The contrast between science and religion
I want to know the mind of God
When he created the world.
Albert Einstein, physicist.
I-The missing explanation.
Imagine that you buy a new car, a new washing machine or a new stereo system. Just come home, open the package with trepidation and find your beautiful stereo integrated and compact. Looking for the instruction manual, but strangely you don’t find: search and search, but the manual is not there. Then go back precipitously to the store to ask for explanations. But the shopkeeper to replies that the manual does not exist!
While you’re listening in disbelief, the shopkeeper discusses the strange situation: to eliminate the inconvenience of missing manual, several organizations have taken steps to publish unofficial manuals. Unfortunately, their interpretations are in disagreement on the use and purpose of various functions of the stereo. There are even the keys that have no explanation in any of the different interpretations. Continuous puzzled to hear the shopkeeper, which mentions even in various legal disputes between the different organizations …
Absurd? Not so much. When a child is born, does not carry with it any manual: there are no instructions provided. On the other hand there are various religious, philosophical and scientific doctrines that attempt to work around this problem and explain what they need to do the humans in their lives. The trouble is that the various doctrines are not always in agreement between them: in fact, they often find themselves at odds, and throughout history there have been even of wars or revolutions for these disagreements!
Is true that there are certain principles on which all agree: for example easy, everyone agrees that humans need to eat in order to survive. But even in this case so obvious and indisputable, there are disputes. Without pushing up to incredible testimonies about Yoga experts who would be able to survive without eating, and even disregarding the quarrels between vegetarians and meat supporters as a fundamental component of nutrition, we can remember that Muslims cannot eat pork or drink alcohol, Hindus cannot eat beef, etcetera.
This shows us that it will be difficult to clarify the question: but we certainly don’t scare us or get discouraged by this and we want to come to discover the secret of life and the universe.
II-science and religion are compatible?
Today’s dominant conceptions in Europe and other Western countries are essentially two: the traditional view of the Christian religion, based on the Bible, and the scientific conception that emerges from the sensational discoveries of the last four centuries.
According to many scientists, and also according to many common people these two concepts are in conflict. Don’t miss, however, who believes it to be compatible and looks forward to overcoming the apparent discrepancies. There is even someone who denies the existence of a contradiction.
Who is right? The ambitious title of this book assumes the existence of a solution to this dilemma. But before we get to it, we will have to look at the whole issue. The confusion is not much and to proceed in our analysis we need to simplify, so for now I’ll stick to the sole Western culture.
III-traditional view of the world according to religion.
When we were kids we were taught that God created the universe in seven days: the first day created light, the separated spores and thus the cycle of day and night. The second day created the heavens, on the third day the Earth, on the fourth day, the Sun and the Moon, on the fifth day the animals that live in the water and the birds, on the sixth day the animals that live on the Earth and man. Finally, on the seventh day, he rested.
According to this story of creation, based on the first book of the Bible, Genesis, man was formed from the dust (Genesis 2.7) and yet was created in God’s image and likeness (1.26), which was pure spirit (1.2). After the first man and woman, Adam and Eve committed the “original sin” and for this reason God drove them out from paradise condemning them to a life of toil and hardship: “with the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread, till you return to the land from which you have been taken, for thou art dust and to dust you shall return!” (3.19).
In the following centuries the men, abusing the “free will” which God had gifted and committed all kinds of sins. So it was necessary to the birth of Jesus, God’s son, to redeem the sins of humanity.
This is the teaching that gave the Christian religion and who dominated Europe for centuries, allowing a certain moral, civil, social development (and thus cheap), although between several issues and so much injustice.
Around 1600 or 1700, with the birth of modern science, this traditional concept began to be put seriously question. To be precise, the quest for independence and the process of moving away from “dictatorship” medieval theological had already started around 1500, with humanism and the Renaissance. The first basic step which was to flip the traditional conception of the universe was due to what is known as the astronomical revolution.
IV-astronomical revolution and the birth of science.
