Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Supernaturalism: The REAL Reason For The "Great Rift" Between Science And Religion

Image result for brane space, Great iftMichael Hobart's recent book, 'The Great Rift' claims to offer a new take on the divide (what he calls "great rift") between science and religion - but is it really?  Hobart's central thesis - to cut to the chase- is that since the Galilean era (1564- 1642) science has communicated using abstract mathematics while religion remained anchored in Logos, i.e. "the logic coupling words and things".   Hence, he avers that not only can the two realms (or "magisteria" in Stephen J. Gould's parlance) not communicate with each other but the quantitative approach has proven to be better at grasping reality.

Galileo's achievement, to fix ideas, was to demonstrate the potency and superiority of the mathematical-experimental method while analyzing projectile motion, e.g.
Image result for brane space,rocket motion

Thus, Galileo discerned via careful observations that an object hurled into the air, for example, has two independent motions: a vertical  (y-) and a horizontal (x- )one. Through the use of mathematics Galileo managed to combine the two motions algebraically into a model that describes all projectile motion (including for today's missiles) as parabolic.  (See e.g. the parabolic trajectory shown in the graphic above.)

This is an approach to and an identification of a real thing. It is also arguable (certainly to me) that the split between the two magisteria - science and religion - is actually predicated on the split between the applied mathematics (i.e.to models in physics) and a false  "Logos". The latter is a coupling of words with non-existent things, i.e. supernatural artifacts engendered by specific brain regions.

For the sake of argument let's agree that Logos implies a coupling of words with things. This begs the question of what kinds of things, and does this coupling confer reality?  I will argue here that science and religion - or at least spirituality - might find a kind of common ground so long as the introduction of supernatural agents is disdained in the latter.   As I wrote in my recent letter to Physics Today,  on science and religion and why they are so mutually antagonistic so cannot be harmonized,  e.g.

Readers' thoughts on science and religion: Physics Today: Vol 71, No 6


"As I see it, the most fundamental split—an irreparable one—between science and religion is that religion embraces a supernatural order and genuine science, as opposed to pseudoscience, does not.

From a scientific and objective standpoint, there is simply no way that any purportedly supernatural entity or order can be demonstrated or proven. No scientific methodologies for such exist, nor any credible instruments or measuring techniques. The rejoinder that those things can't be measured merely reinforces the argument that they are no more fit for scientific inquiry than the astrologer’s claim of “malefic” influences of Mars at an infant’s birth.
Because a supernatural domain cannot be approached in any scientific or objective way, then by my reckoning it doesn't exist. One need not even deny its existence because to all intents the supernatural entity becomes logically unnecessary or redundant. It doesn't help us make scientific predictions or explain natural phenomena—say, coronal mass ejections or auroral substorms"
Let me again underscore here for the record, that the preceding applies to any religion that enlists supernatural agents to support its basis. It was not intended to be a blanket statement that modern science could find no commonality with any religion. For example, according to the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism there exist a multitude of universes and none of these harbors supernatural agents such as demons, or "Satan".  Many of them, however, may well harbor other intelligent life forms.  This view in its most rudimentary form comports with the multiverse speculations of modern physics. 
One can then argue that a genuine Logos,  or coupling of words and real things,  is not necessarily mutually exclusive with modern science or its quantitative formulations. This leaves open the possibility that any bifurcation or "rift" between science and religion may actually be between a false version of one, and a false version of the other. A false version of science would be a pseudo science like astrology.(see e.g. the preceding quote from my letter and the reference to the astrologer's "malefic influences.")  In many ways these echo conventional religionists' invocations of "Satan" and "demons" - say to account for earthly evil.  This also suggest any religions that make such invocations must be false. Let's recall again the words of philosopher George Santayana, in his book, Reason In Religion, Dover Books, p.157:
"In a word, theology, for those whose religion is secondary, is simply a false physics, a doctrine  about eventual experience not founded on the experiences of the past.  Such a false physics, however, is soon discredit by events. It does not require much experience or much shrewdness to discover that supernatural beings and laws are without the empirical efficacy attributed to them."
One can then understand why a religion grounded in supernaturalist demonology, say, cannot be true. But make no mistake, the consequences pertaining to these beliefs have been quite real! The most profound example lay in the wide use of the Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer (Dean of Cologne University) and Jacob Sprenger (Dominican Inquisitor General of Germany). This was the book which gave the prescriptions for exposing those possessed by demons, or under their influence, including: accused witches,  familiars, succubi, and incubi) . This was under a Bull issued by Pope Innocent VIII. 

