Christianity: Aesthetics: Spirituality: Life: Stuart and Moira Gray

Science and Religious fundamentalism: Reason and Logic - the new God of Fundamentalist Thought, the new Newtonian Fundamentalism

Stuart Gray
Moira Gray
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When we look at our lives how do we view them? Do we see them in a logical, reasonable way, balancing assets with debts, objective, external, quantifiable concepts which we use to control our destiny and outlook, or are we more complex? Do we view our lives through a sense of fulfilment, through relationships, through our ideas of success and failure, through our own feelings and imaginations, through, in other worlds, how we relate to our inner selves and the outside world? Most would say that they are interrelated. True, but which is more important - which provides the end product for a happy existence? Here few would disagree with the idea that a logical approach to life is but a means to the end of producing good feelings about ourselves (yet often failing in the process!). In other words the rational approach to life is not an end in itself but a subservient means to an end.

There is so much more to life which cannot be defined by logic or reason, yet which is the ‘reason’ for life itself. Here I speak of feelings of success and failure, joy and anguish, compassion and hatred, the otherness of beauty and, above all, spirituality - which I define as the unification of ourselves not only with all parts of our nature and with all other living beings but also with the Creative Instinct of the universe. Science, for example, may determine to an ultimate degree the complex construction of a cathedral, yet fails in defining its reason why or its effect on a human being. True, it may determine the pathways which are stimulated in the brain yet it cannot define the experience itself.

Thus Science cannot answer the ‘why’ of life, rather the ‘how’ of life, but even then it has to endure limitations as we shall see. And yet Science, in an increasing public persona, is taking on an larger role, centre stage, for our understanding of life itself in all its complexities. In doing so it has transgressed two boundaries. The first is the rather obvious boundary of the ‘why?’ of human existence. For many the reason ‘why’ is answered by a belief in God or supreme being of some description, that somehow there is a purpose to our lives, to the universe itself, or that there is an objective reality beyond our comprehension yet one to which we must seek to adhere. There are many in the Scientific world who attack this by demanding proof of such a supreme being, and because they do not find an answer which satisfies their view of logic and reason they conclude that such an entity does not exist. Here they are guilty of double standards. They are prepared to allow the pursuit of the unknown within the workings of their own community but not anyone else's. Take their goal of the unified theory of everything. For years they have believed in this, but it remains a belief, a concept over the horizon, sincerely believed in but never actually realised. Here we find a resonance with all belief systems, belief in some form of God or supreme being whose actuality is deduced from human experience and the natural order of evolution yet always beyond definition.

The second boundary transgressed by many scientists is the use of data, what to include, what to exclude. If the universe was constructed solely upon logical and reasonable grounds then their research and conclusions would carry weight. Yet always there remains unanswered question for scientists. What was there before the Big Bang? What gave it creation? Why are there 4 forces of the universe, if indeed there are only 4? Science has yet to prove that there are not more. How does one define ‘evolution’ and its effects, or, say, a sense of compassion? Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ gives a rather mechanistic (or Newtonian) view of the universe where survival (and thus Science’s view of evolution) is based upon natural selection. Yet this does not explain why there are so many varieties of any one species - why, for example, after 15 billion years of existence there does not exist a ‘super’ bird which can adapt to any conditions. Equally modern humanity has disparaged this view. Why, for example, were so many countries banging at the door of Burma to be allowed to relieve the plight of those suffering the after-effects of their latest natural disaster? Logic and natural selection would see their demise, with relief, in an overcrowded world. The unquantifiable sense of compassion sees otherwise.

So, how do we comprehend the Universe, its origins and structure? Those scientists who would suggest that it is purely through reason and logic consider these are the only means with which one can conduct experiments and by which one can assess knowledge gained by such experiments. A further constraint is that for experiments to be accepted as accurate and so authentic and authoritative they not only have to be proved but also they have to be replicable and peer reviewed. It is what I would describe as a ‘Thomas’ approach to knowledge - “unless I can thrust my hands......I will not believe”. He must have been the original questioning scientist!

