Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Taking Science Seriously

I have been enthralled with science for decades. My 1981 rabbinic thesis, for example, focused on the impact of quantum theory on Jewish thought. It was a very short thesis. Last year I helped create the Mobius Center for Science and Spirituality, a partnership between my One River Foundation and Middle Tennessee State University. As part of Mobius I produced an undergraduate course called “The God of Science and the Science of God” that sought a new paradigm for dialogue between science and religion.

I take science seriously. I honor the scientific method, and do not dispute the truths it reveals. Where science disproves a religious claim, religion must change; hiding from truth behind the wall of scripture is cowardly, and ignoring astronomy, geology, cosmology, and biology in order to hold on to a specific theology is not an act of faith but of foolishness.

I also take religion seriously. Religion is a science in its own right, the science of human transcendence, transformation, and meaning. Where the astronomer uses a telescope and a biologist uses a microscope, the religionist uses poetry, myth, metaphor, and contemplative practice.

Science liberates us from magic. Religion liberates us from despair. And both liberate us from the narrow confines of ego, tribe, etc., to hold out new ways of seeing self and other that provides for a deep and compelling sense of awe and wonder. And then religion goes one step farther.

The step that religion takes that science cannot, is the step into meaning, justice and compassion. Science shows us how life works; religion shows us how best to live it. Science reveals the mind of God, religion reveals God’s heart.

I am of course speaking of religion and science at their best. There is bad science and bad religion. Both share a common trait: refusing to look beyond the biases of the scientist or theologian to see what is rather than what each wants there to be. Good science has reason to fear bad religion, and good religion has reason to fear bad science. But good science and good religion have nothing to fear from one another, for both point toward the ineffable mystery that manifests as reality is all its forms.

The more science I learn, and the more religion I study, the more deep my contemplation, and the more sacred the universe becomes. And the more sacred the universe becomes the more compelled I am to engage life with love. The God that emerges from good science and good religion is not a tribal warlord drooling over the chance to burn unbelievers in Hell, but an all–embracing nonduality delighting in infinite forms and levels of consciousness, surprising Itself now and again with a being that emerges, looks at the enormity of creation and says without the slightest hint of narcissism, “That’s me!”

I want to be that being. Sometimes I am. I wish the same for you as well.


rbarenblat said...

Any chance your rabbinic thesis is available anywhere? I'm curious about it now, as is a quantum physicist friend of mine.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

very interesting

Rabbi Rami Shapiro said...

I suppose it is availabe through HUC. I don't have a copy.