Science and Religion: A Marriage Made in Heaven?
Director of the Simply Jewish Fellowship (www.simplyjewish.com) and the Sh'ma Center for Jewish Meditation, Rabbi Rami Shapiro is a regular contributor to TIKKUN. His most recent books are Minyan and The Way of Solomon.
Physicists Read the Mind of God
SANTA FE, 2007--A spokeswoman for the Physics and Theology Institute said today that recent breakthroughs in superstring theory have resulted in a startling discovery.
"Not only are we reading the mind of God," said Dr. Alice Weinstock, "we have found the essence of the Creator."
"In the past religion and science were often in conflict," said the Reverend Frank Macintosh, cochair of a recent PTI symposium on "The New Science of God," "but we are entering a new age of cooperation in which science as well as religion can reveal the God of Creation."
Farfetched? Or just a matter of time? A growing number of scientists and theologians believe that the marriage of science and religion is inevitable, and that science is revealing the very nature of God. But what kind of God does science reveal? If science is reading the mind of God, just what kind of thoughts is God thinking?
Almost 400 years ago Galileo Galilei invited the Church Fathers to look through his telescope and see for themselves that the earth orbits the sun. They refused, insisting instead that Galileo stop looking through the infernal device as well. Today the Church has its own telescope, and theologians turn to science for the latest revelations of God.
If religion has found a use for science, science has finally discovered that the fundamental unity spoken of by religious mystics permeates every strata of creation. However, the reductionist way scientists tend to view that unity shrinks God to the amoral building blocks of nature.
Just as religion will never discover superstrings, science will never imagine loving one's neighbor as oneself. Religion and science are different lenses through which we can catch glimpses of God, but to lay one atop the other is to distort them both. And yet we persist in blurring the boundaries between religion and science in hopes of having the latter prove the claims of the former so that faith can be bolstered by fact.
We lack a map of reality that would allow us to accept the truths of both science and religion without reducing either to a subset of the other. Such a map would unify (but not reduce) our sciences, both material and spiritual, and present an idea of God that incorporates and transcends them both. Such a map is not hard to find, and has appeared in every culture throughout recorded history. It is called the Great Chain of Being.
Transpersonal philosopher and theorist Ken Wilber has done the most to bring the Great Chain into the twenty-first century, and I am indebted to him for much of my understanding of it. Wilber's map is far more complex than the one I will use here, and speaks to issues beyond the narrow scope of this essay. Here, I draw upon the kabbalistic version of the Great Chain, the Five Worlds, to present a unified but not homogenized vision of science and religion within the greater unity of God.
Like a Russian doll concealing progressively smaller dolls within it, the Jewish mystics see all reality manifested as five distinct and nested dimensions or worlds. Just as the smaller doll is included in and transcended by the next larger doll, so are the less inclusive worlds included in and transcended by the next more inclusive world, and the whole nested reality is included in and transcended by God, the unconditioned and unconditional source and substance of all that was, is, and will be.
The first and least inclusive of the five worlds is called Assiyah. This is the realm of quantum mechanics, superstring theory, chaos, and complexity. The world of Assiyah is primarily the domain of physics. It is a world of …