Home

  News & Views

  Journal

  Seminars

  Publications

  I S C

  Research Projects

  About Us

  Contacts


  Gur Panth Parkash
Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh

 

Back

Reason, Institution, and Faith in Science and Religion

Dr Job Kozhamthadam*

It is almost universally accepted that the human mind is capable of two kinds of knowledge or two modes of consciousness, usually referred to as the rational and the intuitive. The importance accorded to each varied from culture to culture and from period to period. For instance, in the West the rational was associated with science and was held in high regard, whereas the intuitive was relegated to the realm of religion and mysticism and was assigned an inferior status. In the East in many respects an exactly opposite trend prevailed. For instance, the upnishadic tradition in India talk of two forms of knowledge, the higher and the lower, and associate the sciences with the lower and religion with the higher. Along the same line the Buddhist tradition discusses relative and absolute knowledge and claim that intuition can give us absolute knowledge. On the other hand, the Chinese tradition has taken a middle path, considering the rational and the intuitive as complementary to each other being represented by the archetypal pair yin and yang. In this paper I will argue that science and religion involve both these forms of knowledge and the difference between the two is only a matter of emphasis. It seems to me that the failure to acknowledge this fact was one of the sources of the tension between science and religion in the past. Even though it is well accepted that intuition and faith are central to religion, their role was not so well recognized in science. In the course of this paper we will study a few important cases from the history of science to show that intuition and faith arising from it played a crucial role in the development of science.

The Rational and the Intuitive
Despite the fact that rational knowledge defies any attempt at a definitive and exhaustive description, we can identify many of its important characteristics. As the name indicates, reason and its cognates play the central role in this form of knowledge, and so providing justification and evidence for the claims made and for the beliefs held will be its principal trademark. Rational knowledge is logical and discursive, moving step by step through a chain of reasoning process following certain clear-cut laws. It usually proceeds by a definite plan with a clear starting point and a definite end point or goal. All these ensure the possibility of exact prediction. Furthermore, rational knowledge is very much analytical and systematic. Being highly selective, it compares, classifies, divides and distinguishes. Clear and sharp distinction and demarcation are possible in this form of knowledge. Rational knowledge is characteristically deliberate and definite, aiming at accurate and clear answers. Since this form of knowledge can be expressed in mathematical and abstract relations, objectivity, repeatability and inter-subjective testability are also its usual distinctive marks. Rational knowledge is for the most part articulate and communicable.

The characteristics enumerated above are highly welcome, but a high price is extracted from it since this knowledge leans heavily on the process of abstraction. Reality is amazingly too rich and bafflingly too multi-faceted to be captured by pure reason alone, especially since this process involves abstraction - selection of the significant features and consequent cutting off of all others, thereby forcing one to settle for partial, selective, and relative knowledge (relative to the concerns and conditions of the observer). The reality apprehended in this case is a truncated one, being in certain respects detached from the real world. As Fritjof Capra points out, this kind of rational knowledge gives us only “an intellectual map of reality in which things are reduced to their general outlines. Rational knowledge is thus a system of abstract concepts and symbols, characterized by a linear, sequential structure which is typical of our thinking and speaking.”1 

Rational knowledge relies heavily not only on abstraction but also on reduction, mainly because of its analytical approach and tendency to divide and classify. No doubt, this method of reduction has been enormously successful in uncovering many laws and secrets of nature, and is still being widely practiced by scientists of all fields. However, according to some scholars, the era of reductionism is well nigh over. In the words of Michio Kaku, “reductionism has been spectacularly successful in the twentieth century, unlocking the secrets of the atom, the DNA molecule, and the logic circuits of the computer. But reductionism has probably, in the main, run its course.”2  The heyday of reductionism seems to have been a matter of the past since “seemingly impenetrable obstacles have been encountered which cannot be solved by the simple reductionist approach.”3 

As in the case of rational knowledge, the characteristics of intuitive knowledge also cannot be exhaustively listed. In many ways they show the opposite polarity. Intuitive knowledge is direct, without any noticeable mediation, taking place suddenly, as it were in one swoop, and it usually occurs unexpectedly in a flash as it were. It is very much synthetic and seems to follow no identifiable logic. It follows a holistic approach, and wants to inter-link, and unifies the different strands and branches. Intuitive knowledge usually tends to be non-deliberate or subconscious, indefinite, inaccurate, vague, and subjective. Often it is inarticulate and incommunicable.

