For a little light reading today (I'm being ironic) I picked up my copy of physicist David Deutsch's "The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes -- and Its Implications."
Thumbing though a chapter I'd already read, The Nature of Mathematics, I came to this passage. It made me wish that religions, mystical paths, and other varieties of supernaturalism were as wise as science.
Mathematicians are rather proud of this absolute certainty [that mathematical proofs are true], and scientists tend to be a little envious of it.
For in science there is no way of being certain of any proposition.
However well one's theories explain existing observations, at any moment someone may make a new, inexplicable observation that casts doubt on the whole of the current explanatory structure.
Worse, someone may reach a better understanding that explains not only all existing observations but also why the previous explanations seemed to work but are nevertheless quite wrong.
Galileo, for instance, found a new explanation of the age-old observation that the ground beneath our feet is at rest, an explanation that involved the ground actually moving.
Virtual reality -- which can make one environment seem to be another -- underlines the fact that when observation is the ultimate arbiter between theories, there can never be any certainty that an existing explanation, however obvious, is even remotely true.
It isn't difficult to think, "I don't know for sure." Religious believers should give that thought a try, rather than considering that 100% confidence in a faith is the only way to go.
Since religions believe in dogmas that often contradict each other, clearly not all religions can be true. (Of course, my position is that none of them are true.) So it makes sense for followers of a religion to entertain the possibility that what they believe could be untrue.
Science makes progress by embracing challenges to current ways of looking at the cosmos. Unfortunately, religions are locked into rigid belief systems that make it impossible for them to come steadily closer to truth like science is able to do.
That's why I love science and reject religion.
"So it makes sense for followers of a religion to entertain the possibility that what they believe could be untrue."
--They can't do that. It's all or nothing. You can't 1/2 believe. That's the same as no belief at all.
So when confronted they dig their heels in .. hard.
Posted by: tucson | February 05, 2019 at 09:47 AM
Brian, I'm going to go all devil's advocate and point out that religions do keep changing and evolving, all the time. Take the hundred and one denominations of Christianity, and especially the whacko versions that have cropped up in the US in the last couple centuries. That's change, that's evolution. Yet it remains crazy, for all that.
For that matter, take the evolving positions about so many things within the Catholic Church. That's change too. I don't think this change makes the Catholic faith any more reasonable.
Indeed, take the evolving theology of your RSSB, that has been so beautifully discussed here at your blog (thanks primarily to Osho Robbins and his intrepid questioning of GSD). That's change too! In fact, it's even one thing at one place and one thing at another (the version presented to the West vis-a-vis that followed back in India, as Osho Robbins has so often discussed) -- much like the laws of physics are of one kind at one scale (the macro end), and wholly different at another (the quantum end)!
What sets science apart is its reliance of reproducibility and falsifiability. Change per se, evolution per se, isn't necessarily really something to go for.
I agree, if only religions set themselves to clearly exploring mysticism, and if only they did it rigorously and entirely honestly (to the extent of clearly facing the possibility of their own irrelevance, if so warranted), then religions would have a great deal to actually teach us (if only in the negative -- and who knows, perhaps they may come up with concrete things as well).
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | February 06, 2019 at 06:29 AM
Hi AR and fair comment.
For those interested I’ve just read one of the latest RSSB books (first for many a year) and it backs up what you were saying re how religions do or appear to evolve.
The book is called ‘From self to Shabd’ and is full of reference to a lot of the stuff Osho Robbins often points out. The text is full of terms such as ‘oneness, non-duality, awareness, formless, separate identity etc. There is even a chapter entitled ‘The illusion of a separate self’. Of course the book is big on connecting all this formless awareness and consciousness with shabd. However, on the face of it I’d say it’s an attempt to both get with the times and possibly repackage the teachings.
Posted by: Tim Rimmer | February 06, 2019 at 05:33 PM
Hello, Tim. Thank you for your good wishes.
So the RSSB people are actually putting this stuff on their "official" books now, is it? Interesting!
I wonder how these religious types -- be it the RSSB faithful, or Catholics, or whoever -- deal with the cognitive dissonance on account of these changes? They clearly show up a past position as mistaken, these changes, after all, and how does that gel with GIHF-hood (in case of RSSB) or papal infallibility (for the RCCs)?
Of course, most don't stop to think about this sort of thing at all. And when they do, I suppose these people are adept enough at fooling themselves by keeping on shifting goalposts, so no doubt they do think up and swallow some narrative, some convoluted explanation, that does explain these to their satisfaction.
My good wishes to you too!
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | February 11, 2019 at 05:42 AM
Religion never claimed to be certain. It is based on belief and faith, not certainty. If there were certainty, there would be no need for faith. Just saying.
Posted by: Jessie | January 10, 2022 at 01:24 PM