Theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser recently won this year’s Templeton Prize, which recognizes individuals who have made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.
A noble sentiment. And quite a tall order for a theoretical physicist, considering today’s arid materialist scientific environment. But he did it by emphasising the limits of science, the value of humility and the irrationality of non-belief (referring to the scientific dogma that because we have no objective proof of higher consciousness, or a higher power, then it does not exist, and therefore the essential nature of reality is material).
Gleiser suggests, quite rightly, that rather than atheism the rational conclusion under such circumstances is agnosticism; that atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. It is a belief no different to any other unsubstantiated belief. It is an assumption, not a fact.
So what has lead otherwise seemingly intelligent scientists to make such a leap of non-faith? To depart so drastically from the essentially spiritual perspective of the scientific luminaries such as Einstein, Planck and Jeans to whom they are so indebted for the science they now profess to practice?
I believe that it’s the reaction to religious dogmas in our comparatively enlightened age of reason. Which is understandable, considering the irrationality of religious dogmas. The problem, though, is that the sheer emotional force of that reaction, which is deeply rooted in the trauma of religious wars, oppression, exploitation, deception, sex crimes and other crimes against humanity, creates a blind spot to rational thought (in relation to this one issue at least) which leapfrogs over reason and creates a dogma all of its own. This is not science. It is reactionism in the name of science. It is the (perhaps subconscious) misuse of science to vent reaction to one’s cultural and religious upbringing. Atheism is just as dogmatic as any religion. In fact, one could argue that it is a dogmatic religion in itself.
Ironically the key to the modern-day dogmas of atheism and materialism is that the mind of the atheist/materialist is still rooted in religion. The overwhelmingly materialistic and atheistic scientific community of today who like to think of themselves as intellectually enlightened are ultimately unable to think outside the box of the religion they were raised and conditioned with and that has imprisoned their minds. They almost invariably couch their atheism in religious (typically Christian) terms and so are really ultimately referring to the deficiencies of religion and not true spirituality.
Spirituality is not religion. It has nothing to do with religion. It does not involve the imposition of any preconceived beliefs. It has no unnecessary or superfluous rituals. And it has no dogmas. It is quite simply the search for the essence of existence. Science can also be a part of that search. Indeed the two, science and spirituality, go together. They are inherently complimentary: the inner search for oneself and the outer search for the universe. Science approaches the truth objectively and spirituality approaches it subjectively. They will eventually converge on the same reality. But for that to happen the practitioner of each discipline — science and spirituality — will have to leave the religious dross of their cultural conditioning at the door.
I believe that we are fast approaching a day when the wisdom of the past will be combined with the knowledge of the present to facilitate our search for the essence of existence. And that this will happen within ourselves as well as through the scientific method. To find the truth we must compliment the search for it in multi-billion-dollar particle accelerators with the search for it within our free selves.