Reason, Intuition and the Human Mind
The human brain undoubtedly is the most complex, most ingenious and most mysterious of all creation, and human curiosity has never been tired of probing into the secrets of its nature and operation. Since the brain is taken to be the seat of the human mind, a study of this type is also simultaneously an investigation of the constitution and function of the mind. In the past it was often believed that the intellect and its activities dominated the brain and hence the mind. Since rationality belongs to the realm of the intellect, many scientists, especially those engaged in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research, argued that the brain was basically a super-sophisticated rational machine, and rational activities predominated its basic function. Given the above characteristics of the rational, it meant that the brain or mind consisted of a concatenation of laws and principles, following a linear, sequential pattern. The intuitive powers of the mind were not denied, but being characteristically vague, non-law-governed, and hence unpredictable, they were often conflated with the irrational and the emotional. They were recognized as part of the human mind almost as a concession. For instance, according to the supporters of classical AI, the human mind was very much a super-sophisticated, super-programmed computer. However, a number of developments in recent times have challenged this view, and have reaffirmed the intuitive powers of the human mind.

The classical AI view gave rise to the long line of expert systems wherein sophisticated machines were expected to imitate human intellectual activities, and even to outsmart and outperform humans. The basic assumption here was that human thinking was a straightforwardly rule-governed operation. But this view suffered serious setbacks from a number of fronts. First of all, the expert systems and the developments based on them failed to live up to the expectations. It was thought that AI along with developments in robotics would be able to produce human-like robots and cyborgs, thereby almost duplicating humans. However, these high hopes were seriously frustrated, at least as far the developments stand today. The strategy envisaged here of manufacturing super-fast computers with super sophisticated programmes so as to imitate humans was known as the “top down” approach in AI jargon. Many critics say that this venture so far, despite all the hype mustered by its proponents, has been a disappointment. “The mobile robots built on their approach consumed vast amounts of computer power, yet they were supremely inept: agonizingly slow and timid, they frequently got lost. They were useless in the real world.”4 

Secondly, it was found that the brain function could not be accounted for in terms of a long, serially linked chain of rules, as many supporters of rationalism thought. As Alexander Bird points out, “In the first phase of classical AI it was assumed that humans and computers should both be understood as expert systems. But in the late 1970s and 1980s research on the brain suggested that it is unlikely that human thinking always operates like this.”5  There is marked difference between the working of a computer and the human brain: in a computer damage to a small part of the program can disable the whole programme, whereas in the case of the human mind, a minor damage may lead only to a partial deterioration. Usually it may lead to a slow down of the activity, not to its cessation. Also it is found that the computer dies suddenly, whereas the human brain “degrades gracefully.”

Thirdly, it is found that not every activity is governed by rules. For instance, experience shows that certain activities like pattern recognition cannot be done on the basis of rules alone. “It would be a mistake to think that scientific puzzle recognition, understanding, solving and evaluation may be achieved by following rules. The rules under consideration include explicit definitions of concepts, absolutely stated laws and theories, and explicit methodological precepts.”6 

