Making a case for an underlying unity of science and religion would be pointless were it true that science had already ruled out any basis for the beliefs underlying religion. Unfortunately, many people, not just scientists, believe that it is true. There are strong voices among scientists who fervently proclaim that science has, indeed, proven that all religious beliefs are unfounded—that religion is simply keeping alive baseless superstitions and other nonsense. At first glance their arguments are compelling. They invoke the scientific method. They tell us that none of religion’s claims have been proven in the laboratory. They assure us that their arguments rest firmly on factual scientific discovery. They speak with utter conviction. You will no doubt be surprised, therefore, and possibly affronted, when I say that the people who hold such absolute views are simply true believers in their own religion: scientific materialism.
Scientific materialism rests on the belief that everything there is or ever will be springs from the interactions of matter and energy—and from absolutely nothing else. Despite the existence of enduring major scientific mysteries, such as the origin of life and the nature of consciousness, scientific materialists believe that it is only a matter of time before all as-yet-unexplained phenomena will be explained by—and only by—the interactions of matter and energy. This expectation is an article of faith among those who embrace scientific materialism. It is their credo. Given science’s undeniable success over the last three centuries, scientific materialism’s matter-and-energy-only hypothesis is very convincing to a lot of people.
Science’s means of exploring reality—the scientific method—is the oracle of the age. Using the scientific method, scientists have uncovered myriad laws governing the operation of the physical world. It is no exaggeration to say that the application of those laws over the last two centuries has transformed civilization. Unfortunately for other religions, the religion of scientific materialism is in the ascendant and very influential. Not just many scientists, but also a huge percentage of people in the world, are unknowingly members of the church of scientific materialism because they have embraced the credo: Everything that is, or ever will be, is the result of matter-energy interactions and nothing else.
But make no mistake: The idea that everything that is and ever will be springs from the interactions of matter and energy—and nothing else—is a belief, not a proven fact. Despite the efficacy of the scientific method, it is not the case. Scientific materialists would have us think that science has applied the scientific method to all possibilities for nonmaterial realities and proven them all false. Rather, science as an official body has become so convinced of the truth of scientific materialism that it simply doesn’t explore alternative possibilities. The bias toward material explanations for all phenomena is so strong that it nearly eliminates the possibility of funding for any scientific inquiry that attempts to explore realities other than the material. A vocal portion of scientists dismiss out of hand, or, worse yet, hold in disdain, even the suggestion that there may be nonmaterial solutions to unexplained phenomena. Embracing such a suggestion is not, to put it mildly, a path to a successful career in science.
Although it is true that science has by no means disproven the fundamental beliefs of religion, failure to disprove does not automatically make religion’s beliefs true. How, then, can we decide whether or not there is any truth to religion’s claims? One way we can evaluate such claims is by comparing the testimony of those who have had profound transcendent experiences. When we look beyond the superficial variations of language, culture, and vocabulary such people use to describe their transcendent experiences, we find a compelling consistency.
Another way to evaluate the veracity of religion’s claims is to study the remarkably similar ways in which the saints and sages attained such transcendent states. At the heart of all religions you will find men and women who practiced a universally effective science of religion. The science of religion is a collection of disciplines, usable by anyone, which, when performed with determined focus and intention, inevitably result in personal transcendent experience. From personal transcendent experience come the revelations that give meaning to all religions. The disciplines that bring personal transcendent experience deserve to be considered scientific because they provide consistent and repeatable results when practiced to perfection.
I hope that you [find] personal inspiration in The Physics of God. Practices of the science of religion that lead to inner awakening—most notably meditation—will allow you to experience a joy beyond anything you’ve ever known.
We are far more than we know.
We are far more than we know.
Joseph Selbie makes the complex and obscure, simple and clear. A dedicated meditator for over 40 years, he has taught yoga and meditation throughout the United States and Europe. He is known for creating bridges of understanding between the modern evidenced-based discoveries of science and the ancient experience-based discoveries of the mystics. Selbie maintains several blogs, including Intersections, which explores how spirituality connects with culture and science. He also authored The Yugas, a factual look at India’s tradition of cyclical history; and a sci-fi/fantasy series, The Protectors Diaries, inspired by the abilities of mystics. Joseph is a founding member of Ananda, a meditation-based community and spiritual movement inspired by Paramahansa Yogananda. He lives with his wife at Ananda Village near Nevada City, California. For more information, go to www.PhysicsAndGod.com.