Religion: the latest scientific exploration

Dec
23
2014
by
Lynne McTaggart
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Lately I’ve been thinking a good deal about how in modern times science and religion have exchanged places. This was initially prompted by an email from What Doctors Don’t  Tell You reader about an article in the new Scottish newspaper the National, reporting that  Lanarkshire Health Board has stopped referring patients to the Glasgow Integrative Care Centre where they practise homeopathy.
 
Lately I’ve been thinking a good deal about how in modern times science and religion have exchanged places. This was initially prompted by an email from What Doctors Don’t Tell You reader about an article in the new Scottish newspaper the National, reporting that Lanarkshire Health Board has stopped referring patients to the Glasgow Integrative Care Centre where they practise homeopathy.

 
 
The journo of the story dutifully quoted physicist Simon Singh, Mr Rent-a-Quote on these matters, whose point was that even if lots of people want homeopathy, as they do, “public demand did not necessarily equate to the best public service.” “If lots of people wanted voodoo on the NHS should we have voodoo?” he said. Of course, it is fairly easy to unpick all of his statements, but I’ll focus on just one: If lots of people wanted voodoo on the NHS should we have voodoo? 
 
The answer to that is, of course, yes. The National Health Service is a public health service, supported by my tax payments and those of everyone who pay taxes in Britain. As the financial backers of the NHS, we have a right to determine the health treatments it offers – and certainly more right to determine this as a body than Mr Singh, a physicist, with no training in medicine and an ideological aversion to alternative medicine.  But the real issue here isn’t really about whether homeopathy ‘works’ or ought to be offered on the NHS. 
 
The real problem with his statements is the suggestion that a small group of scientists can dictate what the rest of us believe and do with our health money over some belief that they have a corner on the truth. 
 
Do as I say
 
There’s no doubt that science has become increasingly more fundamentalist, dominated by a few fanatics who believe that the full scientific story has already been written and who, like the militant atheists, claim the right of primacy of their own belief system, an insistence that it is the light and the way – the only way. The late American literary critic Lionel Trilling once wrote, “Some paradox of our nature leads us, when once we have made our fellow men the objects of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them the objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.” The increasingly militant minority attempt to destroy any scientific experiment, any medical modality, even any world view anything outside of the accepted paradigm. Their form of scientific fundamentalism is no different from what I was told in catechism as a child: Only Catholics get to heaven. 
 
97% unsure
 
Inherent in this coercive behaviour is a stonewalling of any doubt – a rigorous denial of how little scientists really know. Orthodox science can lay claim to very little when by its own frank admission, it does not understand about 97 per cent of the universe, which is why scientists are forced to call it ‘dark matter.’ In fact, every time we congratulate ourselves for embarking on a discovery that will unveil another of Nature’s great mysteries (think of the Human Genome Project), life pulls another fast one on us and shows us just how complex it all is out there. Science has described the Big Bang in great detail, but it is now unfashionable to ask a more fundamental question: what organizing force was responsible for that miraculous event of split-perfect timing? 
 
Unlike atheism and this form of scientism, modern religion admits to – indeed, embraces – doubt. ‘Heaven lies all about us,’ Bryan Appleyard recently wrote, ‘and the struggle is to see it.’ In fact, almost everyone on earth lives in something beyond the material world, even if we don’t actually admit to it. Appleyard quotes the poet Michael Symmons Roberts as saying, “A true, thoroughgoing, secular materialism must be the hardest thing to believe.” Where the militant atheists have got it wrong is to define what we refer to as religion as a set of fixed beliefs. Most of us who admit to spirituality of any variety (and with the vast majority of us it is not the-man-with-a-beard-on-a-white-cloud version) live comfortably with uncertainty and invite an open exploration of the unknown. We live in that realm of open inquiry that used to be inhabited by science. 
 
In the eye of the beholder
 
When I was researching The Field, two German physicists independently remarked, in explaining many complex ideas of quantum physics: “Always, we return to Kant,” by which they were referring the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant.My husband Bryan elaborated on the importance of Kant’s incredible prescience in a recent blog, when he said that the perfect reply to any so-called ‘skeptic’ who claims the moral authority of one particular world view is simply this: one of the essential points of Kant’s master work The Critique of Pure Reason, is that the world is not as it is, but how it appears to us.
 
Essentially that means two things: the world is in the eye of the beholder and so there is no such thing as one final objective ‘truth.’ My world view is different from yours, or a dog’s, or indeed anyone’s, and all are equally valid.“Ultimately, it states that there is much, much more going than we can even imagine, let alone sense. For Kant, this provided the space for faith,” wrote Bryan. Kant recognized, and the pioneers of quantum physics went on to prove, that uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of the universe. We, all of us, live and must be content to live as an article of faith.
 
And for me, that is an open invitation to do two things: keep looking deeper and pray without ceasing.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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