A Logical Wedding Feast of Science and Religion

Copyright 2016 John Manimas Medeiros



Our search for understanding can be discouraging, exasperating and most troublesome when we divorce science and religion and make them enemies or adversaries instead of the wedding partners that they are.


We deem our science with all of its departments and logical methods and history of intellectual progress as that realm of human activity where we seek diligently to understand ourselves and the world we live in.  We can be prompted to acknowledge, however, that ourselves plus the world we live in amounts to "the creation," and that designation as "creation" suggests the realm of religion where our search appears to be focused on our search for God, or a deity, or a higher power, or that which we designate as "super" natural and therein beyond nature or above nature, and outside of the realm of science.  I believe we have missed something of great importance in our perception that science, as the path to knowledge, is distinctly separated from religion, as the path to belief.  First, the difference between knowledge and belief is profoundly subtle.  It does not seem possible, logically, for one to believe something that one does not know, or to know something that one does not believe.  Similarly, it does not seem possible, logically, to know or believe any concept, idea, or event that one has forgotten. 


I challenge the traditional view of separation on the basis of scientific evidence with regard to the concepts of "adaptation" and "inference."  Also, on the concept that the limitations on what we do know might not be founded only on the current status of our level of knowledge but might be founded more unchangeably on a more or less fixed limitation of our capacity to know.  This viewpoint comes in large part from my experience with young children who were mentally retarded and older children who were deemed to be learning impaired or dyslexic.  I worked with children whose capacity to engage in any meaningful discussion in the usual academic fields of arithmetic, language and science was severely restricted.  They simply could not demonstrate these skills because they did not have them, permanently.  I worked with a teenage boy who was discovered to be dyslexic at age fourteen.  How does a boy get from birth to age fourteen concealing the fact that he cannot read?  The answer, known to all educational psychologists, is called "adaptive" behavior.  The meaning of adaptive behavior is not obscure.  It means that if one cannot do something the usual way, such as by seeing things with eyes, the human brain is so exquisitely adaptable it will teach itself to "see" through the sense of hearing, touching, feeling, listening.  There are many types of adaptable behavior which would carry us beyond the purpose of this essay if discussed in detail.  Most kinds of adaptive behavior can be compared to the common human exercise of "inference" as a way of knowing.  If we pull loose bark off a tree and see an irregular trail cut in the wood we "infer" that the trail was made by an insect larvae that chews wood.  We do not see the insect, and we do not have proof of how the trail was made.  But, based on a body of knowledge and memories, we can say that we know the trail was made by an insect, and this knowledge was obtained or exists by "inference."  We use inference in much of science.  In fact, most new knowledge probably begins with inference.  We often have only inference for a long period of time until new instrumentation or corroborating evidence raises our "inference" to a level of "proof."


Let me return to our longing to understand the real world, the "creation" as compared to our longing to understand the "creator," or God, being He or She who created us, and maybe created us and everything else that we can detect and measure.  It is said that we cannot prove the existence or non-existence of God, the Creator, by application of the scientific method.  We cannot know about life after death or reincarnation or other events that we designate as "paranormal" or "supernatural" or mythical or magical or incomprehensible.  With all such things, what we are saying is that there are things which we do not understand.  Or, in a different sense, there are things which we CANNOT understand.  The distinction between cannot understand and do not understand is of the greatest importance.  We know that what we do not understand today we may fully understand tomorrow.  That is embodied in our history.  However, saying that we cannot understand something may have a far more profound cosmic significance, because what we CANNOT understand might mean the same thing as being mentally retarded or dyslexic.  It might mean that the human brain, or if one prefers, the human "mind," has fixed limitations such that there are some things, such as God, divinity, creation of the universe, energy, force, life after death, spirit, Holy Ghost, Great Spirit or supernatural that we, as a species, will never fully understand.  Even if evidence provides heavy support for this conclusion, we need not despair.


The Creation as Art, Creator as Artist:

If we are longing to understand both the creator and the creation, we can find encouragement in the logical proposition that we cannot really learn about one of these without also learning about the other.  In essence, one is absolutely justified in asking how can learning something about the creation not contribute to knowledge of the creator?  How could a vision of the creator, however obtained, not teach something about the creation?  What happens, in terms of helpful logic, when we think of the creator as an artist, and the creation as a work of art?  The work of art is not distinctly separate from the work of a physicist, mathematician, or engineer.  Howard Hughes was known as an engineer and excellent designer of mechanical and electrical devices.  His master work of the largest wooden aircraft ever built, the "Spruce Goose," was a work of science but also a work of art.  It was beautiful, and it flew.  The two greatest artists known to European history, Leonardo da Vince and Michelangelo Buonarroti, were both engineers and artists.  Let me take you back then, to the concept of God as an artist.  When a poet is asked how did he -- or she -- write a poem, they often respond that they do not know.  The discussion, if pursued, will move in the direction of the explanation that a poem comes from a place that is not strictly conscious, but a place that is only occasionally accessible to the writer, a place that is not the same place where the logical intellect resides, a place that is not the place where we "know."  The same is true of painting and sculpture.  Those who produce wonderful paintings and carvings are often unable to provide a scientific explanation of where their artistic impulse, vision or even their skills come from.  What does this have to do with the creator and the creation, meaning the universe and us in it?


If we allow ourselves to think of the creator, or Creator, as an artist, then we can move by means of rational thought toward the conclusion that it is possible the creator does not fully understand where the creation came from or precisely how it was generated.  I am saying nothing less than it is possible the "God" that created the creation might be longing to understand us fully and how we came into being just as much as we long to understand both the creation, ourselves, and the creator.  The creator might admire and cherish us not for our capacity to know, but more for our wonderful capacity for inference and adaptation.   We do seem capable of doing things far beyond what we truly understand.  We are forever inventing technology that exceeds our knowledge.  That is, we can do things without fully understanding all of the effects of our experiments and projects.  That is why we have so many "unintended consequences" that sometimes cause destruction along with creative success.  While we accomplish wonders by intent, we continually generate danger by our incomplete understanding of what we are doing.  Still, the creator, or Creator, might love us for our capacity to adapt, our amazing ability to adjust to the conditions brought to us by nature or by our own stubborn and half-baked technological inventions that are almost invariably mistakes as well as achievements. 


Who Knows?

My argument then is that it is possible, and even logical, that the being that created us, if we were created, would like to fully understand what He or She has created, but does not, because we are a work of art that comes from a kind of hidden and mysterious place within the universe just as our poetry and paintings and flying vehicles are natural works of art as well as measurable objects of science.  Thus, just as we enhance our knowledge of the Creator with every piece of new insight into who and what we are, the Creator gets to know Himself better the same way.  It is truly possible, then, according to a valid logic, that while we long to understand the Creator, we add to our understanding of the Creator with every morsel of self-knowledge that we collect.  This means, inescapably, that new knowledge about ourselves, which we call "science" contributes to our understanding of both the creation and the creator, or Creator.  And, any evidence we have that teaches us about the creator, the Artist, teaches us about that which we call "religion."  Therefore, our longing for scientific knowledge is not substantially separate from our longing for religious understanding, and we may find that we will accomplish the ultimate understanding by meeting, on the road of inquiry, the Creator who is looking for us with as much diligence as we are looking for Them.  Knowing who we are, by means of science, is logically bound to knowing how we came into being, which is religion.  Congratulations.  You may kiss the bride.  Go now, and love one another for as long as you shall live. 

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