Science and other things you can’t take with you

By Lawrence Bailey

While we all line up to worship at the altar of almighty Science, perhaps we should put more consideration into what we stand to lose. In a time of scientific and technological progress there are questions we dismiss as childish or inconsequential that once formed the core of our thoughts, work and actions as humans. The blind ferocity with which we, as a society, are rushing towards the ultimate truth of Science is frightening and bordering on fanaticism.

There are a multitude of things science can explain and achieve, and I am not here to attack it as a method or as a discipline. However, it is alarming how rapidly many see it as the answer to all things unknown. There are questions that will never be answered by Science, questions of origin, questions of emotion and questions of what is to come next.

Traditionally, we turned to religion or philosophy to seek answers for these unanswered queries and now, with the advent of progress and methodology, there is a growing trend to reduce, to the point of abandonment, the time devoted to reflection and faith. This is an alarming move away from the questions that so often form the notes of our swan song. There is little comfort in Science when we wish to discern our purpose. There is no concrete explanation for what is after this, what becomes of us when we inevitably expire.

The danger of our present course is that with no discussion on these topics, with no ongoing theological or philosophical public dialogue, we risk being overwhelmed and unprepared as we exit our prime and enter our twilight. We are unravelling the mysteries of the physical world, we are curing diseases once thought incurable, we are even building people from scratch. What we are not doing is taking the time to think, to pause, to reflect upon the questions we have all asked and will continue to ask deep within.

In some stolen moments over the holiday season, this discussion occurred amongst friends over wine. A group generally more than capable of talking ad nauseum on any and every topic found themselves without any thought out arguments; they were caught unprepared by the questions they had all asked but had never bothered to answer. While they were all quick to point out that we still behave as animals, doing that which makes the most evolutionary sense (the "monkey brains" explanation), they were caught off guard by certain phenomena fairly unique to human beings and unexplained by evolutionary theory.

"Why does a soldier in the trenches throw himself in front of a bullet, saving the life of the man he does not know beside him, selflessly surrendering himself?"

Being one of the aforementioned group, I was particularly struck by this. We are animals, we have instinctual reactions, we have primal urges and we are biologically classified as mammals, yet there is a definite distinction between humankind and the rest of the animal kingdom. We somehow act beyond our evolutionary constraints, stepping out of character, out of the rules of nature, beyond the limits of Science and reason and act in irrational, independent ways. How is it then that we, who have answers for everything, do not bother to seek answers to some of the most fundamental questions we will ever encounter?

The possibility that spiritual reflection is neglected more regularly is a cause for tremendous concern; we must realize there is a need not only to ask but to attempt an answer.

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