Science, God, Truth, Imagination and Hawking

The hoopla about Hawking’s new book made it frustratingly clear that there’s a real impasse in the centuries-old debate over whether science, and its intrinsic rationality, can or should definitively dispute religious ideas.  The impasse is, I believe, a consequence of our not seeing the elephant in the room, namely ourselves.  The debate proceeds, as if we can make a simple objective evaluation of thousands of years of human experience without ever reflecting back on our own cognitive and cultural development.

Religious systems do contain creation stories and interpretations of worldly events, but the intent of these stories is to structure our relationship to everything which is ‘not us’ or to guide our interaction with ‘all that is.’   The nervous system guides our day-to-day existence: breathing, movement, finding nourishment, digestion, protection.  Yet components of this system have evolved, and cognitive systems have emerged that fill us with lively internal images, language and story.  The body builds these mental images from the same stuff that finds it food and shelter and, I believe, it may be doing this to become more aware of what and where it is.

In the recent history of our species, new mental images emerged in science and mathematics.  It’s like we grew more eyes and they can see other galaxies, earlier times in the universe.  The creature that we are keeps looking.  Why?  What is it looking for?  I think this question deserves very careful and perhaps fresh consideration.  It is more relevant to a discussion of God than is the completeness or lack thereof of physic’s analysis of material.

The body has extended its sensory limits with physic’s and mathematics, by allowing the development of complex cognitive mechanisms, which create new conceptual possibilities, that transport us out of our time and space.  These neural structures have grown outside of our awareness and are also working to discern our relationship to the whole (to which as creatures, we must intuitively connect).  The fruits of these new visions should not be used to indicate that our quest for relationship is immature.

We still know very little about how material and awareness are related, or how material gives rise to our conceptualization of it.  We can’t see yet how consciousness grows out of the organization of atoms which we deem to be not consciousness.  But we need to wonder about it, reflect on it.  And perhaps we can correct some of the mistakes of judgment we may still be making about how objective we can be or what it means to know.

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