NOTE: If this is your first time here, it is very important to keep in mind that many of the ideas expressed in this blog represent older versions of myself, and not necessarily my current self. After all, we evolve, and sometimes change our minds. In the meantime, enjoy lurking around, and watch the video trailer for my upcoming book here.

The Universe Is In Us: Deep, Deep Down Where Religion and Science Profoundly Connect

by Drima on November 5, 2009

N

o, this isn’t some New Age pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. No I haven’t been converted into a believer in The Law of Attraction after watching that hit film, The Secret. And no, I don’t buy into everything New Age guru, Deepak Chopra says, although he does have many cool and pretty valid ideas.

I’m talking about something very different here – how science and religion connect together at their deepest level.

Neil Tyson says it better in this video.

What Happened Before the Beginning?

Here’s something that pretty much sums up what was said in the video.

Read it all, every word of it.

“What happened before the beginning?”

Astrophysicists have no idea. Or, rather, our most creative ideas have little or no grounding in experimental science. Yet certain type of religious person tends to assert, with a tinge of smugness, that something must have started it all: a force greater than all others, a source from which everything issues. A prime-mover. In the mind of such a person, that something is, of course, God.

But what if the universe was always there, in a state or condition we have yet to identify–a multiverse, for instance? Or what if the universe, like its particles, just popped into existence from nothing?

Such replies usually satisfy nobody. Nonetheless, they remind us that ignorance is the natural state of mind for a research scientist on the ever-shifting frontier. People who believe they are ignorant of nothing have neither looked for, nor stumbled upon, the boundary between what is known and unknown in the cosmos. And therein lies a fascinating dichotomy. “The universe always was” goes unrecognized as a legitimate answer to “What was around before the beginning?” But for many religious people, the answer “God always was” is the obvious and pleasing answer to “What was around before God?”

No matter who you are, engaging in the quest to discover where and how things began tends to induce emotional fervor–as if knowing the beginning bestows upon you some form of fellowship with, or perhaps governance over, all that comes later. So what is true for life itself is no less true for the universe: knowing where you came from is no less important than knowing where you are going. ~ Neil Tyson

Right on Neil.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is where science and religion connect – at their deepest questions.

So, whether you’re an atheist, pantheist, theist, mystic or just plain agnostic, next time somebody starts going on a rant about how it all began, keep in mind that to a certain extent, the two of you are merely engaging in a game of semantics.

At the deepest level, “The universe always was” Vs “God always was” aren’t such different answers after all.

Unless of course, you take the discussion to a higher level and begin discussing the qualities and properties of those two entities.

Either way, it’s something I personally find pretty damn fascinating and I love Neil’s approach to the issue.



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The Universe Is In Us: Deep, Deep Down Where Religion and Science … | Drakz News Station
11.13.09 at 12:41 pm

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Atheist Jew 11.11.09 at 5:46 pm

Since you are done Craig, you are leaving with a trail of statements that were proven wrong here:

There are three major ways it happens, and all three have been witnessed.

“False statement.”
*****************************
Again, natural selection, genetic drift and viral evolution have all been witnessed whether you believe that is a false statement or not.

The process has been proven…

“False statement,”
****************************
Again, from the nylon bacteria to the cane toad to the smaller jaws of snakes that are attracted to cane toads, the process has been witness and proven.

Thanks for playing though.

2 Craig 11.11.09 at 6:07 pm

Atheist Jew, you are of course free to interpret your… worthy… contributions to this discussion anyway you like. I’m sure you are quite used to doing that :)

I’d rather talk about how you think you have no soul, since that’s at least relevant to the posted topic. Would you like to expand on that notion a bit? I assume you at least admit to being self-aware, right? So describe for us what your notion of ‘self” is, and where it comes from? I for one would like to hear it, because I’ve never met anyone before who denied that humans have a spiritual existence.

3 Zoxuf 11.11.09 at 6:41 pm

@Howie

But I still cannot understand where an “atheist” gets their system of morals and ethics.

Was I able to answer this question for you? You may consider these emotions God given but an atheist (or a theist) can develop a moral system based on the empathy, love, and compassion within them.

4 Zoxuf 11.11.09 at 7:08 pm

@Drima

Still, you and everyone else may not be ware that there’s a mounting body of research on Near Death Experiences, that lends some merit to the idea that “Spirit” (or consciousness) is non-material and can exist without a functioning brain.

