Science and “Spirituality”
by Elaine Walker
by Elaine Walker
The Cosmos is incredibly vast, ancient, mysterious, and far beyond our full comprehension, and yet no Western religion takes this into account. “God” seems to be a placeholder for the “mysterious” part, but not in the sense of being a mystery that we should feel compelled to solve. God is a placeholder for the contrary reason—so that we don’t seek knowledge.
It seems implausible that an all-knowing God would equip us with a brain more complex than many multiple galaxies combined and then blame us for our wide-eyed curiosity. Yet Christian religions claim that the bible has the answer to all questions, big and small, which they call the Absolute Truth. They have famously persecuted, tortured, and/or opposed most great scientists for thousands of years since their scientific findings inevitably rub up against this “truth”. But for those with the mindset that all truth is already written, what could be the ultimate moral driver or purpose for humanity other than to reserve a decent seat in the afterlife?
Morality and compassion were born out of the long process of our struggle for survival over our long history on Earth, and for that reason these traits are deeply ingrained in us, and will continue to be as long as we have any semblance of a free society, where each of us must carve our own path and put effort into achieving it. In a free society it is redundant to have morality be a requirement of man-made religions. In a free society we don’t need fear of an afterlife as the ultimate moral driver. We can do better than that.
There is a literal comparison that can be made, which has been suggested for ages and by now is even somewhat cliché. That is to literally equate God with the Cosmos itself, complete with it’s vast, ancient, mysterious, and all-encompassing qualities. I say we do that, and with the additional notion that our brains evolved to be used to full capacity. With this mindset, we might feel ultimately driven to use our minds to become “closer to God” by filling in our knowledge gaps. We ought to even feel “spiritually” driven to do so. So in essence, curiosity can be our ultimate driver. This is the opposite of the traditional paradigm of religion.
There is no denying that we are little conscious chunks of the universe and there is no sense in shying away from learning about ourselves and all aspects of our own cosmic home. Each of us will feel “spiritually” affected by different aspects of the world and the universe, but there is a wide enough variety—big or small, concrete or nebulous, logical or paradoxical, personal or general, reductionist or creative—to spark everyone’s curiosity one way or another.
In 1930 Albert Einstein himself said, “I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.” And the act of discovery—whether by research, experiment, the creative arts, or mental contemplation, can in turn bring on a “cosmic religious” feeling. This “spiritual” feeling or “cosmic religious” feeling, if you will, is the most honorable brand of curiosity. It is well beyond the fleeting and superficial curiosity that the bible discredits.