Isn’t it amazing that human intelligence can send spacecrafts to remote planets but find no solution for more down to earth problems such as poverty? I am frankly puzzled by our philosophy of science. Why is science unable to address some of the most urgent problems of our time? Biosphere, evolved into its present form over millions of years, is crumbling under the weight of few decades of human greed. Isn’t greed, and every other questionable human activity, worthy of scientific attention?
Problems such as poverty and greed are thought to be outside the ‘scope of science’. I believe something is wrong with the way we draw such boundaries. Science is the fire that liberated us from the fate of animal obedience. We use its power to enhance our physical comforts in all imaginable ways. Where else do we turn for guidance to solve human problems such as greed and poverty? “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house”, says the bible. Hiding our precious light source under the bushel of materialist orthodoxy – this is exactly what we are doing.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus created man from clay, shaping him in the image of gods and blessing him with the knowledge of fire. Fire is important to cook food. It is also useful as a source of light showing the way out of darkness. Imagine Prometheus prohibiting man from using fire for anything other than cooking food! Human race would soon have degenerated into a bunch of savages, eating, drinking, defecating and re-producing around the warmth of their kitchen fire.
Unfortunately this comic image is a true reflection of mankind at the turn of 21st century. By some quirk of fate we have come to view science as equivalent to objectivity and religion as an expression of mass hysteria. Restricting science to objectively represent-able aspects of nature is as unreasonable as limiting the use of fire to cooking. Why can’t fire serve as a source of light to make forays in to the darkness beyond?
How science could ever answer fundamental questions on ethical behavior or ultimate meaning? Well, studying rocks or atoms will not help directly, but studying Life will. In fact science has made significant progress with the theory of biological evolution. Isn’t it wonderful to know for sure that we are related to all other forms of life? Such awareness of the connectedness of biosphere should lead us towards answering ethical questions. What remains as missing link in this endeavor is an explanation for the driving force of evolution.
Most widely accepted explanation for evolution involves random genetic changes and natural selection. We are told that it is all about ‘selfish genes’ and ‘survival of the fittest’. It is futile to look for a purpose or meaning in life. Work hard, reproduce and look for ways to increase the survival chances of your offspring. Everything is permitted, as long as you don’t break the law of the land.
This is a Big Lie. Life is not about randomness and competition. Life is about creativity and meaning. Like a bewitched Prometheus, our scientific torchbearers help us with our physical needs, but deny the reality of our spiritual needs. They refuse to point the torch in the direction we need the most.
Creativity is a property of this universe. It is the driving force of biological evolution. I believe any rational, open-minded individual can reach this conclusion with a little effort. There can be a beautiful and meaningful explanation for life. Why are our biologists not recognizing this?
There are two reasons. One, science is dangerously close to its limits in studying life. The problem of self-referencing makes conventional scientific approaches largely useless. Biologists must ask ‘What is objective knowledge’ before they propose sweeping theories of life. Knowledge is a product of evolution and has no independent existence. This simple fact becomes deceptively complicated in the case of biological science.
Two, fear of the unknown. Lightning and thunderstorms were great mysteries to our ice-age ancestors. They were forced to take refuge in the safety of their caves when faced with nature’s fury. Biologists vehemently denying anything other than natural selection as the mechanism of evolution is driven by the same primitive fear. Ice-age man had no choice. Modern day biologist has a choice but fear of the unknown appears to be overwhelming.
May be it is not right to blame the biologist. Life’s solution doesn’t lie in the laboratory, but in scientist’s thought process. Unfortunately our scientists are not trained to look into their own thinking. The question ‘What causes evolution’ can be answered only after the thought process of observation and its relationship with what we call ‘knowledge’ is correctly understood.
This is not an empty philosophical argument without practical consequence. I believe our inability to understand evolution is a much bigger long-term threat to civilization than religious terrorism. Scientific materialism is the slow cancer eating into the spirit of man. Religious terrorism, in comparison, is a minor skin blister. Man still finds it necessary to turn to pseudo-gods and false prophets because natural philosophy has failed to provide meaningful answers to his deepest cravings.
Imagine you are caught in a complex maze of walls. You were given a set of instructions, such as ‘three steps forward, turn left, five step forward…’ with the assurance that you will reach the exit if these instructions are followed religiously. It is dark and you have no other means of finding your way out. You follow blindly since there is no other way.
What if there is a source of light illuminating the maze? You can possibly ignore ‘blind following’ and use your eyes and brain to get out. We, in early 21st century are in a transition stage. We have a set of instructions, extracted from the collective experience of generations that went before, to help us navigate through this journey. We also have a source of light slowly rising above the horizon, beginning to illuminate the maze in its full complexity. There are a lot of passionate arguments going on about the superiority of ‘forging ahead with confidence’ as opposed to ‘blind following’. Blind following can still lead you to the correct exit in partial vision, but forging ahead may knock you down if inter playing light and shades deceive the eyes.
Scientific and religious ought to be kept separate only with the realization that such a separation is artificial, a temporary arrangement of convenience. The instruction set could be discarded once the light of reason gains enough strength to illuminate all the corners and trap doors of this complex maze of reality. I believe we are almost ready to do that, if only we open both eyes and see that life is not a battle for survival, but a graceful dance of non-linear movements.