What about the evidence that brain damage can cause drastic changes to ones personality? How can something with an independent existence be damaged in such a way?

5 Don Cox 11.11.09 at 7:18 pm

“We aren’t talking about the allelles of genes. We are talking about Evolutionary Theory.”

THe basis of evolutionary change is a change in the proportions of alleles in a population. That is how the whole thing works.

6 Craig 11.11.09 at 7:26 pm

THe basis of evolutionary change is a change in the proportions of alleles in a population. That is how the whole thing works.

You are mistaking cause and effect. Mutation is “how the whole thing works”. Natural selection merely determines which mutated genes are selected for transmission to offspring, and which are de-selected as not conducive to “survival of the fittest”.

Now, seriously, can we leave off of this now? The only thing I’ve learned in this discussion is that people enjoy talking about subjects they don’t understand very well, but I learned that a long time ago. Can we please get back on topic?

7 The Atheist Jew 11.11.09 at 8:33 pm

Craig, I’m going to make things simple for you on the idea of spirit or soul. Until around late April 1960 when one of dad’s sperm latched onto one of my mother’s eggs, I did not exist at all. 13.9 billion years without me. I have to be one egotistical maniac to believe I will exist when my brain dies.
Chimps are self aware, so are elephants. They aren’t bright enough to worry about living forever though or whether they have souls.

8 Howie 11.11.09 at 8:40 pm

Zouf..

He brings up a key point I was too lazy to get into…it is a huge problem with the free will hardcore types. Z…I have worked for YEARS with Post Traumatic Brain Injury…if you know these guys..a lot of the free will stuff goes right out the window…

So…I still believe in God…but that does not mean I don’t have a WHOLE lot of problems with various theologies, practice etc. Please don’t get me wrong there…

Once again…great discussion between some sharp guys…
BTW…where are the bitches?….ah I mean women.

9 Andrew Brehm 11.11.09 at 10:31 pm

“List the three, and I will tell you”

You mean that you know that there are only two types of evolution but you don’t know what the three types are of which you only recognise two?

I saw “direct” and “indirect” somewhere… that’s not two types of evolution.

I recommend you look up “evolution” in Wikipedia so you will know what we are talking about it. You’ll also find the three types there.

10 Judd 11.12.09 at 2:37 am

Enlightenment equals love. Love means that you except yourself for who you are. “I am a being of love … and I live for no other reason… than to extend the love I am. I am in love with everyone… and everything… because love is all there is! Healing happens when we truly open our hearts and breathe in the love and wisdom that we are.

11 Howie 11.12.09 at 3:02 am

Dudes…

Whatever Judd is smoking…give me a DOUBLE…

Love you Judd :)

12 Judd 11.12.09 at 6:17 am

You are loved!!!

13 Craig 11.12.09 at 7:22 pm

Atheist Jew,

I have to be one egotistical maniac to believe I will exist when my brain dies.

I didn’t ask if you exist when the brain dies. I asked if you exist now. Define “you”. Is it such a difficult question?

I notice the atheists in this thread are busily pointing out all the things that cannot be proven by science, but not offering any alternate explanations. Or any guesses, even. Pretty futile (and sad) discussion, if you ask me. We don’t even understand how the human brain functions to any significant degree, and yet some people in this thread are willing to assume that what science can currently explain is all there is. Seems like an idiotic position to take, to me. I like to think real scientists are more open minded than that, because if they aren’t than there doesn’t seem like there’s much hope of ever delving very deeply into the unknown in the future.

14 Howie 11.12.09 at 10:30 pm

Craig…

GOD …you are harsh.

Well it all comes from a Big Bang does it not? Very simple…then the entire complexity of the universe…of the human body…just kind of haphazardly stumble together from nothing.

But you are right…that is one very weak spot for atheists…give me an alternative theory for creation and the complexity of the universe and it all came from a Big Bang that exploded from stuff that didn’t exist or something like that.

And there are lots of top quality scientist who belief in a God…even a very anthropomorphic God.

But I disagree with you that this is a lame discussion…I think folk made some very good points…

Judd…you too are loved. Here’s a big kiss….mmmmmmWHA!

15 Howie 11.12.09 at 10:33 pm

Judd:

“Healing happens when we truly open our hearts and breathe in the love and wisdom that we are.”

