Nothing gets as vicious as fighting for a lost cause. If the proverbial Martian landed in a flying saucer today and saw how religionists war against scientists, he would be surprised at the vehemence on both sides. What is the war about? Fact beat out faith long ago. In the middle of the 19th century, when Darwin's theory of evolution replaced Genesis to explain the appearance of human beings, the trend away from faith was already old. The world had been remade as material, governed by natural laws, random in its effects and immune to divine intervention. Not just science, but thousands of unanswered prayers did their part to dethrone God.
I am not drawn to lost causes, and therefore I'd like to guide the debate away from religion. And because religion is the primary form of spirituality in most people's lives, we'll have to step away from spirituality, too, at least at first. There should be renewed admiration for science's attempts to answer the fundamental mysteries. These are well-known by now:
- How did the universe come about?
- What caused life to emerge from a soup of inorganic chemicals?
- Can evolution explain all of human development?
- What are the basic forces in nature?
- How does the brain produce intelligence?
- What place do human beings occupy in the cosmos?
Many observers have linked these questions to spirituality too. Facts tell us how life came about, but faith still wants to know why. But what strikes me is how useless these big questions easily become. You and I live our lives without asking them. We may be philosophically curious; we may even have enough leisure time to reflect upon the big picture. For all that, the big questions are posed, by and large, by professors who are paid to pose them. Religion and science occupy different kinds of ivory towers, and until they come down to earth, neither one meets the practical needs of life.What happens when you add consciousness to the mix?