Jul 07 2013

“Reality Beyond The Material”

“All of human experience, over millennia, suggests a richness and complexity of reality beyond the material.”

I’ve heard there’s a heaven, its streets paved with gold,
Where diamonds and platinum gleams
It’s as real as my hand is, or so I’ve been told,
Though it might just be Swedenborg’s dreams.

I’ve heard I have angels who watch what I do
And act, if I do something rash
The lady who told me, she swore it was true
Then she charged me a whole lot of cash

I’ve heard I can heal any ailment at all
But first, I just have to believe
No matter what problem, how big or how small,
But science just cannot perceive!

I’ve heard there are miracles, wonders, and more,
Overflowing reality’s cup
And I’m thinking it’s something I ought to ignore…
Cos it looks like just making shit up

So yeah… my aggregator threw this at me today. From the Jamaica Gleaner, it’s “Science and Religion: a clash of two faiths”. The title alone tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the author’s position. The only additional info you might need is to note that this article is a response to a previous article… or, as the present author puts it:

Every now and again, some of the puff-chested doctors-cum-priests of science and a wide variety of coat-tail-hanging quacks emerge to advise us that religion, and particularly Christianity, is terminally ill. This is especially strange since modern science is irrefutably a product of Christian faith, more particularly of Protestant Christian faith.

So here comes another one, Dr Patrick White, who holds a doctorate in engineering and has led research groups at Bell Labs, puffingly announcing ‘Christianity losing race against science’ (Gleaner, July 1, 2013).

Initially, I was a bit confused as to whether science or puffery was the enemy. Turns out it’s science.

Science is replete with its own pet prejudices, bigotry and religious zealotry. At its epistemological core, science, as preached by many practitioners and bandwagon believers, operates on two weak assumptions: The reductionist view that reality is purely material, the interplay of matter and energy; and that the only way of truly knowing is by ‘scientific method’.

All of human experience, over millennia, suggests a richness and complexity of reality beyond the material. Science has been quite glibly willing to dismiss the mountain of evidence of non-material reality in defence of its own pet prejudice and in a deliberate and concerted effort to get rid of ‘god’ and the supernatural, which might be more properly described as the ‘othernatural’ rather than the ‘supernatural’.

Go ahead and read it… look for the critique of religion that matches the critique of science. Science is critiqued, and by virtue of a version of special pleading, religion is there to pick up the pieces.

Taking science on its own ground, no hypothesis of origins can be established by scientific method because it simply cannot be tested, a key requirement of validating hypotheses. Origin, whether of matter or of life, is a unique, one-off, non-replicable event of the distant past without human witnesses. Scientific method proceeds by examining replicable phenomena for attaining reliable and valid results. In matters of origins, we all ultimately stand on a platform of faith.

The only rational, purely natural ‘scientific’ position is that we, conscious and self-reflective human beings, find ourselves here. We do not know where we came from. We do not know why we are here. We do not know where we are going.

Science can answer none of these critical existential questions. And science can assign no value to human life. The object cannot value itself. Value is derived from being valuable to another.

Sure, religion can’t answer scientific questions, but that’s not its fault:

Religion, and Christianity in particular, has often been its own worst enemy in the contrived conflict with science. The Bible is not a science text and was not intended to be. The pronouncements of the mediaeval Roman Catholic Church upon cosmology which led to its ‘routing’ by Copernicus and Galileo, over which Patrick White now gloats, had no warrant in data sources available to the Church.

The article concludes

As powerful and productive as they have been, science and scientific method are not without boundaries of competence to define and to examine reality. Trespassing outside those boundaries is definitely not scientific, and bluff and bluster by the doctors, priests and quacks of science cannot change that simple fact.

which the casual observer will note does not advance the cause of religion one inch. The argument is, roughly, “if it is not the 4th of July, it must necessarily be Christmas.” Sorry, but knocking down science (worse, knocking down science based on your inadequate understanding of it) does not strengthen religion.

