Science and Sustainable Development
“But science can only be created by those who are dedicated to truth and to comprehension. This emotional source, however, springs out of the religious sphere. (…) We can express the situation with an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind…..
In this way I have the impression that science not only purifies religion of its anthropomorphic waste, but contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life as well.” (A. Einstein).
It is in this way that the great Albert Einstein gave his opinion on scientific rationality in the last century.
In order to enter into a constructive critical context on science, however, it seems, in my opinion, opportune to understand how, where and why it was born.
With Galileo and the method of observing matter and nature, a new era of human understanding of the tangible world was born.
Modern history, our habits and customs, are the result of the great advances made in technological innovation in recent years, but they are merely the highest point of knowledge reached by man up till now on his journey within matter.
For the first time in his history, man has begun to understand events, and not merely suffer their consequences. Man senses that he can pass from the role of being a disorientated creature, if compared to the manifestations of the universe, to one in which he is the navigator in the intimacy of matter.
One culture, one vision of things, becomes overturned. Man feels he has inverted his position in the world. All of western culture is the result of a view of things, of the tangible, understandable, “visible” world, through a scientific method.
This aspect, which is not often given much consideration, needs to be examined a little more closely.
Before 1600 the sciences were a mixture of aspects deriving from human experience, and other aspects which were the result of intuition, of human perceptibility; the world could not be measured; it was not readable, “visible”; a scientific approach to reality did not exist.
It is easy to understand that the confine between what was true and what was imaginary were not very clear and that right or wrong, verifiable or not, moved along planes which were difficult to demonstrate because the method of investigation was not based on the concept of the repeatability of phenomena, on homogeneous conditions.
It would be unjust and short-sighted not to recognise that this methodological evolution, and its philosophical, ethical and cultural repercussions, has great opportunities and great advantages and services which it has put at mankind’s disposition; a mankind which, we must remember, gains opportunities and support also from the technological knowledge in order to grow better and fulfil himself better. From this moment onwards, man knowingly feels he can visit the expanse of matter and dominate it; he feels he can remove the seals of the term “incomprehensible”, of the dark, with regard to all that which transcends his sight.
It is in this way that the scientific method tends to produce that stream of thought which, culminating in the Enlightenment, makes the pendulum of history sway towards the understanding of matter, towards love for matter, towards materialism.
In this part of history man neglects the transcendent world, in the sense of an improvable reality (through the scientific method though not through the rational ones), convinced that he is able to explain everything, exploring the tangible cosmos.
The creature that has come to the castle of creation shuts himself in the room of materialism, neglecting the infinity of the universe to understand the tangible things of which he is made. From Physics to Biology, from Mathematics to Astronomy, it seems that no objective can be denied him.
Attracted by the comprehension of the amazing toy which is the cosmos, he forgets, like a child, all his other needs, he forgets to feed himself; he closes himself into a little room of that castle.
It would be short-sighted to consider this an error on man’s part, as it would be short-sighted to forbid a child to gain experience by playing.
In time, however, a culture develops which tends to give this “game” an absolute value.
Shut inside his room, inside his senses, he concentrates on his toy, considering it to be the only reality. He does not realise for a (historical) moment that there is a world out there, a world “beyond”.
He considers himself and the nature which surrounds him merely as an entity which is simply and exclusively measurable, tangible, through material awareness.
In the human mind there becomes established the idea that the “vision” is always and in any case subordinate to human perceptibility, that the universe of things is always referable to the senses of man.
In this period, man is not able to discern the limits of the scientific method when applied to the integral explanation of the cosmos, given that he is shut in his room. He does not notice that his five senses are only a useful interface for exchanging and conversing with the external, tangible world, and they have, due to there characteristics, some well-defined limits, to which no science is able to give unlimited value. That is to say, the ability to perceive Everything.
In short, by relying on the five senses, he gives to the experiences derived exclusively from them the job of defining the knowledge and understanding of the universe. The child who is taking the toy to pieces does not realise that out there are the principles of its creator, ready to give him every answer. In his obstinacy, he wants to look at every component, every piece, forgetting to think that the toy is the result of a project. He does not realise that, with only five senses, he can not go beyond the understanding of each single piece, he is not able to go beyond the single finite elements. He concentrates on the effect and no longer searches for the cause.
In this sense the material man is closed, forced, into a partial universe which, without reaching the extreme consequence of scientism, always forces him to find new and sometimes illogical solutions to explain all the “effects” of the cosmos.
The result is a philosophy which tends for a certain period, up until our days, to separate the rational (what is measurable with the five senses) and the spiritual (that which is not apparently traceable to rational typologies). An irremediable drift seems to open between Science and Religion.
The great difficulty of modern western man can be essentially found in this philosophical fatigue: in the difficulty he has in coming out of this vortex which forces him to live a partial life, generated by logical and mental structures which recent history has handed down to him like genetic code.
His imprisonment within this category of reasoning stops him from having a full life and thus a happy one, a difficulty which is known not only to the so-called materialist man, who bases everything on “what I see exists”, but also on the spiritual man who bases himself on the consideration that “there is something else beyond what I see”.
Both live in a marginalising social condition, a condition created by, and which has its origin in, this matrix of western thought. Thoughts which contains patterns, reasoning and logic which stem from a partial model, tending to exalt the materiality of man and to marginalise his spirituality. Both live in a way which is distant from the true centre.
One of the substantial and evident differences between the western world and the eastern one is in the different origin of their philogenetics when considering the experiences regarding the things of the world. The first is permeated and closed while the second is detached and, often, external. The sense of embarrassment which we feel when we must declare ourselves to be believers derives from the judgment which materialistic rationality produces towards that which cannot be rationalised with a vision which is so partial.
This limit depresses the culture and conscience of a world which needs to knock down this wall in order to evolve.
The undeniable limits of the philosophy generated by enlightened rationalism must make us reflect with a serene and correct conscience that, if the entire world escapes us, and by definition is in the proportion of “infinite” to finite, a new and more mature vision must be given to the approach of knowing the “external” world. A vision which is necessary if knowledge is to progress towards a fuller comprehension of the reality which we are made of and which has generated us. In fact, we know that in time and space “man is naturally inclined to consider reality that which is tangible and visible, due to the fact that he considers the corporal life to be the only real one, while true reality is not the one of the senses, but the one which is the object of reason.” Plato- the world of ideas).
Unfortunately, today, in many cases, science has overturned these principals, shutting itself in a corridor without any way out.
What is more, it is enough to voice one’s opinion to be accused of being a retrograde and obscure, but science which is not born out of free thought is no longer science.
Go and look (even on internet) at how many (dissenting) scientists in the world are beginning to question the present scientific method.
Let us not behave like strict parents: let’s not form judgments on that child; let us help him to understand that the time for play is over; that it is time to think big; it is time to act maturely.
Above all, let us not judge history; let us help it to grow.