Until the 16th century it was believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe ( a geocentric model of Ptolemy). Dante, who also had a non-trivial and the apparent movement of the stars and was mindful of the sphericity of the Earth, in simple cosmological Unitarians had placed the Earth at the center of the universe: hell is so beneath the Earth’s surface, purgatory is located on Earth but the polar opposite compared to the Mediterranean, and paradise is in heaven : it includes the Moon and the planets then known (from Mercury to Saturn) and extends beyond the fixed stars, which were considered simple bright dots printed on the “celestial sphere”.
During the 16th century, Copernicus proposed a heliocentric model (in fact already conceived in ancient times by the astronomer Aristarchus of Samos), that the Sun was at the center of the universe and the Earth was a simple planet that rotated, like the others, around the Sun. The monk and the philosopher Giordano Bruno argued that model by extending it to all the stars, imagining that they were other Suns like ours and that each star was the center of a solar system which included inhabited planets: it was an ultramodern vision that cost him his condemnation at the stake by the Church, partly because in his fury romantic Bruno had Spiritualized all nature arriving at a kind of Pantheism (all things are divine).
Galileo, founder of modern science, brought clear evidence of the validity of the heliocentric model thanks to its observations with the telescope, a new tool that he had practically invented or greatly improved. For example, he discovered four satellites orbiting around Jupiter, disproving the principle that everything had to rotate around the Earth; and observed the phases of Venus, similar to lunar phases, which demonstrated the validity of the heliocentric model of Copernicus to the detriment of the ancient geocentric model of Ptolemy.
But it wasn’t just the “astronomical revolution” to change the way we view the universe. Galileo, in fact, with his research of basic physics, founded modern science. Looking at the surface of the moon through his telescope, he had realized that there were Plains (or “seas”) and mountains that were producing shadows variables depending on the position of the Sun. So he deduced that the heavens were not “divine” and “incorruptible” as it was believed until then, based on the ancient doctrine of the philosopher Aristotle (recall that Dante’s paradise included the Moon, the planets and the fixed stars!).
On the basis of his observations, Galileo imagined that the universe was governed by mathematical laws, which despite being of divine origin were the same both on Earth and in heaven. So he began to study the physical behavior of so-called “vulgar”, or simple material objects like rocks, balls, inclined planes of wood on which to roll the balls, or buckets of water from which filtered water droplets acting as rudimentary chronometer …
Through his experiments, Galileo measured the acceleration due to gravity (he started throwing things from the leaning tower of Pisa, at least according to legend); discovered the pendulum isochrony (observing the chandeliers in the Cathedral of Pisa); and generally stressed that the movement and the behavior of the “vulgar” was understandable and predictable in mathematical terms. He had the inestimable merits of create the experimental method or scientific method: from a large number of special tests Galileo drew the general laws (inductive method), from which it can then make predictions about other special cases (deductive method).
This empirical experimentation typical of engineers combined admirably (and in this were decisive influences of Leonardo da Vinci and philosopher Francis Bacon) with the rationalism of the ancient Greeks, who pretended to understand everything with reason, without bothering to check their claims by means of practical experiments (hence not reached in physics the same extraordinary results they had obtained in the study of geometry). Galileo uttered the first principles of physics such as the principle of inertia or the relativity principle (that three centuries later generalized by Einstein).
Thus was born the physics as a science in its own right, as opposed to Aristotle’s physics, based only on his arguments and his beliefs and therefore very low validity. It must be recognized, however, that some research and discoveries of antiquity deserve to be considered fully valid and scientific: the case studies of Archimedes on levers or on floating bodies, the studies of Pythagoras concerning acoustics, or certain specific studies of astronomers (even if placed in an erroneous geocentric system).
V-science Developments in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Galileo proved that the “vulgar” is adapted to very specific and precise mechanical laws. So you could see a mathematical structure even in the behavior of trivial material objects on Earth and not only in the movement of the stars in the sky. Since then the development of physics and other sciences was huge and unstoppable.
The philosopher, mathematician and physicist René Descartes contributed decisively to this development. Kepler stated the fundamental laws of planetary motion, pointing out that their orbits are elliptical and not exactly circular (as was believed until then always under the belief that the heavens were perfect).
