Ronald Haines, Author

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Category: science

Science versus Religion is Political Media Manipulation

In spite of the way it is so often positioned as science versus religion in the media, science is neither the opposite of nor is it opposed to religion. Science is simply the tool that humans use to search for truth.  In fact, science has historically been sponsored by religions that have used it as a means to study the laws behind the physical world.  While there have been significant clashes throughout history between Christianity and the emergence of new truths that science uncovers before they gain acceptance, the current religion versus science debate is really not reflective of Christian religions as a whole.

Throughout history many scientists have been quite successful in reconciling their religions with science and have proceeded to make tremendous contributions to humanity. Gregor Mendel was an Austrian monk who first proposed the basis of heredity and spawned the science of genetics, and the first advocate of the Big Bang theory was a Roman Catholic priest named Georges Lemaître who wrote about a ‘creation event’ at the beginning of the universe.

So where does the current science versus religion (specifically Christianity) debate come from? While many Christians today accept that their faith is personal and does not belong in politics, there are certain fundamentalist factions, such as the charles-robert-darwin-62912creationists, who actively promote their agendas.  Some have tried to present their beliefs using a pseudo-scientific format which they call intelligent design, which states that the biblical story of creation is the literal truth.  They have brought this argument into the political forefront, and militant atheists have responded in kind which has resulted in media sensationalism.  Curiously, even though Charles Darwin was a Christian, it is his theories of evolution and natural selection that have become the fodder for this needless debate between creationists and militant atheists.  Mainstream Christianity, on the other hand, has pretty much accepted that evolution can fit in with their views of the universe.

Much of the friction between Christian fundamentalists and militant atheists is really just media manipulation being used by politicians for personal gain. This so called science versus religion debate is actually driven by politicians taking positions of support behind these two extremes in order to gather votes.  It is this hidden agenda of politicians using their established publicity machines that has enabled the views of both Christian fundamentalists and militant atheists to dominate the media as they attempt to cash in on the huge block of voters that each side represents.  Both sides are being played, and the ongoing ‘debate’ seen in the media has, in reality, very little to do with either science or religion.

A Working Model of Infinity

Do you have a working model of infinity that helps you to wrap your head around it? Humans currently have a pretty good handle about the way things work in our world, but those same truths do not necessarily apply to the rest of the universe.  Our thought process of sequential cause-and-effect scenarios tends to breaks down when we ponder the infinite.

It is important to recognize that we are finite beings living on a finite planet in our finite (measureable) universe, but the universe as a whole is infinite and infinity is something that is conceptually difficult for people to understand. Consider, we know that life appeared on earth about 3.7 billion years ago, the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and our universe came into existence about 13.8 billion years ago.   The question of origin (creation) asks about what existed before our universe came into being and what is outside our known universe.  This thinking leads us to try to figure out the origin of everything; perhaps the hardest question that humanity currently wrestles with.

But by definition there is no origin to infinity, so this type of question doesn’t apply to anything outside our own universe. The big bang theory provides a useful conceptual framework to describe the origins of our particular universe and helps to predict what may happen to it in the future, but in order to develop a working understanding of infinity it is important to think of the big bang simply as a transition of part of it into something finite: measurable space and time. Humans require a conceptual framework, things like space, time, energy, fields, for reason to be able to function, but these things are irrelevant to infinity.

Yet even though the origin/creation question is a product of very human thought processes and therefore applicable only to things within our finite universe, we are still able to satisfy it in one of two ways. One can either avoid thinking by ascribing the answer to an unknowable god, as many people do, or one can develop a working understanding of infinity.  A person does not need to be an astrophysicist for the latter, just examine what it is that they do know.  Here is the working model which I came up with to reconcile infinity for myself:  the truth of infinity is that all is nothing is everything.

We know about matter and antimatter, and that when identical particles of matter and antimatter are brought together they annihilate each other and nothing remains. Far from being a science-fiction concept, we now not only know that antimatter exists but it is being used every day in modern medicine.  PET (positron emission tomography) uses positrons, which are anti-electrons, to produce high-resolution images of the body. Positron-emitting radioactive isotopes are attached to chemicals such as glucose that are used naturally by the body. These are then injected into the bloodstream where they are naturally broken down, and when these positrons meet electrons in the body they annihilate each other.  These annihilations produce gamma rays that are used to construct images.  Scientists are also studying antimatter as a potential way to treat cancer.

While we and our world/universe are made up of matter, we can also infer the existence of other finite universes that are made up of antimatter. If an identical matter and an antimatter universe were to collide there would be nothing left, but if they are not identical then the resultant destruction could be something akin to another big bang.  Depending on whether there was more matter or antimatter in that collision, then the result might be a new, finite, matter or an antimatter universe.  This is not inconsistent with current theory which acknowledges that the only reason our universe exists was that the big bang released more matter than antimatter.

Considering that infinity contains an infinite amount of matter and antimatter in equal quantities, that time only occurs in finite universes and does not exist in infinity, then infinity may exist simultaneously as both everything and nothing. Since this a logically derived theory based on what I know or can infer from what I know, it satisfies the definition of truth and works for me as a model of infinity.  This may not be in agreement with the theories of other people, but my point is to have a working theory which, through continued learning, may be subject to updates or changes.

Truth is A Transient Axiom

Truth about the world around us can quite easily be defined as the best explanation we have for a situation, that when we apply all of the knowledge available to us, cannot be logically refuted. Since new discoveries are adding to that pool of knowledge on a continual basis, we must accept that today’s truth will only hold until a better explanation comes along, and yesterday’s truth should already be considered suspect.

Truth is therefore both objective and transient, and it is through having an open mind and questioning everything that individuals are free to not only better understand the world they live in, but to also add to the collective knowledge of humanity.

Many people will attempt to make the case that truth is something subjective; stating that what is true for one person is not necessarily true for another. What they are referring to here, however, is not truth but belief.  Believing something to be true is, indeed, a subjective position, but it has little to do with what may actually be true.  Belief in something, especially when that belief is supported by a peer group, may be comforting to a person but it requires that person, that human being, to abdicate thinking.  Such behavior is risky because it may eventually atrophy that person’s ability to reason.

This brings us to a curious human dichotomy regarding the search for truth: while we have the innate drive to ask questions in order to seek out what is true, we also hold steadfastly onto what he have already accepted and seem unwilling to let it go, even in the face of overwhelming evidence otherwise.  This is actually a good trait amongst scientists because it ensures that new truths must be well established by repetitive experiment and observation, a process known as scientific proof, before they gain acceptance.  A newly discovered truth is not something that is readily accepted and it must win the argument before rational minds permit it to displace the old thinking.  This process ensures that we don’t randomly flit from one ‘truth’ to another and only advance to the next truth when it has been sufficiently proven.  Certainly, if you examine the fields of mathematics and physics you’ll recognize some truths that have been with us for centuries, but how many more have been replaced in that time?  We have learned that the earth is neither flat nor is it the center of the universe, for example (although if you choose to believe such things that is entirely your choice).

Recognizing that truth necessarily goes through such an arduous process before being accepted by even the most rational minds, who have to override their internal resistance to something new, one can begin to understand why many of the old ‘truths’ not only still remain but are widely accepted in our societies. Within those societies the individual search for truth has been discouraged for millennia by authority figures who train its members from early childhood to repress that innate drive in favor of following the collective creed.

Truth about the world around us is, therefore, not subjective but highly objective, and the scientific method is a tool that provides us with the means to discovering it. In our world, truth is a transient axiom.