It is a sure sign of a society in schism that we require a continual Science versus Religion debate in the public sphere with no evident progress. The recently televised Bill Nye versus Ken Ham showdown is one manifestation, and in many ways a culmination in media, of this disease. If you haven’t watched it then please do so, mainly each speaker’s 30 minute synopsis of their position at the start. Watch it because we can’t avoid or cure sickness by ignoring it, and we do ourselves no favors by grounding our brains to the real issues in our society. We need to examine and understand the arguments fully so that we, as a culture and as a species, can evolve into advanced comprehension. Here’s the video:
Now that the smoke is starting to clear, let’s examine this entire situation with as much clarity as possible. It should be stated that the debate itself was not exactly a Science versus Religion debate, but more a debate on cosmological models, epecially as they pertain to Scientific practice and education. What this also represents is a debate between mainstream Science and a fringe Science born of fundamentalist Religion and a literal interpretation of the Bible as historical fact. It is a clash of paradigms that are at the heart of various large demographics in American and greater Western society. Keep these facts in mind as you read on. What is really in conflict in this debate is the cornerstone of the entire functioning of the rational mind. Science and Religion are our ways of defining and so experiencing the world. All subsequent models for reality are built on the foundation of this collection of ideas. So this actually is pretty important!
Consider your own reaction to what you’ve seen in the televised debate. In the public sphere what appeared to be most prevalent among those who tuned in to this broadcast was a definite choosing of sides. “I’m Team Nye,” or “I’m Team Ham.” On Facebook and other social media, we saw people waving their team flags before the debate had even begun. It is likely that one side of this debate resonated with you more than the other, or that you saw yourself as belonging completely to one group of thought opposed to the other group. This results from the rational mind’s tendency to embrace one worldview at a time and to construct models from that position. I will hereforward refer to this type of thinking as “war mentality.” If you find yourself involved in this mode of thinking, then I put to you a challenge and I ask you to have courage as you read on. We will be exploring another method of rationalization, but because it is rational you will easily be able to find your way back if you’re not happy with where we end up. Tell yourself for just a few minutes that it doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. Convince yourself of the possibility that right and wrong are not useful in this debate. Let these ideas go, and see if your mind can explore fully and efficiently the enemy paradigm.
Ask yourself the following questions and don’t answer them immediately – just let them hang open in your mind:
• Why is origin important to my life?
• What bearing does my cosmological worldview have on my present situation and future endeavors?
• What lies beyond the edges of what I presently comprehend?
Really take a minute or twenty to consider these questions for yourself before you read on.
In the Nye Ham debate, they offered different answers. Ken Ham claimed that it is important to embrace the idea of an intelligent creator of the universe because it emboldens us to be creators of our own world. He contrasted this with the idea of a society that embraces theories of chaotic origin and so are chaotic themselves. He talked of the moral unraveling of a society that doesn’t accept a system of Religion as foundational to its functioning. He claimed that mainstream Science outlaws the supernatural. And when asked what lies beyond the edges of his understanding (2:18:00 in the video), he falters and essentially iterates that he is unwilling to even consider a reality beyond his own model.
Bill Nye talks about origin being important to his life because it represents one of the great unknowns of Science and that it is in fact the unknown that drives it. He talks about how important it is that the American Scientific community is powerful and innovative because of its implications on the nation’s economy. He continually talks about what lies beyond the understanding of the conceptions of mainstream Science and says that answering these question are why we need to promote Science in education.
At first these two world views appear to be completely incompatible, but this is the nature of war mentality in Western society: models are not allowed to merge, one must emerge victorious! The platform of debate exhibits this clearly. What does Western debate seek to accomplish? From the point of view of each combatant, debate is a method by which their side’s virtue and validity is laid out for all to see. It is an opportunity to lay low the opposing viewpoint and to win over those who have experienced the logical failure of their own system. I say logical because debate is an exchange of ideas dressed in language, Logos. In essence, the goal of debate is to defeat your enemy and expand your territory. But war mentality fails to achieve its own goal, and so debate is a method which continually fails. The fruits of the Nye Ham debate in particular are those of incensed discord, each group even more distinct from the other and more sure of their own validity than before. There is no defeat accomplished, as both sides become strengthened in their resolve. Both sides come out of the debate with a sharpened rhetoric and with more soldiers on either side who have been rallied to battle. Basically, the goal of ending the battle yields the opposite result. The battle becomes fiercer. Each side loses its ability to exercise pure logic as emotionality creeps in and takes over. It starts to become unpleasant to have discussions on these topics over dinner because everyone is acting like a jerk about it.
