Thursday, September 5, 2013

It's a Mystery

desert skies after yesterday's dust storm

A few years back, Richard Dawkins wrote his now-famous book, "The God Delusion" in which he ridiculed religious explanations about the "real world." In his book, Dawkins asserted that the belief in  a superman God on high, who created and now controls everything that is and will be, is nothing but a childish delusion. 

Dawkins concluded that, "science alone has the ability to explain how the "real world" came into being and how the "real world" works. Therefore, thinking people need to turn away from childish religious beliefs and embrace science as the new religion of the 21st century. 

Dawkins' book has now become something like a bible or a handbook for the growing atheist population in today's culture. Every day, as I surf through online discussion groups, I hear the Dawkins' argument repeated over and over again as self-proclaimed atheists assert their sophistication and erudition by claiming that they rely on "science" and reject the silliness of religion for explanations about the world.

In my opinion, the problem with the way Dawkins ( and people like him) understand science is also quite "delusional,"and very unsophisticated.

Ever since the 18th century, Western culture has been dominated by the claims of the "The Enlightenment," (The Age of Reason and Science). The commonly held Western belief is that everything in the "real world" can be observed and explained when scientific thinking and scientific methods are applied.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries with the emergence of the "new sciences,"  the "Enlightenment" claims about the explanatory power of science came under some severe scrutiny.

Yesterday I listened to an NPR radio broadcast about how much science doesn't know. The program pointed out, in the scientific world, there is an "elephant in the universe." The little talked about but well-known "dirty little secret" of the scientific endeavor is that science can only "explain" about 5% of what the "real world" is and how the"real world" works - the rest is basically a mystery. The 95% that isn't able to be explained is referred to as "dark energy" or "dark matter" or sometimes simply as "stuff."  

Applying extremely sophisticated mathematical models, using high-powerd computer technology and advanced atomic equipment, the scientists of the 21st century have essentially uncovered "mystery" - 95% of the so-called "real world" is basically unknown and unexplainable.

I certainly do not believe that religious explanations about "reality" are better than scientific explanations. I also find claims about a superman God on high hovering over and controlling the course of cosmic events to be delusion.  But then again,  I'm not looking for intellectual "explanations" from either religion or from science.  I'm not interested in figuring it all out.

I stand in awe at the mystery of it all.

We had a dust storm in the desert yesterday. When the storm passed and the sun set, the skies lit up with fiery clouds and wisps of swirling, glowing sand. I went into my office and found this ancient Sufi prayer:

You are the All -without beginning or end.
You are One, incomparable, without measure.
You are without limit and beyond understanding.
You are everywhere and in everything.
You are God beyond the beyond.

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