It still comes at a time of transition, in which we try to bring together traditional theological beliefs with new scientific findings that seem to overcome them relentlessly. There is also the influence of a magical conception of the world that had spread during the Renaissance, thanks to philosophers like Bruno: so for us it is surprising the fact that Galileo and Kepler knew each other well and hire an Astrology horoscopes. Maybe Galileo wanted to just round up his meager salary in lire, but definitely Kepler was convinced of the validity of astrology, or at least conceived the universe in mystical terms.
Newton continued the work of Galileo by upgrading it to a huge extent and disposing in classical mechanics. First shooting Galileo’s studies on falling of “serious” (i.e. heavy objects) to formulate the theory of universal gravitation, which unifies the Earth’s gravity with gravity celeste — provides a explanation of weight of objects on Earth and of their tendency to fall down, and the motion of the planets and the stars in the sky. In appearance they are two completely different phenomena, which until then no one had thought to bind. Newton also gave a precise mathematical definition of the concept of force, that allows to deduce exactly the movement of objects, and gave decisive contributions to the development of optics and mathematical analysis. With new technical advances in physics and became unstoppable: soon would come the steam engine and other inventions, unimaginable in previous centuries, from which followed the “industrial revolution”, a fundamental stage of human progress.
The second chapter of this book will be devoted to a more detailed analysis of developments in physics and other sciences which were marginally being born or were reformed according to Galileo’s experimental method (chemistry, biology, medicine, astronomy, etc).
This general overview instead intends to highlight the effects of development of science belief and mentality of Western man: the progress of science and technology seemed to coincide with an increasingly sharp devaluation of Theology and religion, whose teachings appeared to be passing or expressly contradicted by new discoveries.
Galileo had already had to deal with the Church, which condemned him to solitary confinement at Arcetri for having supported and defended the heliocentric model, which was considered heretical by the Church. In fact it was in keeping with the principle that man was created in the image and likeness of God and the center of the universe, as implied in the Bible ( anthropocentricview). Galileo, unlike Brown, was sentenced to solitary confinement and not to death because he disowned heliocentrism. But he remained famous phrase that he allegedly muttered at the end of the process, referring apparently to the motion of the earth around the Sun: “Eppur si muove”.
Vi-Mechanism, enlightenment and diffusion of atheism.
Mechanistic physics achievements greatly influenced the beliefs of the intellectuals of the 18th century. Thus was born theenlightenment, a current of thought which placed unbounded confidence in man’s confidence, denying traditional dogmas of religion. For example, the concept of “faith”, which is based on emotion and not on the right, was unacceptable to the Enlightenment, which on the basis of the results of science argued that the approach to the truth had to be rational and not emotional in nature.
Hence strange forms of “rational” religions like Deism, and there was a wide spread ofatheism, more than in any other previous epoch. Some philosophers, such as La Mettrie, carried to the extreme materialistic beliefs, mechanistic and atheistic, rejecting and denying the existence of any form of “spirit” and declaring that humans and animals are simple machinery moved by the laws of physics, similar to clocks or particularly complex mechanical devices: almost robotic. According to this view, man’s mind is merely a secondary consequence of such mechanical movements, a kind of spurious phenomenon caused accidentally by the combinations of matter and its internal movement.
Such statements of La Mettrie can be understood when considering the results that the physics and engineering were getting at that time. Newton’s mechanics can accurately predict extraordinary movement not only planets, but in a perfectly analogous, of any object or mechanical system, provided you know exactly the forces acting on the system in question. The evolution of a mechanical system so it is predictable and predetermined, with exceptional accuracy, which apparently doesn’t seem subject to any limitation (determinism).
Laplace, mathematician and physicist, in 1802 he was able to exhibit at Napoleon materialistic and deterministic theory on which it was based the conception of physics. Eventually Napoleon remained amazed because God had not been mentioned, and therefore asked Laplace what the role of God in that system in the world. Laplace replied: “I didn’t need this hypothesis”.
At the end of the 18th century was born in chemistry, based on atomic theory: it turns out that all matter, solid state, liquid or gaseous, consists of tiny particles called “atoms”, in accordance with the term used in antiquity by philosophers, Leucippus and Democritus. The chemistry is immediately able to explain the properties of all known materials, and will soon bring to the creation of new materials. At the same time develop studies on electricity and magnetism, which will allow more extraordinary developments in technology.