This is because logic is a double-edged blade, and people slice up themselves and each other with it every day. We saw in the debate how Ken Ham created new logical distinctions to justify his thinking within a Scientific system. From his inability to entertain logical hypotheticals we can see that his blade is fairly dull, but it is logic nonetheless. Logic possesses an inherent ability to contradict itself, so battling with logic is a sure way to accomplish nothing but continual battle. Logic is only as good as it aids us in communicating to ourselves and others and to help us to map out and imagine new forms and ideas. Words truly are a feeble weapon of war.
I want us to see this debate for what it really is, because this differs from what it claims to be. It is not a mainstream Scientific worldview having to defend itself from a real danger to its dominance in the field at the hands of Religion. Creationism taking over Scientific thought in the world is a false flag. It is not a real risk. This debate brought an unknown man from the fringes of society to experience logical execution at the hands of a widely loved character who represents the dominant mode of Western thinking. The world is full of brilliant theologians who talk about cosmology in entirely different ways, most of whom do not contradict mainstream Scientific theory but rather illuminate its relevance to our own daily lives. But an illuminated figure was not chosen because illumination was not the goal of the debate. Whether by design or not, the Nye Ham debate and the greater Science versus Religion debate serves an entirely different purpose, that of furthering the divide between the demographics represented and that of creating a mockery of Religion when it dares to approach mainstream Science’s dominance of cosmology. Bill Nye says it himself (2:22:00 in the video) that Science is “not connected with a spiritual being or belief in a higher power” and that “the evidence for a higher power and spirituality is, for [him], separate.” The message is clear: Science from outside the mainstream Scientific establishment, especially from spiritual communities, is not allowed. He relegates the idea of a Scientific study of the supernatural to a realm of “can’t know” (2:28:00 in the video) and asserts the modern virtue of agnosticism. This is a confession of Science, the Great Knower, of the limitation of its willingness to pursue knowledge. It shows that the greater Scientific community lacks the imagination to know the supernatural. What it really shows is that the supernatural is a vast frontier that Science should be throwing itself headlong at rather than saying it’s none of their business.
The Scientific community at large is an imperfect organism like any, and some of these imperfections have found their way into the way Science both functions and interacts with greater society: The reality of funding and the control of industry over Science is an aberrance of Scientific integrity. The competitive individuals in various fields working to outmaneuver each other for personal glory compromise the potential of Science to be a wholly communal effort, with each field informing the other seamlessly, paving the way for interdisciplinary projects that could transform our world in beautiful new ways. Science needs to be bold about addressing its problems and shortcomings so that it can become the ideal form of its own design. The mainstream Scientific community has not yet been courageous enough to explore the supernatural. Science needs to embrace spirituality as a realm to be explored.
Religion itself is very often guilty of a great many faults, especially that of claiming to know the Divine without having true knowledge, accepting its own models of divinity as fact and pretending it as knowledge. Religion must become humble about an almighty and ultimate power and stop claiming to speak for it. For the religious communities of the world to be taken seriously, they must become Scientific in their religious theory and sharpen their logic. Illumination comes from the striving for illumination.
Now if you like you can return to the mode of thinking you possessed at the start of this article where you stood as a bold soldier representing your faction. It’s okay, you are probably right… or will be eventually. One paradigm will certainly end up swallowing the other, or each other. But as this happens, we need to be wise devourers so that we end up with the best possible body on the other end of our meal. We are infants in our knowledge and wisdom compared to what we can and will become if we experience true progressive transformation and evolution in ourselves and in our society. Be humble for what you are now in the light of what you will soon be.
These are ideas we definitely need to keep talking about, and I would love to discuss them with anyone who feels so inflamed. Come find me on the discussion forums and share your ideas. It only takes a minute to register and then you access the entire range of forums. See you there!