Come on dude…what ELSE have you been breathing in?

http://www.ricenpeas.com/Images/Americas/smoking%20ganja.jpg

16 Zoxuf 11.13.09 at 12:19 am

@Craig

Pretty futile (and sad) discussion, if you ask me.

Please do not take this the wrong way but the discussion might be a little more fruitful if you checked your ego a bit. I hope you can believe me when I say this is meant as honest criticism and not a personal jab.

Define “you”. Is it such a difficult question?

Indeed it is. I often ponder the nature of my own existence.

We don’t even understand how the human brain functions to any significant degree, and yet some people in this thread are willing to assume that what science can currently explain is all there is.

I do not assume that science can currently (or ever for that matter) explain all there is. I simply follow what evidence there is and acknowledge my ignorance about the rest.

17 Craig 11.13.09 at 4:10 am

Zoxuf,

Please do not take this the wrong way but the discussion might be a little more fruitful if you checked your ego a bit.

My ego is doing fine. How is yours? I tried to be patient with people in this thread who were preaching ignorance, but when they started trying to imply they had the facts on their side and I didn’t, I put my foot down.

I hope you can believe me when I say this is meant as honest criticism and not a personal jab.

Of course it’s a personal jab, with the monumental egos of Drima’s readers. He’s got more people with “smartest guy in the room” syndrome than any other blogger I know. Why is it only MY ego that’s an issue? Because I disagreed with everyone else? lol.

…Define “you”. Is it such a difficult question?…

Indeed it is. I often ponder the nature of my own existence.

Of course its a difficult question, but I was just trying to get the Atheist Jew to admit he didn’t know the answer to that one, since he was arguing with Drima and claiming he doesn’t believe he has any spiritual existence, and he thinks lack of scientific evidence of a human soul means humans don’t have a soul.

I do not assume that science can currently (or ever for that matter) explain all there is. I simply follow what evidence there is and acknowledge my ignorance about the rest.

I haven’t seen much evidence of anyone in this thread acknowledging their ignorance about ANYTHING. I suppose its not too late to start though! Maybe we can get Drima to delete all the comments so we can try again? :)

18 Don Cox 11.13.09 at 8:55 am

“You are mistaking cause and effect. Mutation is “how the whole thing works”. ”

It is true that mutations provide the variety of alleles (and other genetic variations) in a population upon which selection acts. But the average properties of the animals or plants can change markedly without any new mutations occurring, simply by a change in the relative frequencies of alleles. I am thinking about adaptations such as the size of a widespread bird being greater in colder parts of its range, or the plumage colouring being more sandy in desert regions.

Mutations give the variation, selection determines the proportions of the varieties in the population.

19 Don Cox 11.13.09 at 9:07 am

“busily pointing out all the things that cannot be proven by science, but not offering any alternate explanations. Or any guesses, even. ”
This seems the most reasonable thing top do. I see no point in making wild guesses about things we have no clue about, and then defending your guesses as sacred.

If you have a guess that could be tested by experiment, then it gets interesting.

20 Bangs 11.13.09 at 7:15 pm

Drima,

You seem very intelligent, it’s quiet a turn on if I may say so myself. I’d like you to take me to the movies :)

Your biggest fan,

Baby Gill

21 Zoxuf 11.13.09 at 7:29 pm

Why is it only MY ego that’s an issue? Because I disagreed with everyone else? lol.

Fair point, everyone has some degree of ego and being outnumbered in this thread you are kind of getting ganged up on. It’s just that you seem a little needlessly combative and quick to belittle.

since he was arguing with Drima and claiming he doesn’t believe he has any spiritual existence

If by spiritual existence you mean something that lives on after you die then I agree with Atheist Jew.

thinks lack of scientific evidence of a human soul means humans don’t have a soul.

I agree that the lack of evidence for a soul does not disprove one. However, I do not see a reason to believe in something for which there is little to no evidence. I think our differing standards of evidence and belief is at the heart of the dispute.

I haven’t seen much evidence of anyone in this thread acknowledging their ignorance about ANYTHING.

I will admit right now that there is nothing I know for absolute certain, nor do I even have the faintest clue about the fundamental nature of reality.

22 Craig 11.13.09 at 11:21 pm

If by spiritual existence you mean something that lives on after you die then I agree with Atheist Jew.