Not only is the model described above ridden with serious problems, today it is known that the nature and activity of the human brain is captured much better by the connectionist or neural net model. The connectionist model contains no software or encoded expert knowledge. There are no rules either. What it involves is a number of nodes, each of which connects to several others forming a large complicated network. This setup allows activity at one node to influence activity at connected nodes. Also in this case the strength of the influence can be varied by the addition or removal of connections. A more interesting feature is that in this model “learning often takes the form of the evolution of such a network.”7  As the machine learns, it also evolves and grows; the learning process is part of the growth process of the machine.8  Bird summarizes the discussion: “Connectionist models are now accepted as providing a far better understanding of brain function than the classical AI picture of rule-based expert systems. Connectionist systems, like brain, degrade gracefully.... Learning directly, seeing directly – does not require the exercise of reasoning, inference or following of rules, either consciously or unconsciously.”9  It is quite evident that the connectionist model does better justice to the complexities of the brain and its function. In the simple sequential model complex activities like intuition may have looked difficult, if not impossible, but in the connectionist model such activities become normal. Recent developments lend good support to the claim that both rational and intuitive activities are innate and integral to the human brain. Since scientific thinking and research are the paradigm activities of the human mind, we can conclude that they also involve both the rational and the intuitive.

Intuition and Faith
Faith in general is defined as unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence. Usually faith is understood in the context of religion, and here the unquestioning belief refers to God, whose existence and authority the person of faith accepts totally and irrevocably. In this paper I want to argue that this kind of faith is a characteristic not only of a devout religious believer but also of a successful scientist. Although this faith has many distinguishing marks, I wish to single out four of them.

1. Intense conviction and deep commitment
Persons possessing this faith manifest strong conviction, far more than simple reason alone would vouch for. They are unflinchingly committed to it and are ready to do anything to uphold it, ready to make any sacrifice for preserving it. Martyrs of various religions are clear examples of this phenomenon. Perhaps this attitude can be described better as “a passionate commitment.”
2. Counterintuitive content
The content of their belief or the proposition they believe in is often counterintuitive, defying all common sense and common wisdom. In fact, the society they live in may brand their belief as foolish and utter nonsense. But their conviction is so strong that nothing can shake them off their belief.
3. Counter-evidence ineffective
One may present clear counter-evidence and counter-arguments against the belief, but they will all be lost on the persons of faith. Nothing seems to change the commitment of these persons. A surprising point in this context is that this comes about not because the persons concerned are uncritical and unperceptive. In fact, often in other fields and on other matters they are highly critical and deeply perceptive. But on this matter of faith they seem to be impervious to objections that seem to be quite valid to most others.
4. Proven to be right
Often in course of time these persons turn out to be right. They looked like fools for endorsing their belief. But later course of events prove these believers right, and their critics in turn are made to look like fools.

Intuition as the Source of Faith
Some of the characteristics discussed above may give the impression that we are considering a form of “blind faith.” It is true that there are cases of religious believers giving in to blind faith and acting irrationally and irresponsibly. Also there are real cases of people being brainwashed into doing strange things in an irrational and irresponsible way. We are not considering any such cases. We consider only cases wherein a person acts responsibly and with due deliberation, as our illustrative examples of religious persons to be discussed below will show.

What is the source of this faith? How do people get this kind of faith? Although reason can engender such faith in people, it is clear that simple reason on its own is inadequate to give rise to this level of faith. It seems to me that in many cases the prime source of this faith is the deep intuition these people have concerning certain claims, principles and truths. As we have seen, intuition involves direct personal experience. It arises from a holistic experience usually involving the totality of the different aspects, and hence will have a deep impact on the person. Often it cannot be communicated in words. The firm conviction and the deep commitment seem to be the vehicle of communication in this case. Because it deviates from what is considered to be normal, because it cannot be communicated in ordinary language, often it is unfairly branded as irrational, emotional, and even illusory.

Some Illustrative Cases from Religion
Although history gives us many examples of this faith based on intuition, we will consider two cases: one ancient and the other contemporary – the faith of Abraham and the faith of Mother Theresa. In both cases we notice all the main characteristics discussed in our list above. Abraham is presented in the Old Testament as the paradigm of a person of faith. His conviction about the trust-worthiness of Yahweh’s promise was firm and his commitment to Yahweh was deep. God had promised to make his posterity as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sands of the seashore (Genesis 22:17). But the same God asks him to sacrifice his only son born in his old age. It was also very clear that his wife Sarah had gone beyond childbearing age, and could bear no more children. Under these circumstances God asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac made no sense at all. One could have brought in counter-arguments against Yahweh saying he is like the gods of the pagans who were often unreliable. Or one could have argued that Yahweh did not really want such a sacrifice. But Abraham was not impressed by any such considerations. Off he went to the mountain and was fully ready to complete the sacrifice of his son. Finally, Abraham’s faith was proved right. It turned out that Abraham fulfilled his duty and Yahweh kept his promise.

