolutionary ascendancy. In a very real sense, the scientist and dyed-in-the wool atheistic skeptic have, in decrying faith, established Scientific Skepticism as the new surrogate for faith, and in its own rationale unwittingly declared itself the New Religion.
The definition of Religion is:5
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a code governing the conduct of human affairs with a strong emphasis on practice.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons, sects or collectives.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
7. Archaic. religious rites.
8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one's vow.
There is Cause and Nature recognized by the scientific community, and a devoutly strict adherence to its “religious” practice, but they seem to collectively pull up short when it comes to acknowledging a spiritual point-of-view, and they collide in epic proportions with spirituality and Religion, altogether. The true skeptical and scientific mindset should more appropriately recognize the “unknown” quantity underlying religion as an undiscovered country, and rather than eliminate it altogether from discourse and acceptance, place it more aptly in the category of “Things We Don’t Know For Sure.” Science, in aggressively attempting to eliminate – or at the very least diminish - the role of spirituality and religion from the playing field, have in a very real sense established themselves as the authority on all things unverifiable. Dawkins, again, labels religion as “trash,” and in so doing, elevates himself and his scientific colleagues to the status of “secular gods.” When religion is deposed by a conflicting mindset, that mindset then promotes itself to the lofty echelon of God’s Surrogate.
The Church of Skeptic
I have a friend who is a Skeptic; a true believer in science and skepticism; a Michael Shermer devotee. I have seen this friend over the last twenty years evolve (or “devolve,” depending on how you see things) from a Roman Catholic to a diehard skeptical atheist, so much so that I now, amicably, refer to him as a “reverend in the Church of Skeptic.” He bristles at this moniker, yet takes it in the lighthearted fashion in which it is delivered, but at the same time, he is also representative of the brand of skeptic who has less true questioning than he does unwitting cynicism. And let it be said for the record that I, too, have a skeptical mind, but my skepticism has not crossed over the boundary into arrogant adherence to only the things I can prove by means of the scientific method. Science and Skepticism, too, need to be tempered by an attitude of wanting to discover, learn, grow and know, not a leaping off point of absolute denial of anything outside the realm of provable science.
“The threats to human dignity and integrity are being ramped up to extraordinary levels of stress, when what we most need is wisdom,” says Yale computer guru David Gelernter,6 decrying the dangerous trend of know-it-all scientists promulgating the idea that “religion and spirituality are trash.” What we are seeing trended more and more is that wisdom, moral seriousness and adherence to religion and spirituality are coming under grave and perpetual attack, and more often by the people who are prominent figures in the scientific community. Crusading atheism combined with an aggressive desire to secularize the world through the funnel of science and skeptical thought has become a major hurdle to accepting the fact that not all things are measurable by the scientific method.
The first step needed in order to help science and faith find common ground, is a starting point of admitting our absolute ignorance. We know nothing. None of us, with all our glorified sciences and metaphysical mumbo-jumbos really knows anything at all. We have experienced only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the physical workings of our universe, and we need to constantly question and test and discover, then question and test to discover more. This process is what separates those who would remain in self-imposed make-believe worlds, from those who would be seekers of fact and truth.
Eugenie Scott, the director for the National Center of Science Education, was asked a question about whether science could ever prove or disprove God’s existence. With a wry smile, she said, “Well, we don’t exactly have a ‘God-ometer,’ do we?” And she went on to express that she was highly skeptical that such a device could ever be conceived, let alone manufactured. We don’t, and probably never will have a test or device that could measure that sort of information.7
Some things are simply unquantifiable. This doesn’t mean such things don’t exist, it just means that there are some things that we may never know for sure. As appealing as it would be to assert with 100 percent certainly that God exists, we simply cannot. The existence of God is something that can only be accepted by faith. Not blind faith, but a faith that recognizes there are some veils that cannot be pierced. The scientific method can only take us so far, and that explanation will only ever leave us dissatisfied. But, then again, we can never be satisfied until we reach that unknown point.
So, to debase belief in the divine and the unexplained mysteries that surround us simply because it is not definable by Science, is to display utter arrogance at best and total stupidity at worst. Science, without the understanding of how everything loops together with faith and spirituality, is only half the picture, at best.
And then there’s the other side of the equation. Pope John Paul II in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome, declared on October 27, 1996, his acceptance of evolution as a fact of nature, noting that he believed there was no real war between science and religion. He said, in part, “Consideration of the method used in diverse orders of knowledge allows for the concordance of two points of view which seem irreconcilable. The sciences of observation describe and measure with ever greater precision the multiple manifestations of life… while theology extracts… the final meaning according to the Creator’s design.”8 Christians and the Religious Right reacted angrily to the Pope’s statements, and Henry Morris, president emeritus of the Institute for Creation Research responded, “The pope is just an influential person; he’s not a scientist. There is no scientific evidence for evolution. All the real solid evidence supports creation.”9
And so the battle wages on between mindsets, ideologies, science and religious points of view.
But what about myth and legend? The human race bears of the scars of ancient interruption. Science observes the details, but does little to recognize the random elements that lie outside the realm of the observable and testable. Spirituality opens the door to usher in any whacked-out theory or belief, so long as the person expressing the theory is sincere about his faith. One allows for the possibilities, while the other closes the door to anything that is unquantifiable or improbable by the scientific method.
True Science is nothing more than us catching up to what we already naturally know and understand on a spiritual level. And that level of understanding is not outside our grasp. We simply have to be unafraid to reach for it.
In his book, The Demon Haunted World, Carl Sagan spoke of the two things instilled in him from a very early age: “My parents… in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and wonder… taught me the two uneasily cohabitating modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.”10
Be scientific. Be skeptical. Be religious. Be spiritual. But never lose touch with the Wonder that is beyond our finite ability to quantify that which is unquantifiable.
“A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light, but making the darkness conscious.” ~ Carl Jung
1. The Origin of Man, Owen Lovejoy, Science, January 1981: Vol. 211 no. 4480 pp. 341-350
2. Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and the former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He is the author of several of modern science's essential texts, including The Selfish Gene (1976) and The God Delusion (2006). Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Dawkins eventually graduated with a degree in zoology from Balliol College, Oxford, and then earned a masters degree and the doctorate from Oxford University. Founder of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
3. James Randi, BigThink.com Interview, 2010 http://bigthink.com/jamesrandi
4. The Demon Haunted World, by Carl Sagan, Random House, 1996
5. www.dictionary.com, Webster’s
6. David Gelernter, BigThink.com Interview, 2010 http://bigthink.com/davidgelernter
7. Cited in the article, “Critical thought and the Paranormal: Not an Oxymoron,” by Rev. Jonathan Weyer, TAPS ParaMagazine, Volume 7, No. 1, 2011
8. Why People Believe Weird Things, by Michael Shermer, Henry holt and Co., 1997, 2002
9. Cited in Skeptic, Volume 4, No. 4, 1996
10. The Demon Haunted World, by Carl Sagan, Random House, 1996