We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Asking the More Important Question

Books by Robert Wright
H. Allen Orr's review of The Evolution of God by Robert Wright is headlined, "Can Science Explain Religion?"  That title poses an interesting and important question, which can easily be answered.  "Yes," science can explain religion.  Religion is a human cognitive, social, and cultural phenomenon and as such is open to scientific study and explanation—or, rather, explanations.  For those of us who practice a theistic religion, the more important question is whether or not science can explain God.  By "God," I do not mean our human conceptions of the divine, which of course can also be studied and explained.  By "God," I mean God.  While science can explain what we believe about God, can it explain God as God?

Science as it is today can't.  That is clear.  But, let's not be so quick to rush to the simple-minded usual response that, "Well, of course, God is beyond human understanding.  We can't ever understand God."  Perhaps, but there is some indication that contemporary science is drifting into realms of the spirit and the Spirit.  Purely material explanations of reality don't work very well.  It is entirely possible that the "science" of our grandchildren or their grandchildren (the ones who are going to live long, long lives) learns how to describe Something godlike that takes us in the direction of an understanding of deeper spiritual realities.  It will surely still require faith to make the final leap from Something to God, but if God is the creator of all that is we can only assume that scientific evidence of God will be available to future science once it develops the empirical and research tools to study the divine.

And I suspect that when that day comes, one of the things future scientists discover is that we humans are indeed created to live in faith, grow in faithfulness, and co-create the peaceable Kingdom of God with our Creator.  Amen.

P.S.  There is a distinction between describing something scientifically and explaining it.  Science describes many things that it cannot explain, and perhaps God will prove inexplicable to science even in the long run.  Much depends on what science becomes in the future.  Right now, furthermore, it is hard to imagine what ways of knowing might supersede science, but if the human race continues to progress in its pursuit of knowledge and truth then there will inevitably be new post-scientific ways of knowing in the future.  In any event, my gut tells me that we are headed toward deeper cognitive realms that will take us closer to understanding the Something that lies before, beyond, and within reality as we know it today.  Will that deeper understanding lead to an explanation of God?  I don't know.  No one does.  God is not now knowable scientifically by science as we know it today, and there is no way for us to guess what a future way of knowing is going to know or even define what it means "to know."  But I still suspect that when that future way of knowing comes, one of the things future knowers of reality will discover is that we humans are indeed created to live in faith, grow in faithfulness, and co-create the peaceable Kingdom of God with our Creator.  And again, Amen.