I think he denied having a spirit. I’m not going to bother with going back and checking, though.

I agree that the lack of evidence for a soul does not disprove one. However, I do not see a reason to believe in something for which there is little to no evidence. I think our differing standards of evidence and belief is at the heart of the dispute.

I tend to think it’s more your atheism that causes you not to want to believe in things that science cannot explain. The existence of a human soul is one of the big questions that people have been trying to answer for as long as we’ve been sentient. It is the very foundation of religion. Where does our sense of “self” come from? What makes me “me”? Where was I before I was born? What is going to happen to “me” when I die? People ask themselves these questions, and the fact that science doesn’t even have a plausible best-guess doesn’t cause people to stop asking the questions.

I just found it bizarre that Atheist Jew dismissed that whole batch of questions as irrelevant.

Now at least we are back on topic :)

23 Craig 11.13.09 at 11:24 pm

PS- Claiming we are just gone forever when we die is not a scientifically valid claim, since nobody has any clue what makes us “alive” in the first place they can hardly explain what happens to that force (whatever it is) when our corporeal bodies expire, can they?

Do you agree with me that science cannot say with any degree of certainty what happens when people die, except that their bodies die?

24 Howie 11.14.09 at 12:20 am

My shoes have a soul…so why not my body?

Or do they have soles? Or is sole a fish?

We know black people got soul

We know we have soul music…

My fourth grade teacher told me I was the soul idiot in the class…

Soul is a Jewish guy I used to hang out with…or was that Sol?

Is not all this scientific proof of the existence of soul?

Debate settled…

25 Judd 11.14.09 at 3:34 am

Drima, I got to say that video, was awSOME!!!!! , I did not watch it till now. LIFE IS BEATIFUL!!! Thanks!!

26 Zoxuf 11.14.09 at 4:48 am

@Craig

I tend to think it’s more your atheism that causes you not to want to believe in things that science cannot explain.

I am an atheist because of the way I look at things not the other way around. I was raised as a Christian so my skeptical outlook developed before I became an atheist. For me my atheism is nothing more than the lack of a belief in God.

Where does our sense of “self” come from? What makes me “me”?

These questions in particular are very good ones and I must admit that I do not have an answer to them.

Do you agree with me that science cannot say with any degree of certainty what happens when people die, except that their bodies die?

Yes, but the question remains of whether or not the mind exists independent of that body. I find it unlikely because changes to the brain (drugs, brain trauma, Alzheimer’s etc) are known to cause changes in the mind (altered personality, memory loss). Does that not suggest that the spirit is not responsible for these things? And what use would a spirit be without memory or a personal identity?

27 Craig 11.14.09 at 7:04 am

Zoxuf,

Does that not suggest that the spirit is not responsible for these things? And what use would a spirit be without memory or a personal identity?

Well, I also don’t know the answers to that, but the way I think of it the body (including the brain) is a host for the spirit. So according to my way of thinking the spirit has to conform to the material limitations of the body. But I’ve never been able to get past the “it’s a pretty fuzzy concept for me” phase on the whole thing :)

28 ellhn 11.14.09 at 1:24 pm

G.H.REES Second most urgent message of planet security

http://hellenandchaos.blogspot.com/2009/11/ghrees-second-most-urgent-message-of.html

29 Jana Trestikova 11.15.09 at 7:12 pm

Thank you Drima for your blog… I was just surfing in the internet trying to get some texts on Sudanese identity (being Arab or African)…. I have heard even of a phenomenon called “Sudanism” which made me think of the role which identity plays in my life, in the life of my friends, and also think of the potential danger this word has. And of course, God, religion, believe (all thinks has to be separated and in the end connected, right?) is one of the important column of so called identity. Being a believer means to accept the metaphysical explanation for phenomena which we cannot explain rationally and further, it is something which shouldn’t be put above or below the “physical world”. Then we live in it, we integrate it into our lives, it guides us… and if we don’t want to accept it, it is just our choice how to deal with world, power, soul… etc.
Anyways I am thankful to find this home page. Go ahead.

Jana

30 Howie 11.16.09 at 4:47 pm

Just had a thought this morning…

Atheists really have no reasonable explanation for creation and “believers” really have no reasonable explanation for God’s behavior.

31 Andrew Brehm 11.16.09 at 5:06 pm

Howie,

That’s a good one. You should rephrase it something bigger.

