Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Calculus of the Soul

Inspired by this bit from 60 Second Science I spent part of my morning contemplating dark matter. It started with a joke based on the conception of dark matter being created when a scientist could not get his numbers to work with everything he knew. There was an effect that he could not account for therefore this scientist posited that something must be causing said effect. Since he could not see anything which would cause it then he would call this affecting agency Dark Matter and thus his formula worked. Basically I was poking fun at what appears to be a little cheating on the part of scientists to make their math work. This is the kind of crap I got in trouble for in school all the time.

Since I am a rational, well somewhat rational, adult who loves him some science, I understand the scientific process and understand the creation of the concept of dark matter is a result of this process that has been vetted by many people far smarter than I. Therefore I believe dark matter exists, however as I was thinking about this it occurred to me that for us unscientific types we have to take a lot of what Science tells us on faith. For some reason Hebrews 11:1 popped in to my head. This verse says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."*

This got me thinking that the arguments for why one should believe in the conclusions being derived from the more complex forms of science, such as quantum physics or cosmology, and the arguments for the existence of the divine are not so very different. In the end the argument will come to a point where you have to trust someone who has more knowledge and experience in the particular field. Both arguments rest on either direct experience or faith in what someone is telling you is the truth. Of course in questions of science you can set out to learn everything you need to know to construct the proof of what you have been told. It is conceivable for you to do this from the ground up via the scientific method and at the end of this process you will hold the sacred knowledge of SIN and COS; of quarks and leptons; of Heisenberg and Einstein.

Then there is the question of the divine? Can one prove the existence of divinity? You can, much like proving the existence of dark matter, spend years delving into the divine, studying what the great thinkers have said over the past several millennia. Read Thomas Aquinas, Plato, the Koran, and the Pali Canon. You can attend different masses across the world, spend a season in meditation in a temple, or hours in a sweat lodge. Who knows what you will see and experience on this journey as you gather the sacred knowledge. At the end will you be able to prove the existence of the divine? Is there some calculus of the soul out there waiting to be discovered or are we stuck having to have faith in those who have seen the truth?

I believe Truth exists, both in science and spirituality and that Plato had the right of it. There is a Universal Truth which each one of us holds within us. The scientific method allows us to work our way down to the truth of the physical world but it is our accumulated experiences and learning that allow us to work our way down to truth on the spiritual side.

I firmly believe in science and the methods we use to learn about the world. I also firmly believe that I have a soul and that soul is divine, at least in nature. To a certain extent I am confused by people who allow dogma to force them in to positions on the natural world which are untenable in the face of the evidence. To me they are no different than the Holocaust deniers which seem to pop up with alarming regularity. Even worse they are hypocrites since they expect people to accept the existence of the divine on faith while they themselves cannot accept provable facts, even if the proof is beyond their capacities.

I am not certain what my point is anymore as I have wandered fairly far afield from what I initially wanted to say. I guess this has turned into a stream of consciousness piece. I would like to close with this quote from Shakespeare:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet, Act I, Scene IV

I think these are important words to live by. There is always something new in the world that you never considered.

And just so you know, the Fearsome Flagellum is so my next sports team's name.

* This is the translation from the New American Standard Bible as shown here.

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