Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Science of Religion

The Science of Religion

There's a spiritual dimension to our lives and even though I do not subscribe strictly to any religious persuasion, I think I am a rather spiritual person.

It may be strange, but my spirituality actually stems from my education in science. People who are trained in the sciences often become atheists because science as a discipline works on the assumption that everything can be explained without the need for supernatural beings or some higher power.

In my case, my training in science planted in me the belief that every phenomenon in nature can be explained by simple and elegant laws, even supernatural ones. There's order in the universe because there are laws of nature. In a previous blog entry, I describe how we can view a human being as a four layer stack. The science that we learn in school happen to describe the laws that govern the lowest or the physical layer. The upper layers are not measurable by any physical instrument and are hence often dismissed by science. To me that is but a temporary state of affair as science still has a lot more to discover.

Our understanding of the universe, despite our tremendous technological achievements, is still at its infancy. Things that we currently attribute to the realm of the divine or supernatural are actually govern by "natural" laws. It is "super"-natural now because we have not fully discovered those laws.

Religion--any religion--if we bother to study them carefully, all attempt to express the laws that govern the higher realms of our existence. Because they describe the intangible, the language is often metaphorical or allegorical. For example, the law of karma is but a natural extension of Newton's Third Law of Motion into the higher layers of human existence.

The foundation of science itself is built on axioms--Newton's Laws of Motion are examples of such--that has to be taken based on "faith". Based on these axioms, we build theories which we can subsequently verify through experiments. Axioms are starting points of exploration--we have to start with something that cannot be proven to see if the consequences of those beliefs can be verified through experiments. For as long as they are not proven wrong, we take them as "truths".

Science is self-correcting because no truth is considered sacred. Newtonian mechanics, undisputed for centuries was reduced to mere "approximations" by Einstein's discovery of the Theory of Relativity. Unlike the people who practise them, Science as a discipline has no dogmas. No theory is beyond questioning. Our fondests theories can be struck down overnight by a new discovery.

My interest in religion is a scientific one; I am always attempting to figure out the "axioms" by which each religion builds its foundation upon. The more I analyze them, the more similarities that I see across the different religions of the world. At a superficial level, we see many differences because each religion emphasizes different aspects of these "natural laws". Some of these beliefs may seem naive or perverted because the so-called guardians of these religions hijacked them for their own selfish ends--often without they realising it themselves.

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Religious awakening is a psychological state not unlike that of falling in love for the first time. The feeling is so sure and overwhelming that we immediately jump to the conclusion that we have finally found the truth.

The actual fact is, we have probably caught a glimpse of that Infinite Truth and are awe-struck by its beauty. Little do we realise that, there is still a long journey to go. Like what I described in a previous blog entry entitled "Forever Children", we are constantly climbing a mountain and every now and then we see the breath-taking view beneath us and think we have already reached the top.

The true scientist is humbled by the grandeur of the universe and knows that his mastery of nature, though impressive, is but child's play. If every religious person takes this scientific attitude, then his path to salvation will be a much swifter one and the world will enjoy a lot less conflicts.

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