Tearing down my neighbor’s house does not strengthen my own. Pretending to tear down my neighbor’s house is just as futile, with the added benefit of making me look like a fool.


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  1. 1

    He seems to have coined a new term “othernatural”, which appears to contain the supernatural plus quantum and relativistic effects, since all of them are counterintuitive. It simply muddies the waters. Quantum mechanics may not “make sense” to many folks, but it still describes the material universe.
    He would be great to quote mine, because so much of what he says is true, only to then proceed to contradict it.

    Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection’ “enabled mankind, for the first time, to understand how life developed and why it is now diverse, without having to resort to the supernatural.”
    The reductionist view that reality is purely material, the interplay of matter and energy; and that the only way of truly knowing is by ‘scientific method’.


  2. 2
    M can help you with that.

    Ugh. Anyone who combines quantum mechanics and wishful thinking in the same category is absolutely full of shit — because if there’s anything outside of physics and chemistry to be learned from quantum mechanics, it’s that reality doesn’t have any obligation to behave in ways that we might like it to. The woo-meisters take the actual philosophical lesson we should be learning from QM, turn it on its ass, and then insist that they’re taking a “quantum” approach. “Hey, it turns out that I’m actually not the center of the universe…which means that everything acts according to my imagination!” Ugh.

  3. 3

    The only way to know the limits of the material is to go beyond them to the immaterial.
    But once you’ve got there, there’s no there there.

  4. 4

    Religion’s “boundaries of competence” have a radius of zero. They shouldn’t trespass outside of those boundaries.

  5. 5

    modern science is irrefutably a product of Christian faith, more particularly of Protestant Christian faith.
    Not exactly. A closer look at the founders of modern science – Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), and Isaac Newton (1642-1727) – reveals two Catholics and an Arian (Newton did not believe in the trinity). And those were the founders, who laid the scientific groundwork, cautiously avoiding contradictions to scripture, all three outdated now for 120 years. Modern science starts with Mme Curie, Einstein, Bohr and Planck, whose physical systems do not reference a god.

    the mountain of evidence of non-material reality
    Wish I knew what he is talking about. Hindu fakirs? The Cambodian King twice a year miraculously reversing the flow of the river Tonle Sap? Astrology, Numerology, shamanism? New Age vibrations, crystals, distance healing?
    As it looks he means only virgins giving birth to demigods, feeding thousands with a few loafs of bread, turning water into wine, resurrecting some of the dead, speaking in tongues, and Mother Mary appearances. Plus all the oh so reliably reported wonders of the Saints. Molehills, not mountains. Miracles happen to uneducated or gullible people only.

    A firmly held conviction is not reality, nor is it a perception of reality. It is an idea. The two “magisteria” behind his argumentation are in no way comparable. An idea is right when it describes reality correctly. It is wrong when it does not. Most of our pattern-seeking behavior produces false positives. What may have been an advantage in the African savanna (run, even if it’s not a lion), is no longer needed under safe laboratory conditions. That’s why these days we are able to understand counter-intuitive processes like quantum mechanics or relativity. For which – in strong contrast to the descriptions in diverse scriptures – there are mountains of evidence.

    Cosmogony, Geology and Archaeology, these days explain in abundant detail the history of our planet, solar system, galaxy. The accounts of scripture of this process are simply wrong. Not even metaphorically correct, simply wrong. No paradise, Adam & Eve, world-wide flood, seven plagues, exodus from Egypt, no Moses, and Solomon’s temple was the size of a chapel. The Hebrews, claiming to be god’s selected people, lived at the fringes of history, most of the time occupied by their mighty neighbors (who, by the way, claimed to be their god’s chosen people – a local habit, it seems). For the last 70 years, archaeology has debunked more biblical myths than Schliemann ever dreamed of discovering.

  6. 6
    bad Jim

    Kepler was definitely Protestant, nominally Lutheran, which got him into trouble in Catholic Austria. He also had Calvinist sympathies which made him unwelcome in Lutheran circles, and some of his speculations apparently led to his mother being accused of witchcraft. It was a difficult time for such an odd character.

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