By Jug Suraiya
May 5, 2020
One of the most famous scientific conversations consists of a two-line exchange between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Averse to the randomness of quantum mechanics, Einstein brushed it aside with a dismissive, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.” To which his friend and colleague, Bohr, replied, “Please stop telling God what to do.”
That two of the greatest scientists should cite God as an arbiter in a scientific dispute shouldn’t cause any surprise to those who see no innate contradiction between the spirit of religion and that of science.
Indeed, far from being in an adversarial relationship the two chime elegantly together in perfect harmony. Both represent a common search for knowledge about the origin and nature of the cosmos, and our relationship with it.
Why then is it that they are often seen to be at loggerheads with each other, as in the case of the ongoing battle between Darwinian Evolutionists on the side of science and Creationists on that of religion?
The answer lies in the concept of dogma, an article of faith that is beyond any doubt or debate. In the predawn of history our forebears interpreted natural phenomena, the rising and setting of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, solar and lunar eclipses, by attributing them to supernatural entities, which had to be propitiated by worshipful ritual and the offering of sacrifices.
Such animistic rites helped humans to be in consonance with nature. These practices, and the mythologies which gave birth to them, were a metaphor for the universe, a form of poetry before the invention of the written word.
Such metaphoric interpretations were a reflection of reality devised to help consciousness focus better on what was being reflected, but over time through repetitive tradition, the reflection came to be seen as the reality itself, the mirror was mistaken for the light, which does not generate, but only transmits. This was the seed from which dogma sprang.
Dogma smothers the spiritual essence of wonder and awe, which is at the heart of all true religion, and replaces it with mechanistic obeisance. Dogma turns religion into religiosity.
It is dogma that comes into conflict with science, whose guiding principle is that truth is not a destination but a ceaseless quest.
Now in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the biggest challenges’ civilisation has ever faced, it is more imperative than ever that science and religion come together to shield from mortal harm both the body and the soul of humanity.
It is with this in view that leaders representing a multiplicity of faiths have issued a statement on the necessity of recognising the synergy between religion and science. Describing religion as “The most powerful means of mobilising the human conscience to serve the common good”, the statement has categorically denounced the “fanaticism, superstition and contempt for science that are being expressed in the name of religion”.
Even as science strives to find a way to stem the fatal tide of the pandemic, salve has also to be sought for the grievous wounds of the spirit.
The essential unity of science and religion has perhaps never been better expressed than by astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who described his lifework as an attempt to “know the mind of God”.
Is that science speaking, or religion, or both in one voice?
Original Headline: Interfaith meets and spirituality of science
Source: The Times of India