Once the suspect was identified as a witch (especially if possessing a "familiar', usually a cat) it became necessary to obtain her confession.The procedure first required obtaining evidence in the form of "devil's marks".  Prosecutors and examiners often made great displays of such searches, which usually included the shaving of the head and genitals in public as the witches were prodded with sharp implements by their accusers. The Malleus, after all mandated "diligent and careful inspections of secret parts".   The Malleus also advised that torture, deception and terror be used to extract confessions.  

The rack, scourging, burning and eye gouging were all sanctioned as inducement to confess, and the impetus for confessions was primarily driven by the fact the more confessions forthcoming the more the pay for the prosecutors-Inquisitors.  Thus, under torture, the accused witches were routinely forced to name any and all accomplices including those who participated in sabbats.  One of the most infamous cases, as described by historian Henry Lea ('The Inquisition of the Middle Ages' ),  concerned a 71 -year old woman put to the rack no less than seven times, especially after confessing to signing a pact with the devil. 
Females suspected of being witches and in congress with "the Devil"  caught holy hell for sure, with ultimate tortures that would give most people today psychotic nightmares.  Males, often accused as "warlocks" for their part,  did not entirely escape suspicion either, and often faced tortures just as unnerving, according to historian Henry Lea,  e.g.
Image result for brane space, Inquisition
This  then was the real fruit of the unreal beliefs of millions once supernatural agents were admitted into the pantheon of religions such as Christianity and Islam. And again, I reiterate, any religion that must resort to torture or invocations of "demons", "Hell" and "Satan" to gain allegiance and "faith" - cannot be sincere.  They must be false. They clearly cannot be evocative of a God of love.     

Some may argue or claim at this point that those practices -  taking a cue from demonology (belief in supernatural forces, demons) -  are things of the past and the RC Church, for example, no longer invokes demons or Satan. This would be a mistake, given how just over 50 years ago a Loyola University (New Orleans) priest attempted an exorcism on a women's dorm, e.g.

Brane Space: Did "Satan" Visit Loyola University Women's Dorm Back ...

Not to mention the fact the Vatican is evidently still "all in" with general exorcisms. For example, back in 2015 a new school for exorcists  The Pope Leo XIII Institute  opened  "for the “education & training of priests in the holy ministry of exorcism and deliverance”. It was further revealed that another reason for promoting exorcism was that the Church needed to "grow its numbers".  What better way than to excite superstitions about demons?

  Heck, even when I attended Loyola (1964-67) , the common Theology course always included a first section dealing with "demoniac" accounts as described in the Gospels. I still have 

No photo description available. those old 1964 notes to prove it:

The following 6 pages then go into detail, citing chapter and verse, why we need to take such accounts seriously. 

Interestingly, the philosopher Alvin Plantinga, in his recent book:  'Where The Real Conflict Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism', makes the basic argument that the supposed conflicts between science and religion are superficial because of the "methodological naturalism used by science".  For a brief summary of what this means, re-read the second paragraph of my quotation above, from my Physics Today letter.   In other words, Plantinga is advocating that science open the door to supernatural agents ...via a methodological supernaturalism, I presume.  What types of investigation  this might portend, we can only surmise.   Seances like the Loyola girls attempted? Ouija boards?  He doesn't really say. But what he does do, on this basis, is argue that naturalistic evolution - relying on mutation and natural selection - is wholly consonant with  a supernatural theistic underpinning.  This was one of the primary memes I demolished in my book, The Atheist's Handbook To Modern Materialism, (Chapter Three, The Evolutionary Foundation')

  Regrettably, like Tom McLeish in his Physics Today appeal ('Thinking Differently About Science and Religion")  https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/PT.3.3831
to harmonize science with religion, Plantinga  is reduced to desperately seeking a back door  entry for the supernatural.  There is no way, I would counsel him, that physics - and certainly biology and chemistry - will allow such nonsense anytime soon!

 The conclusion?  The real Logos is quite compatible with mathematical sciences such as physics and astrophysics, because the words and 'things' it describes possess an innate reality embodied in what quantitative science describes. The job of believers then is not to oppose science as an enemy but to seek the real Logos which is compatible with that real science, as Santayana indicates.   That real Logos is itself divested of the supernatural, but which can still provide an avenue for transcendence as I explained in my book, Beyond Atheism, Beyond God..  And as I also wrote in the last paragraph of my PT letter:

"Is it possible for religion and science to coexist? Possibly, but only if religion is diluted to the point that it’s devoid of all supernatural memes, agents, and explanations. Otherwise, all bets are off and we are left with embracing glorified superstition, and a deleterious form at that, able to use its fantasy agents to subvert objective human inquiry."

