By: David Xi-Ken Astor, Sensei
When we contemplate the tremendous gains science and technological capabilities have given modern man, a capacity to reach beyond the limitations our planet has imposed on the pre-technological age, it might be said that science may be challenging the long held and deeply entrenched notion of the nature of “creation” which has always been based on metaphysical thought, theology, and the development of cultural myths. That nature being a belief in a “creator-god”. Once what seemed to be a mystery relative to how the Universe came to be and functioned, may now be explained by our understanding from the study of physics, astronomy, biology, and earth-sciences as well as other academic disciplines. A good example of impermanence and how change comes to effect the human thought process by the way. It is still important that we understand that a scientific view of the universe is yet another point of view.
In the 21st century we are not even close to overcoming the universal mysteries, even if it were possible considering the limitations of the human species. Yet, many are convinced that a good chance exists that science will ultimately resolve enough of the puzzle of the unknown that it would leave very little ground for a god as we have come to define it. We only need to look at how modern science has narrowed the sphere of influence that religious institutions have enjoyed over the centuries in setting “universal-standards” of how the universe is. I include some Buddhist tradition’s ancient beliefs that still survive into the modern age. As we learn more about how science is informing us of how the Universe is, there is little need to look outside of it’s boundaries for spiritual direction. I personally find the more I understand how science is giving us a better picture of universal realities, my spiritual life is strengthened and my interests in metaphysical explanations is declining. In fact, I am more suspicious than ever of supernatural experience. But the big question that all of this engenders is, “can the sciences explain everything?” Can science and spirituality sit side by side in harmony?
Even as I sit and write this, there are individuals in our government leadership that very recently have disavowed what science is “teaching”, like the big-bang theory or what we can learn from quantum physics, and offer their belief that the earth was only created 9,000 years ago. They place their worldview on documentation written in the early period of the dark ages. Then there are theologians and religious leaders that try to reconcile scientific discovery and theory to conform to existing religious text and argue that events like the big-bang if true must have been initiated by a god, or at least an unmoved-mover. My own thought is that even the big-bang theory will be resolved in ways beyond current science’s ability to understand. The Buddha always took a pragmatic approach on these issues by just saying it is unknowable and not important in resolving human suffering and how we can contribute to our own positive self-flourishing. Yet it is interesting that some of the core Buddhist principles associated with Dependent (Relational) Origination comes close to reflect the understanding of quantum theory. Continue reading