The church often likes to see itself as at odds with science. The two areas of contention that we hear about most often involve the existence of God and the origin of the universe and/or life. Religion likes to see the existence of God as a question beyond the realm of science, and many scientists would agree in principle, so this issue is easily dismissed. The other issue, concerning the origin of the physical world, causes a much more heated conflict between the orthodox religious and the scientific communities. The work and writings of Charles Darwin are always in the middle of this debate, which is really no debate at all because the religious never indicate that they really understand
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Obviously, the church teaches a lot more than how the world began. It also tries to be the world’s instructor in the paths of righteous. It is therefore in the communications business. It is in the business of describing and teaching the reality of God, what God perceives as real. Where in all this is the correlation between the science of communications and the practice of evangelism, for instance. The church wants to incorporate the technologies of the modern age into its pursuit of evangelism, but I see no corresponding effort to apply the principles of communications science to that role. Unfortunately, the underlying principles of communications would demonstrate that the whole idea of evangelism as the method for communicating the reality of God to mankind is flawed.
As an example, if I say “The soul that sinneth shall die” what do I really mean by that remark. What meaning does the hearer receive? What is a soul? What is sin- Ignorance? An infraction of the rules? Is physical demise implied here or this one of the many other ways the word “death” might be used? Instructions may be vital to the hearer’s safety; but, since meaning exists in the mind of the hearer and not in the originator’s, human communications is hopelessly inexact, fraught with inherent uncertainty. It reminds one of the party game where people whisper the same message down the line to see how it turns out. People don’t communicate very well, even on trivial matters. What then of the subject of God and His ultimate reality?
This is not so much science as it is common sense, but I think you see my point. The rules which govern how things really work in the physical realm, the realm of science, disallow traditional evangelism as a practical means of communicating a profound message in an unambiguous way. Some might want to invoke God’s spirit as the interpreter of meaning here, but if that is how it works, where is the need of evangelism.
Another point on the subject of communications in evangelism is the fact that no group is so taken with ambiguous terms and expressions as the Orthodox Church. Like all jargons, that of the church only compounds the futility of trying to be the essential communicator.
Another area of science that presents a strong challenge to orthodox Christianity is Quantum Physics. Luckily for the church, the lessons of this area of science are so esoteric that they are easily avoided. I claim no particular understanding of Quantum Physics myself, other than to notice that it counter intuitively states that widely separated subatomic particles in the universe, can “communicate instantaneously, despite the supposed restriction that nothing can transmit faster than the speed of light, including any communications. This scientific observation suggests interconnectedness between all of creation which challenges the normal picture of me as an individual separate and apart from the rest of humanity and more importantly as separate and distinct from my Creator. This universal interplay would challenge the idea that my eternal fate is a separate issue from that of all other humans.
Another aspect of Quantum Physics demonstrates that the act of observation affects the outcome of physical phenomena. This strongly suggests that the existence of consciousness, the ability to observe if you will, is a fundamental aspect of the physical universe and its laws. If God represents the universal consciousness which observes everything and therefore affects all reality, what does that say about humans as conscious beings? What can separate our consciousness from the universal one? If I am separate from God as an entity and have been further separated by human weaknesses, how can that be in light of the oneness projected by Quantum Physics. If conscious observation is a powerful influence in the physical world, what does that say about the human ability to see (observe) and the influence of that “seeing” on reality. We often hear the expression, “seeing is believing”. In contradistinction to this claim is the idea that “believing is seeing”. Quantum Physics seems to point to a new understanding of what is real. Can we see what we believe and therefore define a personal reality? The idea of a concrete, absolute reality or truth gets pretty muddy in view of how outcome depends on the act of seeing.
Perhaps the most significant lesson of Quantum Physics is that physical reality at the most basic level is strongly counter intuitive. It just doesn’t seem possible. It is mind boggling. This fact, coupled with the many counter intuitive words of Jesus, point to the counter intuitive nature of ultimate or spiritual reality, the supposed realm of religion and the church. As one analyzes the reasonableness of orthodox doctrine, the counter intuitive test is a powerful one. There doesn’t seem to be much in their doctrine that boggles the mind, except perhaps their insistence on logical absurdities, like a God who loves but then condemns eternally. If, as so many believe, the physical universe is formulated to teach us about the Creator, then its lessons are pointing us to something other than Orthodoxy.
Thus, we see that the issue of evolution versus creationism is not nearly as critical to the science versus religion debate as some might believe. There are much greater issues that bring Orthodoxy into question. These greater issues are not so easily defined but they are much more significant, in my estimation. They reach to the very core of who or what God is and what creation tells us about ultimate reality. Dogmatic religion will never be an ally of science. Dogmatism denies change in understanding, and science is all about never being satisfied with the current level of knowledge.