If then reality is the most important thing for the human mind to apprehend and supernatural entities only obscure this reality, why is there the need for supernatural religion?  More importantly why can't science and religion find common cause as opposed to being at each other's throats?  As noted in my quote above, that day happens when religion divests itself of supernatural memes, agents, artifacts and explanations.  Only then can a common ground be feasible.

 To highlight where are at now, the top most graphic shows the mathematics  embodied in Emmy Noether's famous equation  which encapsulates "Noether's therorem".  For reference, Noether's theorem became a foundation of the standard model of particle physics in the second half of the 20th cnetury and today retains a central role in continuing to define physical reality via inherent symmetry properties.  These hold  no matter how far one travels in space or time.  In many respect then,  Noether's first and second theorems, e.g.

Noether's first theorem 

highlight the quantitative physics responsible for divorce of modern quantitative science from conventional religion and conventional spirituality's more limited reality.  For example, symmetries in the 2D quantum gravity model peculiar to the first theorem, show up in the 3D quantum gravity in a different context in Neother's 2nd theorem.  In greater generalization, one can say a quantum theory of particles on a 2D surface (say for atomic spin magnets) can act as a hologram for a 3-dimensional theory of quantum gravity in curved spacetime.

Interestingly, ,the late quantum physicist David Bohm used an analogous quantitative approach incorporating his development of stochastic quantum mechanics to show that our 4 dimensional universe can be enfolded holographically into a five dimensional implicate order. (See e.g. "Wholeness and the Implicate Order-  which the interested reader can access here as a pdf:

Wholeness and the Implicate Order

Bohm postulated that all material forms are the unfolded or explicated manifestations of a fundamental implicate order reality. This explication arises at the level of the particulate (atoms, molecules etc.)  and is emphasized over the wave aspect (defined by de Broglie waves).  Particles bespeak the separation of the cosmos - waves (quantum waves) its unity. The problem with traditional thinking, of which most modern theology is the embodiment, is that it has treated reality in a particulate rather than wave context. In a sense, the false theology of the orthodox theologians (along with their false God concepts) fits hand in glove with the false physics reflected in the Cartesian-Newtonian viewpoint, leading to an ultra- reductionism. 
Not surprisingly, in this view the universe is perceived to be fragmented: galaxy from galaxy, star from star, each human from every other and even man from himself (body vs. Soul, mind vs. Body, etc.). It is out of this background of a false theology that the conceptual theological horrors like ‘heaven and hell’, ‘damnation’ and ‘salvation’ arise. The reaction of the false physicists to this is also natural and understandable: i.e. they wholesale reject all of the false theology as puerile rubbish so like the ancient Greek Epicureans they cut the false theologians off at the pass by proclaiming everything ends at death.

In the implicate order proposed by Bohm, the separateness of the universe is ultimately submerged within its higher dimensional implicate aspect. All seemingly separate entities are ultimately unified into one, much like the apparently separate ‘waves’ seen on the ocean ultimately dissolve and submerge into the vastly greater background sea that spawned them.  This illustration helps to understand the relation:

Explicate Order:



The waves are the explicated manifestation of the unfolded implicate 'sea'. This is where the often used term oceanic reality originates.

In human terms, this implies that at a higher dimensional level all matter, especially as embodied in human forms, along with human minds, becomes interfused into one reality, one whole without division. As Bohm describes it[1]:

In the implicate order we have to say the mind enfolds matter in general and therefore the body in particular. Similarly, the body enfolds not only the mind but also in some sense, the entire material universe.

Physicist Bernard d 'Espagnat provides again the real basis for science (reality) and spirituality to come to a unifying stance [2]::

The archaic notion that is conveyed by the words ‘Lord’ and ‘Almighty’ will presumably never recover its full efficiency for lulling the ontological qualms of mankind. For a religious mind, turning towards Being should therefore become a subtler endeavor than the mere acceptance of the heavenly will stated in the Bible, formulated by the priests, and exhibited by miracles

[1] Bohm, D.: op. cit., 209

[2] d’Espagnat,, B.  : In Search Of Reality .158.

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