A guy sitting in a big dome shaped room staring intently into the eyepiece of a huge telescope; another person praying to his God hoping that it will give him some strength and bring happiness in his life. History shows that each thinks the other is foolish or misguided. But is it really so?
What is Science ?
A mind of a scientist is perhaps one of the most misunderstood things around. What actually is the motivation for a scientist to do what he does? Is it really about solving differential equations, writing pages of code or making complicated instruments? A casual observer might think so but it is certainly not the case.
The universe is an entity far bigger than a human mind can ever fully comprehend. We introduce hierarchies like an atom, a tree, a star or even an abstract concept such as love for clarity of thought but each time we move higher in complexity there are things we have not taken into consideration. But yes, the universe also happens to be such an awe inspiring place that it is almost impossible for a human mind to not wonder. Every child has looked up and wondered what the tiny twinkling lights that adorn our skies are; he has wondered about the beautiful colors of nature, about the wind and the rain, about the sounds and the smells. This is the essence of science –curiosity!
Is Science applicable everywhere ?
Agnosticism arises when humans have to deal with a universe that they do not fully understand. Science by its nature cannot prove or disprove anything. It can collect evidence supporting or rejecting a thesis but that is all it can infer. Science is an excellent method of acquiring knowledge. It teaches us how the world works. But science is inadequate when it comes to making decisions of what humans should do with that understanding. Human choices are extremely complex and humans do not solely rely on scientific methods to make decisions. Social phenomena are very different from laboratories in nature when it comes to internal interactions. For most parts, we can safely observe the phenomenon in nature without worrying about affecting what we observe. But in a social situation, our every observation, every move makes a difference to the whole picture; which in turn should feed back into our observations. Like financial markets; where our bets affect the market and people tend to act on instincts. Therefore it turns out that when there is inadequate information people do act on certain degree of beliefs. Faith has been important in development of arts across different human cultures and the role of arts in human evolution is undisputed. Faith is an important part of human psychology.
Science and Faith – A peaceful co-existence ?
But isn’t faith monopolized by organized religion? What if we put away the rules and customs of organized religion and look at what faith truly represents? What happens when a person prays to his God? Be it a Krishna or Jesus or Allah or even to an object or place, the intention is the same. One prays for getting strength to deal with one’s problems. Maybe for abstract things like hope, love, pain, this is what helps more than what science can do.
This is not a pitch for believing in God or religion. Both of us have never quite subscribed to the idea of a God in the generic sense. But there is definitely space for faith to co-exist with Science. We understand that we are trivial in front of the huge uncertainty that we witness in nature. Science and faith are our small efforts to understand these uncertainties. As Thomas Huxley said “The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land, to add something to the extent and the solidity of our possession.”