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Posted: May 01, 2014

More on which requires more faith:

Science or religion?

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

Science’s Unanswerable Questions

While scientists like to think they have better answers to life’s questions than religion does, they also struggle to answer the tough questions:

  1. Why does anything exist? How did time and space evolve out of a void that suddenly erupted with a big bang, when there was nothing there to begin with?
  2. Why have humans evolved so poorly? Why are we constantly suffering from illness and disease? Since the dawn of man, upwards of a billion people have died from mosquito bites. So why haven't we evolved to the point of having mosquito-proof skin?
  3. Is time travel possible? Can we live forever? Are there other universes, other dimensions? Are we alone in the universe, or do other people-inhabited planets exist?
  4. How does the future get formed? Why does time exist? Where does it come from? Why is the future unknowable?

No, scientists are not required to place their hand on “The Origin of Species” and swear an oath to the truths of Darwin. Indeed, that book was wrong on many counts, including its erroneous theories about genetics.

Finding Evidence of Truth

It’s easy to touch a building and know that it’s there. When we watch a tree grow, we witness how it forms itself. When we travel to another city, we know when we’ve arrived.

All of these are factual pieces of information we store in our heads as obvious truths.

But truth also depends on your perspective, and certain truths are sometimes true but not always. We seem to have exceptions to every rule.

As an example, we now know today that the speed of light can vary.

Even with our basic understanding of math, 2+2 does not always equal 4. It depends on what type of measurement scale you are using. There are four types of measurement scales – nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio. Only in the last two categories does 2+2 = 4. 

When we take medicine to cure an illness, we have faith that it’ll work based on past evidence. When we workout, we have faith that exercise will be beneficial based on past evidence.

In a similar way, religious people say prayers because they have they’re own kind of evidence that they are effective. Even though it may not be enough to constitute scientific proof, they have enough evidence to satisfy themselves that God, Satan, heaven, hell, and the human soul all exist. For some, it may be a greater leap of faith than taking medicine, but others would argue that medicine is the one requiring more faith.

Bad Actors

Throughout history, there are countless people who have risen to the top that have abused their position of power in the name of religion. Religious groups have more than their share of bad actors.

Whether it’s a Catholic Priest who abused children, Islamic Imams who declare a holy war, the Salem Witch Trials, the stoning of an adulteress in Saudi Arabia, the Jonestown mass-suicide, or the Duke of Lower Lorraine leading the crusade to defend the Holy Sepulcher, much blood has been shed in name of religion.

Yet even with thousand of acknowledged abuses and public displays of impropriety, religious groups continue to thrive.

Attempting to Bridge the Gap

While the feud continues, several new theories for bridging the chasm between science and religion has been advanced including one by Dr. Robert Lanza, Chief Scientist at Advanced Cell Technology and author of the book “Biocentrism.”

The theory of biocentrism teaches that life and consciousness are fundamental constants of the universe, and that consciousness creates the material universe, not the other way around.

The laws, forces, and constants of the universe appear to be fine-tuned for life, implying intelligence existed prior to matter.

The theory implies that death of consciousness simply does not exist. It only exists as a thought because people identify themselves with their body.

If the body generates consciousness, then consciousness dies when the body dies. But if the body receives consciousness in the same way that a cable box receives satellite signals, then of course consciousness does not end at the death of the physical vehicle.

The human soul, from a biocentrism perspective, existed long before the body was ever created, and simply moves to a different dimension or universe upon death.

According to Lanza, many of science’s most confounding phenomena can be explained through biocentrism. Admittedly this is a heady topic with far reaching implications, but woefully short on anything resembling proof of its correctness, and no understanding of where consciousness came from in the first place.

Final Thoughts

“Faith” is a belief in something that lacks conclusive proof. As science and technology has progressed, we have witnessed a raising-of-the-bar as to what constitutes conclusive proof.

Simply witnessing something happening is not always conclusive proof. Even demonstrating cause and effect is often misleading if there is no understandable linkage between the two.

As a result, we live in a world riddled with doubt, and faith is more necessary now than ever before. 

It’s easy for me to predict that 500 years from now we will still have religion. Religions are far better organized than science, and they are far more resilient to external forces and competition because they've already had to compete for thousands of years.

It’s also easy for me to predict that science will also be around 500 years from now, and that the findings of science will continue to conflict with the teachings of religion. After all, it was roughly 500 year ago when Copernicus unveiled his theories of a sun-centered solar system, the start of much of this feud.

What’s less obvious is that science and religion need each other. In spite of their complex relationship, they fill different roles and the benefits far outweigh the conflicts.

With everything we know, we still can’t answer the basic question, “Why does anything exist?” And as a result, we are driven by the hope that someday we’ll find answers, and faith that they’ll support what we already believe to be true.

That said, this is a controversial topic and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Tom, I enjoy reading your writings. They are always thought provoking and relevant. A couple of thought about this particular subject. To me evolution of species has been proven and is observable. With one exception. We are the only species on the planet that are able to accumulate knowledge and pass it from generation to generation. Some would call it consciousness but I think that word is used to broadly. This unique ability that we have cannot be explained with evolution alone. There must have been something like a God that intervened to give us this ability. This can be explained by religion, however organized religions take this much to far and are really the quest for power by some to control and dominate others. We really don't know, and may never understand the entity we call God. By Bernie Zurbriggen on 2014 05 01
Thomas - Thank you for this thought provoking piece and your insight & opinions on an obviously emotional subject for some, and less so for a more rational person. As Mark Twain once famously said (and I'm directing this to the absolutists in the scientific community) "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." I always look forward to your contributions to our collective consciousness! By Michael E. Schmidlen on 2014 05 01
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