Science and religion are often pitted against one another, as if they are somehow opposed to each other. But is this just our tendency to seek drama and/or confrontation, or is there something about the two “theories” which are inherently contradictory? The premise of this brief essay is that the two are actually quite compatible.
Evolution and Creationism
One of the best examples is the Evolution and Creationism long-standing debate, which, unfortunately, has too often been miscast as two theories in opposition. In reality, both theories are more likely, fully compatible with one another -- if for no other reason than it’s a straight forward process to consider both operating simultaneously.
On the one hand, science’s theory of evolution describes how minute changes in the genetic inheritance (caused by either environmental influences or internal variances -- the latter essentially random chance) can result in modifications in subsequent generations, and that as a result of these modifications the most beneficial changes will have the best chance of survival and, more importantly, propagating the changes in future generations.
However, the great flaw in the generally accepted view of evolution is that it almost always ignores dramatic and revolutionary changes. Often referred to as Catastrophism, this aspect of evolution occurs when there is some large scale change in the environment. Examples include the happenings in the Permian Extinction of millions of species, the demise of the dinosaurs (from the impact of a comet?), or alternatively what precipitated what is known as the Cambrian Explosion some 560 million years ago when there was a massive increase in the diversity of species, orders, and every imaginable new form of life.
On the other hand, Creationism is all about some dramatic intervention by divine sources into the affairs of Earth. Essentially, God arrives on the scene and with the wave of his hand, creates a new situation. Supposedly, this contradicts the evolutionary scheme.
But if evolution includes what we might perceive as “catastrophism”, then there’s no problem. What might the Cambrian Explosion have been if not quite possibly the result of divine intervention, and the case where life is suddenly and dramatically given a shot in the arm? As for all those geologic extinctions and the like -- the Annals of Earth suggests that the planet has one every 10 to 20 million years or so -- so what’s the big deal? Why is this not also the end result of divine intervention?
With respect to the creation/evolution of mankind, that too may be a combined effect. If we are to believe the Sumerian histories, then it appears clear that Homo erectus -- the end result of an evolutionary scheme at one point in time -- was modified by a “divine” intervention of the likes of Enki and Enlil (aka the Anunnaki) and thereafter the first “Adama” was created via genetic manipulation.
Okay, there may be some disagreements on dates (ranging from 4000 to 250,000 years ago), but the theories of evolution and creationism are inherently saying the same thing. They are, in a word, compatible.
The Nature of the Controversy
Why therefore has there been such a controversy? One reason is that the argument above requires the inclusion of catastrophism (aka numerous massive radical paradigm shifts) as part of evolution. This raises the obvious specter of: If it can happen at any time and has done so many times in the past, then what’s to prevent it from happening next Friday? An admission of catastrophism makes the world suddenly less certain. And dangerous.
Another reason is to admit to the very real possibility of “divine intervention” in the past -- interventions such as the Great Flood/Deluge where mankind in general did not do well -- and thus the very real possibility of another “reduction in force” or wholesale layoff of most of the members of the human race. The latter is particularly threatening in that the so-called “divinity” may appear to be less than benevolent in his or her view of mankind, and therefore disaster for mankind might represent nothing more than “divine whim” for the local god. This is particularly true if we attribute to the “local god” the characteristics of any of several members of the Anunnaki! Also, if a comet such as Shoemaker-Levy can impact Jupiter -- with imaginable, if nevertheless unknown damage -- then what’s to prevent another comet “being sent” by an angered or uncaring god to hit Earth -- and where the impact would be enormously greater than on the larger planet, Jupiter?
For science to admit to the near term possibility of “natural” catastrophe -- or for religion to admit to the near term possibility of “divinely-orchestrated” catastrophe -- does not lend itself to the “fat-cat” attitude of everything’s just fine and there’s no need to worry about the future. Worry is indeed probably a waste of time, but when one considers the possibilities inherent in the near future -- e.g. 2012 A.D. -- getting comfortable with real catastrophes may be a necessity. The good news is that it makes the science and religion debate somewhat irrelevant. They will likely both be proven partially correct.
There is another aspect that suggests that matters of “faith” cannot be reconciled with matters of science and/or history. For example, an historical analysis of the life and times of Jesus Christ may not lend itself to the rituals and proclamations of divinity that religion has included in its variations on Christianity. And yet, just as in the evolution/creationism case, a man named Jesus can live the apparent life of a carpenter’s son-turned-religious teacher, while at the same time, possessing all of the divine attributes normally attributed to him, and known to mankind as an article of faith. One does not detract from the other.