This approach is what I would also describe as a Newtonian approach to knowledge. It is incomplete, merely the start of analysis, as it were a rough guide to what is out there, or what resides within us. It works as a blueprint for our mechanical living and yet it fails to define or describe the sum total of human experience, in particular our aesthetic awareness. For that we need a more holistic or ‘Quantum Physics’ approach where the whole of human experience is brought into play, where not is all it seems, where reality is full of alternative perspectives and uncertainties.

Why? Look at our brains. Reason and logic reside there but only in one half, the left hemisphere. For humanity to exist successfully and to the fullest extent of its capabilities it needs also the resources of its right hemisphere wherein resides imagination, and artistic and spacial awareness. Consequently, to analyse the world purely through the left hemisphere is to see it as Newton did, as a predictable machine governed by the laws of motion etc. It is rather like looking at television or a film. It gives an accurate picture of what is going on but, being 2 dimensional, lacks depth, presence and involvement. That, in physics, was supplied by Quantum Physics which gives, following this analysis, a more comprehensible 3-D view. Herein lies the problem for scientists. Newtonian physics is logical and predictable, capable of accurate analysis and prediction. It can be replicated with ease. Quantum physics is much more ephemeral and indeterminate, much more akin to the human psyche. In the world of Quantum Physics nothing is certain or predetermined and yet Scientism views the world as entirely logical and therefore predictable. Are they not missing something? In a word how can one have a theory of everything where one element which must be included is unpredictability?

But even this is not enough. To experience the world we need more than a 2 dimensional or even a 3 dimensional view. We need to be there. The phrase “life is for living” has great resonance here. Our experience is as valid as the rational definition of those parts, even more so. It transcends it, and yet there is no definition of such experience. Wherein is to be found a definition of a sense of beauty, awe, enjoyment, even meditation? True, one can analyse the building blocks. One can, for example, analyse the whole structure of Bach’s Mass in B Minor from the point of view of form, key signatures, rhythm, voices and instruments used, its louds and softs, its varying speeds, its use of music to enhance the power of the words. What is one left with? Nothing much. Arid words on a printed page, meaningless until one hears the sound. Even that is not enough. Some recordings or performances leave us cold. Others transport us. It is often the unpredictable nature of interpretation ( the subtle rubatos, the daring climaxes), and indeed even the beliefs of the performers transmitted through playing and singing which make the difference. Take meditation. Experiments were performed in a Scottish University analysing the varying stages whereby deeper and deeper states of meditation were reached. They analysed the cause and which parts of the brain were affected but not the effect. That is somehow too personal, too individual. It is rather as if there is a whole world of parallel universes existing in each of us, each ephemeral and unpredictable.

The problem with scientific research is that it looks at religion through its own limited perspective, that of reason and logic. Religion was never meant to explain the universe, rather what was going on inside the individual - humanity’s experience of itself and how to develop it. God is not the cause of belief. God is an accepted but inadequate expression of the consequence of belief, an attempt at a left hemisphere explanation of a right hemisphere experience. The Hebrew religion got it right when they refused to allow any pictorial representations of the Divine.

Science concerns itself only with these left hemisphere expressions, all so easy to ridicule, to refute. All the rest is a by product, an attempt to extrapolate from this experience. Take the first story of creation, Genesis 1. The author’s intention is not based on reason, to say the world was created in 6 days, but rather on concept, that humanity was created in the image of God, i.e. inherently with the power of intellect, a sense of morality, a sense of the vast space of creation, but above all to share with the creator the need to create order - to keep back the forces of chaos.

Can one use ‘concept’ as a working hypothesis? A concept is capable of neither reason nor logic yet it can be examined.

