The Juncture of Science and Spirituality

“We believe that Genesis chapters one and two are factual accounts of creation and we, therefore, reject the false teaching of evolution which has no scientific basis but is simply another of Satan’s schemes to lead people away from the truth.” Egad.

Many Christians believe that “the false teaching of evolution is simply another of Satan’s schemes to lead people away from the truth.” Why do people believe such rubbish, and in the literal truth of Genesis? What motivates such intractable ignorance?

It behooves thinking people to try to understand the distorted thinking of their nemeses. First, because this kind of stuff is dangerous in a supposedly advanced civilization; and second because such beliefs have nothing to do with a spiritual life and what Jesus or any other true religious teacher taught and teaches.

Creationism would have been insane even before Darwin wrote “On the Origin of Species,” but now it’s beyond the pale. And politically speaking, creationism can form the foundation of totalitarianism.

Only 4 in 10 Americans “believe in evolution.” Even the phrase “believe in evolution” shows the inanity of the debate in this country. It’s like asking, ‘do you believe in gravity?’ What does my belief have to do with it?

Evolution is a scientific fact with religious implications, not a scientific belief with a religious agenda. Placing the questions of evolution in the context of belief skews the issue toward religion rather than science.

Why does evolution represent such a threat to the belief system of so many Christians? Because they realize that if all life evolved through natural selection, there is no supernatural realm. And to them, that means there is no God.

In the sense of a separate Creator, they’re right. But believers proclaim the limitation of their beliefs, and of belief itself, by making God into a paltry thing, a projection of their own prejudicial minds.

Evolution does not preclude the existence of God, just the existence of a separate Creator. It says nothing about cosmic intelligence. Of course, the very notion of cosmic intelligence rubs most Christians and most scientists the wrong way.

For the vast majority of Christians, that’s because their God is a personal protector and Lord. Their hubris arises from false humility. Rather than simply acknowledging God as an essence that the human mind cannot grasp, most Christians cling to their small conceptions of God as if they were Truth itself.

For most scientists, whether operating from Newtonian premises and a mechanistic view of the universe, or quantum causality and chance, the proposition that nature is endlessly creative, and that there is an immanent cosmic intelligence, also threatens them. After all, if creation is continuously unfolding and perpetually beginning, then science is an intrinsically limited enterprise, unable to ever have complete knowledge.

By its very nature, however, knowledge is always incomplete. Indeed, the very incompleteness of knowledge is a main driving force in science. The universe is multi-dimensional, and its nature will always surprise humankind, no matter how far science goes with observation, theory, discovery, and experiment.

There are also questions that simply aren’t in the purview of science. For example, where do the insights that are the wellspring of science originate? Are they solely a function of content-consciousness in the human brain? If so, that would mean the brain is a freestanding organ, with no relationship to the rest of nature—clearly an absurd proposition (just as absurd as its corollary in religion, a separate Creator).

Going from the hubris of science back to the hubris of religion, the second reason that evolution is considered “simply another of Satan’s schemes” by creationists is that it refutes the special creation of man. Without special creation, fundamentalists think humans become just another animal, cutting the ground out from under our vaunted place on this planet.

Both domains–religion and science–have to undergo radical redefinitions of their meaning and place in human life.

Science has produced a much better material life for many while doing nothing to resolve the grotesque disparities in wealth between people and regions, not to mention the ongoing fragmentation of the earth and the rapid erosion of the human spirit.

Organized religion, on the other hand, has aided and abetted economic, gender, and ethnic inequality and injustice. It has done little or nothing to resolve the human crisis, increasingly reducing its relevance regarding the very questions to which religions are supposedly concerned.

In actuality, there is compatibility rather than conflict between evolution and spirituality (as opposed to science and religion).

Both the religious and scientific impulse have a crucial place in the whole of human life. Their domains overlap in the process of never-ending questioning, which imbues our true nature and vocation as human beings.

The mysteries of evolution, cosmic order, and the human brain are interwoven in a way that exceeds the capacity of irreligious religions and sanctified sciences to understand.

Martin LeFevre

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