I've never understood why science isn't worshiped by religious believers. After all, most religions believe that God or a higher power created the cosmos.
So seemingly the next best thing to knowing God would be knowing how our universe works, since it stands to reason that the consciousness of the creator would be reflected in the creation -- in the same way as the psyche of an artist shines through his or her paintings.
Normally my meditation nook's reading corner has several science books nestled comfortably next to spiritual and philosophical titles. I jump back and forth between them most mornings, finding each genre inspiring in its own fashion.
Recently I've been making my way through Frank Wilczek's "The Lightness of Being." He's got a Nobel Prize in Physics, a fact prominently displayed on the book's cover (can't blame him).
This was a book that sold itself via the front cover flap. I noticed it at a Salem bookstore and wondered if Wilczek had anything new to say about his subtitled subject: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces. Reading this on the flap made me get out my VISA card:
The Grid is more fundamental than any "fundamental" particle; its spontaneous activity creates and destroys particles. This new understanding of mass and "empty space" explains the puzzling feebleness of gravity and brings a gorgeous unification of all the forces of nature into sharp focus.
God! That's so beautiful. Such was my thought as I walked up to the cashier.
I was carrying a holy book. "Holy," because it was founded in reality, not dogma or superstition. Sure, science doesn't have all the answers to what the universe is made of. Wilczek makes this clear, repeatedly.
But in "The Lightness of Being" I've been learning about what is known, or at least strongly suspected, about the nature of rock bottom reality. Whether you believe that the universe came from God, the Tao, Brahma, Allah, the Big Bang, or some other source, here's the latest word on how the creative power fashioned our home.
To me, this is deeply significant.
Again, I don't see how any person of faith would want to ignore the findings of modern science, particularly physics and cosmology -- which are delving into the foundation of time, space, energy, and matter.
Namely, the basic stuff of creation. Which, as the quote above says, turns out to be energetic "nothing" that morphs into more materialistic "something," the subatomic particles that we and everything else are made of.
This isn't an easy book to read. The cover copy is the least complex writing in it. Smattered here and there, though, are observations that point to some aha's for anyone (like me) who resonates with the scientific side of Taoism and Buddhism.
They address, and offer some answers to, questions that have traditionally been regarded as belonging to philosophy or even theology.
For natural philosophy, the most important lesson we learn from QCD [quantum chromodynamics] is that what we perceive as empty space is in reality a powerful medium whose activity molds the world.
...So: What is the world made of? Subject, as ever, to addition and correction, here is the multifaceted answer that modern physics provides:
--The primary ingredient of physical reality, from which all else is formed, fills space and time.
--Every fragment, each space-time element, has the same basic properties as every other fragment.
--The primary ingredient of reality is alive with quantum activity. Quantum activity has special characteristics. It is spontaneous and unpredictable. And to observe quantum activity, you must disturb it.
--The primary ingredient of reality also contains enduring material components. These make the cosmos a multilayered, multicolored superconductor.
--The primary ingredient of reality contains a metric field that gives space-time rigidity and causes gravity.
--The primary ingredient of reality weighs, with a universal density.
OK, I admit it: not many people are going to find those words as inspiring as what leaves the mouth of their preacher, rabbi, guru, or other religious teacher.
But they are to me. In fact, they're even more inspirational. Because they're based on reality, not imagination.
Emptiness is fine with me as the "primary ingredient of reality." (Not that I have any choice in the matter, or non-matter.) There's no warm and fuzzy personal God in science's foundational view of the cosmos.
But there's beauty. Here's Wilczek in one of his more poetic moments:
Through patchy clouds, off in the distance, we seem to glimpse a mathematical Paradise, where the elements that build reality shed their dross. Correcting for the distortions of our everyday vision, we create in our minds a vision of what they might really be: pure and ideal, symmetric, equal, and perfect.
Or have our imaginations made too much of a wispy chimera? We point our telescope, and wait for the clouds to clear.