With Jesus it was more simple. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”, i.e. it is all in the individual mind and its inner workings. Develop your consciousness through meditation, a process which may start with the right hemisphere but which, through slowing down and eventually stopping the chatter produced by this hemisphere, ultimately unites both hemispheres of the brain at their deepest levels. Then think about how this affects your attitude to the rest of creation, and in particular to that final element in meditation which transcends such earthly considerations. This development, this experience was paramount in understanding our human nature. It was Jesus’ antidote to how the laws of Moses had developed into the pure left hemisphere of reason and analysis. To believe or not believe in God is not the issue. That is always a matter of faith whether for scientists or believers. Neither can prove or disprove. Stalemate. In Hebrews we read: “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.

The problem for Western Science is that its thinking is dominated by a left hemisphere mentality which seeks to explain such right hemisphere qualitative and holistic realities by quantitative and reductive descriptions of the workings of their parts. Because of this we see the rise of ‘Scientism’ which claims it can grasp all reality purely through the use of this faculty. Science, as a disciplinary study, is not very good at producing ecstasy or the feeling of understanding. Indeed that is not its function.

Here is a rough analogy in which I use my own definitions of the word ‘dimension’. We can comprehend the length of an object (the first dimension) by being on a point equivalent to the width, i.e. at an angle to it, the second dimension. Similarly we can comprehend length and width only by being in the third dimension, height. Time is the fourth dimension through which we comprehend the unfolding of our 3-D universe. Yet this is all very physical, a kind of Newtonian guide with which to lead our ordinary physical lives.

This, however, does not represent the sum total of our existence. Where it does we see the dominance of capitalism and consumerism where the success of one’s life is judged purely by what we have acquired or achieved in terms of physical success. That, however, is not the end of the matter, nor ever has been. I would regard Jesus and Buddha as opening up a fifth dimension, that of self-evolving spirituality, through which we can make sense of our physical lives by removing our minds from the physical plane into this extra dimension where time and space are seen as interwoven but fluid and indeterminate.

Jesus is but a gateway. He provides the extra dimension through which we can comprehend the whole. Like many before him, Vishnu, Buddha etc., he is a portal, reached only by the unification of all our conscious states of existence, through which one approaches one’s spiritual self, that indeterminate, ephemeral state of existence where all is comprehended. How far you progress through this portal is up to you. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions”. It is a journey of discovery and evolution, exactly the same principles upon which the Universe was created.


Science has been of great significance in opening this portal. Thanks to its examination of consciousness and the brain, thanks to its development of quantum physics we have a greater understanding of the processes involved in reaching the Nirvana of being. Indeed Science may yet have a more holistic solution to the vagaries of life. I feel that once we can fully understand the nature and application of Quantum Theory, the Uncertainty Principle an Chaos Theory we may well have evidence of both the inter-connected relationship of all things but also some way along the route of understanding that a consciousness pervades and influences all things. We know the physical steps which must be taken. We know the problems and indeterminacies. One such is an organisation to which I belong, unfortunately hidden from the view of many, is the Scientific and Medical Network. Through this remarkable organisation I have learnt so much about the interface between science and spirituality from people who, to me, are essentially spiritual in outlook, but search for a scientific understanding of what they experience. They exercise what, for me, is a true theology for this age, full of open and enlightened investigation into human spirituality, evolution, holistic existence and consciousness. Equally this form of scientific investigation is essential because only through such can one be aware of which of the many interfaces between god and humanity, or within humanity's holistic existence itself, actually works. (See links for our website)

But the end goal of human existence is not, or should not be, an understanding of these steps. It is the taking of them and the experience, together with the resulting transformation of the individual in the taking of them, which is important. Such results at present reside beyond the scope of Scientism. Indeed one could say that Scientism, by limiting rational thought to current ideas of scientific analysis, has diminished the concept. Hopefully there will come a time when they realise and accept, as did Newtonian Physics the concept of Quantum Physics, that there is more to human life than is dreamed of in their philosophy.