VII-the devaluation of the role of humans in the universe.
With regard to scientific studies on living things, as early as the seventeenth century Hooke discovered that they are made up of thousands of tiny particles called “cells”, which are only visible under a microscope. The cell theory, developed in the nineteenth century, showed that cells in turn are made up of chemical compounds containing elements ordinary materials (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc.), which are made of atoms just like inanimate matter, although showing an unusual ability to organize. So science is in the soul of man are talking about religions, but only material elements.
During the nineteenth century Darwin gives an additional thrust to the vanity of man. With his theory of biological evolution he emphasizes that living things have evolved over millions of years from simple organisms to increasingly complex organisms until the man. Darwin says everything with the following words: “the man in his arrogance he attributes its origin to a divine plan; I feel more humble and likely see us created from animals “.
Today evolutionary biology States that man descended from apes, which are descended from simpler organisms, and so on, up to recede in simple cells thought to be born by chance on Earth about three billion years ago, thanks to accidental chemical combinations that occurred in shallow water and rich in elements, which formed the so-called primordial organic soup.
According to the official, development biology of life from primordial soup came by accident: accidental collisions between molecules formed increasingly elaborate structures, forming more complex organisms. The macromolecule of DNA, which contains the genetic code of every organism, has gradually been accidental mutations, and are retained only those combinations that fortuitously proved better suited to survive in the environment, while the others have disappeared, according to a cynical mechanism called natural selection.
During the nineteenth century includes permanently even the Sun is at the center of the universe. The astronomical revolution had replaced the Sun to the Earth at the center of our planetary system (known as the solar system), but it still continued to believe that it was at the center of the universe (only a few, like Bruno, believed in the existence of countless solar systems, none of which could be considered).
At the beginning of the twentieth century it is now clear that our Sun is a star common, small to medium-sized, situated in a semi-peripheral of a Galaxy, called milky way. Man loses more and more importance compared to the immensity of the material universe. And as misfortunes never come Sun, in recent years also arrives the Freud’s psychoanalysis, which shows that the human psyche is strongly influenced by unconscious drives (virtually), only slightly mitigated by the collective morality.
VIII-the physics of the twentieth century.
During the twentieth century physics continues its development. Einstein’s theory of relativity implies the existence of some paradoxes that seem to contradict common sense and force physicists to rethink the concepts of space and time.
This theory also highlights that the matter is a particular form of energy: Einstein’s famous formula E = mc2, which everyone knows, but few know the meaning in simple terms means just that. The mass of each particle material amounts to a certain energy, and in particular circumstances the particles can disintegrate and release energy correspondent (think of the atomic bomb).
Meanwhile, studies of the structure of atoms reveals that it is a physical system composed of even smaller particles, the Proton, the neutron and the electron. These elementary particles obey strange laws, described by the so-called quantum mechanics, and reveal that their nature is not purely “corpuscular” (i.e. This is not real material particles comparable to small hard balls) but is also “wave” — are describable in terms of waves propagating in space: this is one of the many paradoxes of quantum mechanics which reveals the limits of nineteenth-century mechanistic materialist conception and it has new models of physical reality.
According to some authors, particularly daring Contemporary Physics opens completely new perspectives and paves the road to conceptions of the universe in which man figure conscious can be unexpectedly daring theories of rehabilitated: think physicists such as Fritjof Capra (the Tao of physics, Adelphi 1975) or Fabrizio Coppola (assumptions about Reality, Lacy 1991).
IX-prophecies about the death of religion.
But instead of following bold and visionary theories like Coppola, we return to our historical analysis. In the early 20th century the image that he has of himself in the universe is really distressing: he is born for accidental reasons from “primordial soup” and is living in a mechanical and impersonal material reality and utterly insensible to its existence.
This picture seems to arise from scientific investigation of reality, that gets extraordinary achievements from 1600 onwards until the current technology, which enables space travel, the processing of sounds, images and information via computer, virtually instantaneous transmission from one part of the world, and other miracles …
The traditional view taught religion at this point seems far removed from reality. Atheism is spreading more and more, and many wonder how there may be millions of people who continue to believe in the existence of God.
