Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Understanding Creation

The age-old war between science and religion continues to range on. The extremists on both sides are often the loudest speakers in the whole debate, and would have us believe that science and religion cannot possibly coexist. With arguments that one cannot accept evolution without being atheistic, or suggesting that science that disagrees with the bible is invalid, the rest of us are left to wonder where the middle ground lies and if, in fact, there is a middle ground at all.

This conflict isn't recent and stretches back at least as far as alchemy, astronomy and medicine - when science was young and the church was strong. The church threatened, denied and even put to death practitioners of the fledgling sciences, effectively silencing them as much as possible and preventing their disagreement with any accepted religious facts. Now we are on the flip side of the coin, where science is overtaking religion in it's acceptability, with arrows flung from all corners of modern society and culture in religion's direction. These days, to those "keeping up with the times" religion can be seen as little more than a joke.

Fortunately, most people already fall somewhere in the middle ground. Going to church but accepting science's findings as at least something to consider, or working in a scientific field while retaining (or gaining) a belief in God. Seeing science not as witchcraft but potential, and seeing religion not as fantasy or vice but as a desire to know God, or know if there is a God.

What can be seen in the media on either of these topics is disheartening. People from one side bashing the other, trying vehemently to shatter their beliefs, desperate in their need to be the one that is right. When you take a step back and look at the fray from a detached perspective, you see that there is a lot of fear driving both sides of the debate. This is where the need to be right comes from:

A genuine and clear faith in something does not foster the need to be right about it. One may wish to share what it is they have learned or believe, but they can also accept that others have their own views.

The need to be right, on the other hand, is an expression of the fear of being wrong, turned around into an aggressive action. Whether that action is relatively harmless, such as verbally pushing the people around you to accept your beliefs as their own, or rather harmful such as the "convert or kill" mentality, it is still an expression of fear. The innate subconscious process is to understand that the more people who believe what you believe, and the fewer people who speak out against it, the more likely it is right.

In essence, human beings are pack animals, just like dogs, cats and wolves. We do not trust our own individual judgement, we need to know that the majority of people around us agree. It is how pack animals know that doing something is likely going to be safe and beneficial. If one or more members of a pack avoids eating meat that smells spoiled, the young ones will likely do the same and pass that information down to their own offspring later in life. This is why trends happen, and where the "everyone's doing it" mentality comes from. We automatically accept that if most people are doing something then it is ok to do it. It doesn't matter if this "thing" is beneficial or harmful, or neither.

Interestingly enough, we've also conditioned ourselves to accept that what we see on television and other media represents the majority. In this way, things that were formerly taboo can easily become commonplace just as things that were formerly accepted can become taboo. Two examples - there was a time when getting a tattoo indicated that a person was in a gang, rebellious, a biker, or any other number of negative connotations. Parents would actually disinherit their children over such a thing, and these people were marked as outcasts from society, pretty much permanently. Along comes television and magazines, showing musicians and other public figures with tattoos, effectively making the mainstream opinion that tattoos are not only acceptable but also could make one more acceptable to the rest of the population by fitting in.

The second example is smoking - once accepted everywhere, indoors and out, through the pervasiveness of the media smoking has come to be considered one of the foulest things a person can do. It even seems like people with face tattoos are in a higher acceptance in society than people who smoke. (according to the media)

Now both of these things - tattoos and smoking - have their unyielding followers and they both have their risks. Both can be easily shifted between acceptable and not acceptable in the public view, because they both have that inherent "matter of opinion" quality to both their negative and positive connotations. Both also range in acceptability based on moderation. The person who smokes occasionally on the weekends is more easily accepted than the person who smokes 2 packs a day. The person with a cute tattoo here or there is more easily accepted than the person who barely has a blank inch of skin. Really, it is all a matter of perception.

And TV - it owns perception. Lock, stock and barrel.

But, this post isn't intended to out the ills of television and other methods of advertising. It's about that middle ground between science and religion.

What it really comes down to is that each individual is likely driven by some segment of the rest of humanity on their decisions about religion vs science. Some of it is probably also experience, whether from being directly involved with one of the two or from the impact persons from either side have had in their lives.

Our beliefs (or lack thereof) are more-often-than-not a product of what we are exposed to, instead of who we are deep down.

In the end, it really does not matter who was right. The discussions, the discovery, the fascination, the impact on who we are - this is what matters about religion, science, and anything else on this lovely planet. It won't matter who was right or wrong, because ultimately knowing something beforehand doesn't change how it happens. It just means you knew it was coming.

It is more important to listen to your own inner voice than it is to trust any human being you see, hear or meet. They aren't you. They don't share your exact history or experiences, they can't see through your eyes or walk in your shoes. What they think is not and should never be more important than what you think. Or, more importantly, how you feel.

So if you want to find the answers to the great debate, to find what will make sense to you, my suggestion is this:

Turn off and clear out all distractions. Find a quiet place, preferably surrounded by nature to remove all human influence, and let yourself be. Just sit, contemplate or meditate, watch the grass grow or birds flutter through the trees. Forget the arguments, the duties, the responsibilities and the opinions of others. Listen to your inner voice, for it is wiser than the sum total of humanity and what we think are the answers to life.

PS: originally I was going to go into my thoughts on religion vs science, and veered off to what actually appears here when I realized it doesn't matter what I think, and what I think is probably obvious. If you want to know, I think we are more and more being able to understand creation and the harmony with which God created everything through science and our ability to learn and discover more and more about the world around us. I've never been an extremist, I walk the middle path, the edge between the two razors. To me, everything is a part of a great whole, one that we cannot see because we're far to close to the action. At about a thousand steps back, maybe we could begin to see something bigger than ourselves.

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