Sunday, July 20, 2014

Faith in Science

Science fascinates me. From the different classic theories to the advances of the modern age that go from quantum physics to sub-sub-sub atomic particles, the human mind has been able to decipher potential solutions to many questions we’ve asked ourselves from the beginning of time from the “why are we here?” to the “what exactly is out there?”

Recently I saw a few episodes of the new incarnation of Cosmos, a television series that explores science. Like it’s original version (A Personal Voyage), the new Cosmos (A Spacetime Odyssey), allowed me to revisit various concepts I hadn’t covered since grade school. There’s just one thing, I couldn’t help feel as if the show took whatever anti-Catholic sentiments may have existed in the original version up about twenty notches.

A lot of emphasis was given on how the Catholic Church hunted, censored and condemned some of the bravest scientists to roam the Earth. By the way, I’m not denying that this happened or that it was a man-made tragedy. Both are quite true, however I can’t help going back and focussing on the tone of the show, which is courtesy of its writers and the new host, Neil deGrasse Tyson. I watched some episodes from the original series and couldn’t help but smile at the optimism Carl Sagan possessed. That’s because he was not only brilliant in his own right, he was overall such a nice guy, and himself, a gifted teacher who even inspired deGrasse Tyson. There was a childish fascination and curiosity to Sagan’s version of Cosmos and in the end, his enthusiasm for science was quite contagious, and in my case actually turned me to look more into science.

DeGrasse Tyson is brilliant in his own right and I’m sure he’s single handedly inspired thousands of kids... yet I couldn’t empathize as much with this version of the show because in the first three episodes (and particularly the first one), there was always some sort of attack on the church and the “ignorant people who fail to see the infallible truth in science.” This isn't to say I don't like deGrasse Tyson, you just need to see his take on Isaac Newton to see how likable he is. 

Still, if could sum up the feeling I got from the show I would say it was that we should question everything except science as the only way to understand the cosmos.

Seeing the news, I can understand why vouching against organized religion is such a popular stance lately. Religion has been the greatest excuse given by any nation to justify their cause: the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and even the Holocaust come to mind, (the last due to its aspect of cleansing, that although not God-given, did hold that people with a specific religion should be wiped out). In recent memory, I can also think of the language used when referring to conflicts between the US, Al Qaeda, different nations from the Middle East and beyond. To boot, when you look at history, there is evidence that shows what happened to people who questioned the church; they were basically butchered for voicing an opinion, and specifically any opinion that threatened the current accepted versions of truth.

So yeah, I get it and in large part, I agree that religion is flawed and has brought many atrocities to humanity... but so has science.

In the name of the greater good, scientists have performed experiments on people in the pursuit of knowledge and for that very same greater good. The Atomic Bomb might have been brilliant science misused, but still, science did play its role. Going back to the Holocaust, many studies performed by German scientists during that era definitely advanced our evolutionary path... but at what cost?

Another point  is  the way deGrasse Tyson phrases things, you’d think religion was the only roadblock to progress. The reality is much more crass and self centered. Face it, dedicating your life to work that turns out to be incorrect is frightening enough for people and more so when there is a consensus of people... so it’s more than understandable when “groupthink” of the scientific kind decides to beat down on any voice of dissent in the name of preserving their “truth”. 

Yes, religious leaders have held back progress, but then again so have Scientists, because science and many of its practitioners have a healthy dose of ego and arrogance.

I bring this forth because being agnostic, I acknowledge I have no clue as to what is really going on or how it’s happening.

I love science and reading on it because it gives me more tools to understand better. Still, when I do so, I read it fully knowing that I am interpreting a human created explanation for something.

That’s because both religion and science have the same roots... us. So in my worldview, bashing one explanation versus another is equally irresponsible.

“But what about all the scientific evidence and the advances we’ve achieved? All that information that proves that religions are completely bogus? Look at all the contradictions in the Bible, actually in all bibles.”

I get that.

Yet when it comes down to it, I think that faith is something a person cannot be deprived of and I wouldn’t mind a little more of it in science.

Faith to me is the belief in something, even if you don’t get it, even if you question it, even if it turns out to be wrong. Life has shown me that the more open I am to the possibilities of the universe, the happier I can be. Plus, I may not agree with everything my atheist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist or Christian friends say, but I will be able to break bread and share a beer with them. That’s because I recognize that we’re all just trying to make sense of it all and enjoy the ride in the process.

To me, it’s all about enjoying the ride, because in the end, that’s more important to me than being right.

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