Already in the 18th century the enlightenment Voltaire had prophesied that within a century the Christian religion would disappear. In the 19th century other philosophers, some even antithetical between them like Marx and Nietzsche, attacked Christianity and all religions, predicting their imminent end.
However the Christian religion still exists today, although no longer has that hegemonic role typical of past centuries. This does nothing but heighten the contrast from which we began our analysis: the question formulated in the second paragraph (who is right?) remains unresolved. On the one hand the science with its extraordinary successes seems to have overtaken the traditional conception of the universe imposed by religion. On the other hand, religion is in good health (although not great), and has survived despite the prophecies of the philosophers mentioned. Maybe religion isn’t “the opium of the people”, as Marx, but rather a need inherent in the human soul or at least felt by a great part of humanity.
It seems that the religious concept meets the man from an emotional point of view, while the forensics meets rational point of view. Unfortunately the two explanations are not coordinated with each other and appear at odds with each other.
It would be easy to immerse himself in the controversy and take a stand on one of the two fronts. For example, you could join the position expressed by the following said, which circulates between atheistic environments of the Internet: “I refuse to worship a God who created me imperfect to be able one day to punish”.
Or you could respond to allegations of Marx stressing that Nations that was imposed atheism did not achieve useful results to the civil progress, social, moral, political and economical as he expected or hoped for.
But it is not our intention to stand by one or the other side, because the positions within the two large blocks (atheists and believers) are varied and articulated. Our only wish is to clarify the whole issue.
X-The pathological duplicity of contemporary culture.
The historical development that we have seen in the previous paragraphs reflects what we learned in childhood and adolescence: on the one hand we were taught the precepts of Christianity, on the other they illustrated the discoveries of science, which seem to be framed in a different and possibly incompatible with the first.
In fact according to religion the man has a close relationship with God, and can boast a very noble origin (although partially compromised by original sin). According to the vision implied by science instead of little noble origin man, being an animal evolved due to accidental combinations and lacking in purpose from a slop of chemical elements. We then compare the two truths that have taught us:
-Man was created by God in his image and likeness and plays a major role in the universe, and yet it’s just a particularly advanced animal, descended from apes and other simpler organisms and primitive people from accidentally after random genetic mutations; an animal that could not exist without changing virtually nothing in the big picture of the universe.
-Life is sacred and eternal because it is the Supreme manifestation of the divine spirit, and yet it’s temporary, transient and meaningless since was born by accident due to accidental chemical interactions between purely material elements in the so-called “primordial soup”.
-The Earth is a place of importance in the universe, because God has created men, created in his image and likeness, and yet it’s a small pebble lost in the immensity of the material Cosmos, arid, cold and impersonal; a pebble that could not exist without changing virtually nothing in the big picture of the universe.
-The universe is a wonderful manifestation of the Supreme divine intelligence, and yet it is a material device abandoned to itself, which moves as a mere mechanism without purpose or meaning.
All logical and consistent, right? Very well: the reader who sees no contradiction in all this, he has no reason to read this book. Some people instead see a contrast but they consider it easily curable: among these is inevitable to mention the famous physicist Antonino Zichichi, whose position in this respect is incomprehensible to other scientists (who consider unsustainable). There are some who will only accept one of the two conceptions, discarding the other, and considers that there is nothing more to say.
Well, I don’t speak to them. I turn instead to those who can see clearly a contradiction in this twofold truth, that perceive as an ambiguity, a pathological dissociation or even a “schizophrenia” that plagues the contemporary culture, and who feel that there must be a deeper explanation, valid and complete, able to simultaneously meet your mind and heart, and not one or the other separately. We don’t want to reach the extremes to deny or ignore the biological evolution, as is done in some private schools of Christian inspiration, or to impose atheism as it is done in many countries.
Well, in the course of the book we will come to recognize that the two concepts are only partial aspects of a larger truth. But at this stage the solution to the dilemma may be incomprehensible or ludicrous, so we must proceed step by step. Is necessary in a lucid and investigation determined that clarity on several crucial points.