Wednesday, 26 March 2008

...a most extraordinary conclusion!

... God Etc

“Christianity may not be generally necessary for science but it was certainly necessary for the emergence of science in our culture.”

This statement is interesting, not just because it is from the ever irrepressible blogger Bryan Appleyard, but because it would seem as if the Gods themselves were protective of this unseeing man. And considering that the biggest threat to the emergence of science came from within his religion, it is also, by any measure, a most extraordinary conclusion.

It is true, Islam had a tendency to gain converts through violence, whereas Christianity proceeded in the intimate and academic confines of the medieval monastery. But even at my most insane, I would not for one moment refute, that it was Islamic and Arabic culture which kept alive the philosophy of Aristotle through the Dark Ages. If anything, Islam was the religion of reason - Christianity, a trinity inspired by the cult of art. Mathematics and medical science were developed in the Islamic world. And - just for the sake of being encyclopaedic - it is here where the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian cultures flourished, which gave us the wheel, writing and arithmetic. The fact that there was any scientific progress at all within Christianity, says a great deal for the persistence and devotion of men such as Bruno, Galileo, Descartes, Copernicus and many others who intrinsically opposed it - but it was fundamentally the influence of the Greek philosophers, whose work provided the bedrock of the Renaissance, which replaced religion with logic.

Nor did Pythagoras only teach his disciples to abstain from eating animals.

Two and a half thousand years ago, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras and, most importantly, Archimedes and Euclid took the surviving legacies from what was known of Babylonian and Egyptian culture and began the process of quantifying, calculating and evaluating them. Euclid's Elements, was the primary source of geometric reasoning throughout Western history, at least until the advent of non-Euclidean geometry and irrational numbers, in the nineteenth century. Scientists of the Huxley-Darwin era who proclaimed the existence of a body of knowledge based on observable facts, too, were a deep embarrassment to the Christian Church. And to tell the whole truth, centuries of discrimination masked the extent of the Jewish contribution. In the second half of the 20th century, Jews received 29% of all Nobel prizes. Among the most famous recipients were Albert Einstein, the physicist and Milton Friedman, the economist.

My point, gentlemen, essentially is that so far as science and religion are concerned, they are merely two different ways of striving for the same deliverance. Today we are excited about scientific advances, notably in the fields of neuroscience, genetics and nanotechnology. But even when leaving aside the question of whether it is possible to reduce all of nature’s complexity into one single strand of causality, anyone who is capable of following a still more transfigurative hope, will also be able to see the unification of physics not only as a scientific discipline in the reductionist sense, but precisely in its cultural context as an evolved form of gnosis.

The result, therefore, is not a lack of belief in God but a lack of belief in a “religious” God.

Certainly in the sense that there is little real discrepancy and practically no incompatibility between the visionary and the scientist who are surely indivisible in the whole nature of our perception of space and time as some kind of inward and outward unity. Indeed, the most significant feature of The Theory of Everything is the new answers it aims to give to the ancient problems of ontology. And I, personally, would strongly suggest that it represents something like a synthesis of science, philosophy, and the world-view it aims to transcend, and that it may, together with that other great conceptual accomplishment in theoretical physics, the quantum theory, even offer us the supreme contemplative achievement of modern civilization in the West.

Its spirit is profoundly religious!

Melancholy, inward looking and austere, orthodox Christianity is, by contradistinction, little more than an accretion of cultural norms. It simply cannot exist in an ideological vacuum. It has nothing to offer but history. It is no longer a religion. It is an institutional ailment. And this constitutes the tragic greatness and, at the same time, the greatest weakness of Western culture. There is no future to its dogma. For it is precisely from its future expectations, that derives the force and beauty of a species.



mutleythedog said...

I am struggling with your conclusions - in that they do not appear to be derived from your arguments. I shall read it again and see if there is something I missed...

By the way - all the whites got stained pink in the wash because you hid that red thong in a pillow case- I hope you are happy...

Selena Dreamy said...

Excellent, Mutley! You are a very observant. The argument merely served as a pretext for my conclusion! Which is superimposed, though none the less valid.

Full marks! I wish there were more readers like you xxx

You did less well on the thong, honey. In fact you’re busted. I am perfectly willing to stake whatever tarnished reputation I possess today or may possess tomorrow, that I never owned a red thong. Nor am I at a loss for an explanation Mister Twotimer - but how about you....??

mutleythedog said...


You are right of course it was not your thong... it was not a thong at all was a sock yes thats it! It was a red sock...

Oh My!!

Jonathan said...

'For it is precisely from its future expectations, that derives the force and beauty of a species.'

Since humans seem avidly to be expecting doom and entropy and disaster from their future, is this an explanation for our species' current lack of beauty and force. Well, if you see things this way.

Religions are collectivist, sociological organisations of the least individualistic, least esoterically orientated people towards the esoteric.

And non-religious spiritualities are invariably elitist and therefore inaccessible to the 'common man'.

Selena Dreamy said...

And non-religious spiritualities are invariably elitist and therefore inaccessible to the 'common man'.

... and frankly my dear Jonathan, I don’t give a damn!

Jonathan said...

Well, I wasn't supposing you should; and I presume you imply that the elitism is nothing to be ashamed of - with which I'd agree.

But this explanation for religion perhaps underscores the need for it; how even in the absence of God the same mass projections of images to be collectively worshipped goes on (the cult of Lenin and Mao etc, blah blah..and now Dawkins it seems).

So the point is for the religion to be done correctly, not done away with, which is impossible anyway this side of the universalisation of the esoteric inscape, such that it becomes a ubiquitous human faculty.

I see this in Jesus..he both destroys and upholds organised religion depending on who he talks to and how..and why