There seems to be a perennial battle for supremacy between the old goat of religion and the new bull of science, but it always tends to result in locked horns.
The solution to any dilemma is to go between the horns, where there is a surprising amount of space. In fact, the reason both the scientific determinists and the theistic creationists continue to “lock horns” is that both camps are so narrowly-focused that they cannot help but get themselves impaled on those small but fatal daggers that their very worldviews create.
In the history and spectrum of human spiritual understanding, the fundamentalist monotheisms are not only quite new but also the most narrow. Their ability to offer a safe haven from uncertainty and a simple clarity of belief is in direct proportion to the unquestioned narrowness of their axioms and tenets.
And in the history and spectrum of human practical understanding of the universe, scientific determinism is not only quite young but also the most narrow. Its ability to offer pragmatic answers to timeless questions and to the basic necessities of life is in direct proportion to the sharp analytical narrowness of its focus.
Theism offers succor from the vicissitudes of life by excluding all experience which contradicts its assumptions, and science offers myriad practical tools by dismissing as impractical (or mystical) any experience which falls outside of its paradigm. In both cases, doctrine supercedes and limits experience. And in both cases, much dysfunction accompanies the benefits. Fundamentalisms are, by nature, exclusive and divisive – often leading to significant social conflict. Scientific medicine – a prime example – offers no “cures” which are not in some measure toxic and quite often fatal (see Death by Medicine).
The universe is – in its unfathomable majesty, mystery, and magnificence – an experience that cannot be reduced to either the words of a book (however inspired) or to a deductive (and reductive) method of acquiring knowledge. It can be known and understood, but neither by blind religious faith nor by blind faith in reason. Both systems of belief (and they are both belief systems) lead one into a funnel pointing toward a horn of the dilemma.
Time, space, and causality are constructs of the human mind no less than the various creation myths of the world’s many religious traditions. The authentically spiritual know that such mythology is merely a method of communicating the Mystery to others. Authentic seekers of truth know that scientific mythology is merely a powerful tool for developing pragmatic responses to human needs, but equally powerful in undermining our real human needs.
The power of both mythologies, like the power of a laser, lies in the narrowness of its focus. But, like a laser, either epistemological approach can both illuminate and destroy. If we but broaden our vision, it is easy to see that the wide path between the horns of this dilemma (as well as all other dualities) is illuminated by the soft light of the heart rather than the sharp and potentially dangerous light of the mind.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
– Siddhārtha Gautama (the Buddha)