32 Howie 11.16.09 at 9:43 pm

AB…

I should give it a whirl I guess…

Atheists just can convince most folk with the idea that all this came from an explosion of “stuff” that came from…came from…ah came from???

But the world frequently appears as if there is no God. I have explained before my view of the three types of bad;
Man’s free will decisions that hurt himself
Man’s free will decisions to hurt others

But then there is the stuff that comes from God. AB…have you ever been in a children’s hospital before? I am not talking crack babies that suffer because Mom was horrible…but little tiny kids dying, screaming, bald heads, needles, tubes…parents fainting and falling to the ground. Something like this happened to me…it happened to my rabbi…a very religious man who could only say “there is NO explanation”. And then there are snake bites, and crazy diseases..ever seen anybody with Elephantitis? I have!!! Earthquakes, drought, AB…you are Irish…how about the good old potato blight? Hurricanes, flood, famine, etc etc.

Atheists explain this much better than believers can…except MAYBE the “Theists”…

And why does not God intervene to protect the innocent? If you argue he allows man his free will…than why do we have prayer of petition? If God does not work miracles and/or help us…and the Bible is full of stories where God hearkens to prayer, then what is His job?

The atheists are WAY ahead of us here…simply…”there is no God”…And the world DOES appear random…this guy hits a jackpot and that guy gets hit by lightening. The atheists appear to be correct…I don’t agree with them…but they APPEAR TO BE CORRECT.

Oh…I could go on and on…Free Will and genetics or disease or accident. What about accident of birth? AB…would you be a good man if Saddam was your dad? “Ah sorry Dad…but I just don’t feel like going out and killing and torturing with you this afternoon?”

Right!!!

But…those are just a few ideas I struggle with.

33 Zoxuf 11.16.09 at 11:48 pm

Atheists really have no reasonable explanation for creation

I would argue that neither side has a reasonable explanation for existence. You could say God created everything but then where did God come from? Did he always exist? What makes that any more likely then the possibility of natural forces always existing in some form or another? The only real difference is whether or not a conscious force is behind it.

Atheists just can convince most folk with the idea that all this came from an explosion of “stuff” that came from…came from…ah came from???

I think the big bang theory is more a model of the evolution of the universe than it is an explanation of its existence. It does not explain the source of the original “singularity” or what caused it to expand. But then I am not an expert on the big bang so I might have some of this wrong.

34 tell the truth 11.18.09 at 2:54 am

The word God does not exist in the Torah or the old testament bible which is a translation. The letters for God in the iberu(hebrew)are as follows.
alef—lamed-hei-mem, which is ALHM, also, in the Torah is the word
alef-lamed-hei, which means ALH. Alef-Lamed-Hei-Mem are names of the letters, then you have to take each name and use the firt letter, thus alef becomes an A, lamed becomes an L, Hei becomes an H. Mem becomes an M
Alef cannot become a G-lamed cannot become a o, Hei- cannot become a D. Thus, there is no God, but there is ab ALHM and a ALH in the Torah, There is also an Alef-Lamed which is AL. Thus, God does not exist, but ALHM AND ALH AND AL exist according to the TORAH AND QURAAN.
This God is a danish word meaning Guth, and Guth was a man, the leader of a Tuetonic race of people. While ALHM. ALH, AL is Ruach. Ruach has no flesh and blood. but Guth has flesh and blood, because Guth is a man, the leader of a Teutanic race of people. Now alhm. alh, al, blew the breath of life into Adam, Adam needed this in order to breath, this breath of life is in every man and women, thats why when a person drowns you have to pump their heart and put your mouth on their mouth when it is opened and breath the breath of life into them, so that they can live. you can feel this breath of life if you blow on your hand, you cannot see it but you can feel it, because it is ruach, you cannot see Ruach, but if this Ruach is not in you, you will die. When we go outside we are breathing in this breath of life, you running around looking for it, spending billions of dollars sending men in spaceships looking for life on other planets in searh of aliens wasting money, when what you are looking for has been with you all the time, the breath of life, you can’t see it , but its there, its not a man called jesus, its alhm, alh, al and alhm. alh; al just is, you can’t see it it just is. This is the breath of life, the Ruach.

35 Howie 11.18.09 at 2:36 pm

Truth…

You sound like a yoga dude

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