IS IT REALLY INCOMPATIBLE THE FAITH IN THE DIVINE WITH A SCIENTIFIC MIND?
Historically in the West there has always been a dichotomy in the minds of most of the people: either one was religious or had a scientific mind. Why? Because the unverifiable dogmas that one has to swallow without any sort of reasoning in the religions of the West don´t fit into the mind of people who, like scientists, search for validations of their discoveries.
This dichotomy was fed for long by the Church itself who would shun reasoning attitudes that could conclude in cuestioning their tenets which, in a vast majority of the cases, were (and are) only “a matter of faith”. Obviously, a scientific mind, given the dichotomy of believing something blindly or trying to prove it, they would chose the second. And like this, they would situate themselves in the “side of the atheists” or “agnostics”, attitudes both towards the God presented by the Church that could not be proven: they would reject it or at least they would have serious doubts about His existence. Because this God presented by the Church doesn´t pass the test of a proof: His existance cannot be proven. Who and how is this God according to the Church and to the Bible?
- Some superior entity sitting somewhere out there in the heaven.
- This God named Yaweh in the Old Testament, sorry to say, it is somebody absolutely tendentious who favours his friends and punishes his enemies to the extent of cruelty.
- Somebody in whose name the History of the expansion of the Church has been the history of atrocities and bloodshed. History cannot be denied.
- A God of Love and Compassion with which priests fill their mouths in the masses doesn´t match with the Entity described in the Bible.
- Only Jesus to my understanding came to redeem not us, but the cruel Yaweh described in the Bible. To clean his name with some loving acts during his life. With some miracles seen by some Christian westerners as something unique, only possible by “the only Son of God”, is not a matter of awe by any Indian who knows his tradition a bit in profoundity: the history of the Hindu tradition is pregnant of Yogis and Saints who have and continue to make nowadays the “miracles” attributed uniquely to Jesus by the Christians.
With this state of affairs, it is but logical that a scientific mind cannot believe in an unverifiable God. And that is what has happened to many followers of Christianity in the West, that cannot but end up calling themselves “atheists”. Because they cannot believe in the God presented by the Church whose existence cannot be proven. Or even “spiritual but not religious” what is an oxymoron that can only and should only be understood as “I have some spiritual impulse inside that it is impossible to reconcile with the Divinity that the Church presents to me”.
A pity, because they did not go further to realise that there is a place where they can reconcile both terms in this dichotomy, and call themselves religious and scientific minds. Or even religious and atheists at the same time, because in this place not believing in a personified deity doesn´t mean not having a sacred perspective of the Cosmos. This “place” is Vedanta, one of the six darshans or perspectives or schools of thought in Hinduism. Because this dichotomy only exists in the West or in those influenced by Western thought. In the indian traditional thought both (faith in the Almighty and having a scientific mind) are only two of the many faces of the polyhedron from which one can contemplate the universe.
Let´s see what Maria Wirth has to say to this question. Her article has inspired what I have written up to here and the comment I add at the end as a conclusion. Highlighted in bold by me.
CAN ONE HAVE FAITH IN THE ALMIGHTY AND YET BE SCIENTIFIC MINDED? by Maria Wirth
Yes, and it is even natural. One only needs to deeply reflect on what is meant by the Almighty.
If somebody grew up as a Christian or Muslim, he needs, however, to get rid of some notions about the Almighty which can never be proven and are in all likelihood not true – for example that He favours those who believe in a specific book (Bible, Quran) and sends all others to eternal hell and that he is a superhuman (male) creator, separate from humans, and that he made his will known only recently, not even 2000 years ago, and that the jury is still out (because two religions stake claim to it), to whom he has spoken the last world of the ‘only truth’… .
But Vedic wisdom can help to correct one’s view, as it had already long before Christianity and Islam appeared, a highly mature understanding of the ‘Almighty’:
The Rishis claim that everything in this creation including ourselves is permeated by the same great intelligence, like waves are permeated by the same ocean. The waves may be convinced that they are separate from the ocean as they have a distinct form and name. But ultimately all waves are nothing but the one great ocean and nothing is lost when their form is lost. Similarly, though we may consider our person as separate from others, in truth we are the one consciousness and nothing of substance is lost when form and name are lost.
Further, Indian Rishis claim that the apparent reality is not really real. It is a sense deception (maya), in a similar way, as at dusk a rope is mistaken to be a snake, even though in reality there is only a rope. Truly true is our inner being (Atman) that permeates everything. It means that in our essence, we are infinite, spread out all over as it were, eternal.
Now this ocean analogy sounds almost like modern physics. How come? Did the scientists discover that all is one energy independently or were their theories inspired by the Vedas? Had the scientists reflected on the profound insights of the Indian rishis?
Indeed this had been the case. The scientists who were responsible for replacing Newton’s paradigm of a universe full of separate things with an interconnected, homogeneous Whole were inspired by Vedanta: Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Pauli, Einstein, Oppenheimer, Tesla and others, all knew about and reflected on India’s ancient wisdom.
In contrast, dogmatic religions never fostered science. What sadder example* can there be than the burning of the great Nalanda University library in present day Bihar by Islamic invaders in 1193 AD. The collected treasure of the best minds was turned into ash and thousands of students were brutally killed. Voltaire rightly said, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
*perhaps comparable to the devastating burning of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt 2000 years ago, aprox., whose responsibility remains still a mystery( or there are vested interests to maintain it unveiled) and there are different theories. What is seems to be commonly accepted is that the (great) female philosopher Hypathya was brutally murdered by a Christian mob. Hypathya was the daughter of the last known Director of the Library of Alexandria, the scholar and mathematician Theon. He who has ears for hearing, let him hear.
Durga. Taken from https://www.ancient.eu/article/207/what-happened-to-the-great-library-at-alexandria/
Yet times are changing. The awareness that we would be better off without blind belief in irrational dogmas is growing. Christianity is losing its hold over its followers in the west. I just read that in Berlin, the capital of Germany, only 25 per cent of the inhabitants are still Christians. And Islam, though seemingly still on an upswing, is being scrutinised, too. The recent wide-spread protests in Iran point to the fact that not all believe what they are told to believe and even risk their lives for freedom.
So to come back to the question: belief in an Almighty Presence is not an obstacle to being a scientific minded person, but rather a help. It can help to even expand science. Here is why:
Science is defined as knowledge gained from observation and experimentation. The Rishis, however, added one more method – knowledge gained from inner exploration. This inner exploration or meditation lifts Vedic wisdom above science and inspires it.
Scientists have discovered the oneness of all, but for them the oneness is dead, without life. The Rishis have discovered the oneness of all many thousand years earlier, and they ‘saw’ or realised that this oneness is alive and knows itself.
The truth is not something abstract, cold, and theoretical. It is the conscious, loving, intelligent essence in all from where thoughts emerge. True inspiration and intuition come from this level. Srinivasan Ramanujan, the great mathematician, would have touched this level from where he received amazing mathematical insights . He related to it as Devi Namagiri.
Many great scientists acknowledge an almighty intelligence as the cause for (or essence of) this universe. Einstein, too, acknowledged it. In a letter to a school girl, who asked him if scientists pray, he wrote: “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man.”
This spirit level (Indians called it Atman) is within all of us. It is the Almighty and we are definitely better off if we acknowledge its presence and trust it. The Rishis advocate complete trust – after all, it is Almighty…
By Maria Wirth
PS: a similar question ” How can I hold my faith in Almighty as well as being a scientific minded person?” was asked on Quora to which I replied. The above article is based on my reply.
CONCLUSION by Durga