Arthur Young, one of the leading thinkers of the 20th Century, has addressed the issue from this viewpoint. Frank Barr, <http://www.arthuryoung.com/barr.HTML>, has discussed Young’s viewpoint in an essay entitled, “The Theory of Evolutionary Process as a Unifying Paradigm”. Barr’s question is simple (even if the answers are not so clear). In Barr’s phraseology, “How can the following ‘apparent’ paradoxes and/or dichotomies be ultimately reconciled:
1) random chance/uncertainty vs. control/certainty
2) free will/freedom vs. determinism/constraint
3) mystical insight vs. empirical fact
4) mind vs. matter
5) creationism vs. natural evolution
6) teleology vs. reductionism
7) religion vs. science
8) God vs. Nature?”
According to Barr, the philosopher/cosmologist Arthur M. Young maintained that:
“Both religion and science have a common origin in the search for truth, but have approached this goal differently. Religion depends on revelation or inspired teachers, science on experiments and theories. It would appear that religion has declined in dignity and importance from those early times when all art was dedicated to it and architecture created its temples and cathedrals. Science. on the contrary, began humbly and piece by piece constructed an edifice which is yet to be completed.
“The investigations I have made into these subjects indicate that these two quite different endeavors tell the same story, reach the same conclusions. The agreement to which I refer is to be found between the ancient myths and the most recent findings of quantum physics.
“It is because science became the Scientific Method and ceased to be the search for truth that it lost relevance and, like a time bomb ticking in an airliner, is dangerous because it is cut off from our control, following its own dictates. It is because the institutionalized churches have taken little cognizance of scientific discoveries and have insisted on a literal reading of all sacred writings that they have become irrelevant and have had their traditional teaching dismissed as superstition. Nor do the presumably humanistic types of social reform fare better, for despite daily trips to the psychologist, himself floundering in uncertain doctrines, social reform has no notion of man's true nature and has created more discontent than it relieves.
“In earlier times there were those who went into the desert to discover within their own depths, or to the mountain top to commune with god, and returned with a teaching for their followers. But that is all past. Twentieth century humanity has come of age. It is not to be led, but must draw out of itself the wisdom it needs. That is why I say we must look at what we already have in the earliest and undistorted traditions. It needs no new doctrine because the printed word makes available today the accumulated wisdom of all ages and of all teachings, which, with the help of science, we can now sort out and interpret. By science, I do not mean cultural anthropology but the ontology provided by Quantum Physics...
“In short, we have no need for more ‘isms’ and schisms, movement to left or right. These divisions are the cause of our splitting up and can hardly lead to its cure. We need a new, integrating direction, but we cannot discover an integrating and unitary theory common to science and religion without postulating the unity of all things. In sum, then, our thesis is: we inhabit a universe, and this implies one universal set of principles or of truth. To discover these principles or truth, we must enlist both religious and scientific inquiry, and, recognizing the variety of expressions of both, be prepared to seek out the unity in its true implication and significance.
“While science as it is presently represented is fragmented into a number of disciplines, and these disciplines seem not necessarily to indicate a common truth, we must look for their connection. Likewise. religions, which for thousands of years have been manufacturing schisms often merely to justify self-determination, need that overall survey that can see them as the various expressions of one truth.
“For just as the world with its oceans, continents, and nations presents many facets, yet is one body of matter, so does our culture with its religions and sciences present many facets, yet is one body of life. Our task, then is to seek out this unity.”
When all is said and done, science and religion can be highly complementary to each other. Science needs to broaden its scope to include all of observable nature -- including life and Consciousness; while religion needs to open itself up to new interpretations / translations of its underlying spiritual documents. Science needs very badly to consider the implication of the third derivative, aka The Fifth Element, as well as the ORME, Tree of Life, and the relatively esoteric sciences of Alchemy, Astrology, Numerology, Tarot, and the like. Religion, meanwhile, might want to review their interpretations, for example, of what exactly was it that their patriarch, Abraham, did for a living? Was Abraham a shepherd, or the commander of an elite military cavalry force? Or something else entirely?
The human mind/consciousness is fully capable of strong beliefs, and simultaneously, logical rational thinking. An unwillingness to merge these inherent talents, constitutes a decision to be willfully ignorant. It’s not a choice that really benefits anyone.
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]