There is no reason to believe that Abraham lost his sense during this episode, that he did not know what he was doing, that he was blind. It seems to me that his past encounter and experience with God had given him the intuition that Yahweh was capable of finding a way to fulfill his promise in the most improbable circumstances.

We chose the case of Abraham because it is much talked about and has been studied extensively for ages. We could have chosen some more recent religious geniuses like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Ignatius of Loyla in the Christian tradition. Equally well, we could have chosen from the non-Christian traditions religious geniuses like Gautama Buddha, Mohammed, or some of the well-known reformers and saints of Hinduism, etc. In the lives and works of all these religious persons we can see intuition-generated faith playing a pivotal role.

We will consider the contemporary case of the life and works of Mother Theresa. When she decided to leave the Loretta Convent to start another community devoted to serve the poorest of the poor, all odds were against her. She was a foreigner with no deep roots in India to attract Indian girls to her community. She was not particularly educated, not particularly intelligent, and still worse, she was of poor, fragile health. In fact, those who knew her closely predicted bluntly that she was capable of accomplishing nothing important and useful in life, that she was chasing after an empty dream. But as she herself has said so many times she had a deep faith built on her deep intuition that God had a special mission for her. She had to face a shower of counter-arguments in the forms of both friendly advice and heartless criticism. But no amount of counter-arguments, no amount of obstacles could deter her from her path. History tells us how correct she was. In her case too, we have no reason to believe that she was acting on blind faith or blind impulse. She always came across as a woman of great foresight, unusual practical wisdom and extraordinary leadership. The source of her faith could have been nothing else than the intuition and insight she received from her deep and intense God-experience.

Some Illustrative Cases from Science
Often people think that such instances of strong faith may occur in the religious context in the case of highly religious-minded persons, but not so in the case of hard-headed, critical-minded scientists. Good scientists go by observation and sound reason, not by faith about what seems highly improbable. In this section I wish to discuss a few cases of highly ingenious and critical-minded scientists having recourse to the same type of faith in some of their most creative moments. Of course, their faith was not in God or in any divine being, but in certain truths. It seems to me that in their case also the faith arose from the intuitive insight they had on these truths.

Kepler’s Acceptance of Copernicanism
Kepler’s acceptance of and adherence to the Copernican theory had all the different characteristics of faith we discussed earlier. He accepted it wholeheartedly and adhered to it steadfastly. Although in many ways he was a highly critical and exacting scholar, at no time in his life do we see him wavering in his loyalty to this theory, despite the fact that he was fully aware of its deficiencies, and struggled life-long to remedy them. His commitment to heliocentrism almost bordered on a passionate attachment. As he himself stated already in 1598, right at the beginning of his scientific career, “I to whom the Copernican view has been the most persuasive cannot in conscience propose anything else either in praise of my own ingenuity or for the sake of human popularity.”10  Even more remarkable in this context is his public profession of faith in the new theory, as presented in his Epitome: “I certainly know that I owe it [the Copernican hypothesis] this duty, that as I have attested it as true in my deepest soul, and as I contemplate its beauty with incredible and ravishing delight, I should also publicly defend it to my readers with all the force at my command.”11  Kepler left no room for doubt with regard to where he stood in his allegiance to the Copernican view.

It must be noted that with the exception of a small handful of scholars, all took Copernicanism as a good scientific hypothesis at best. For instance, Kepler’s own teacher Michael Mästlin, the professor of astronomy at the university of Tübingen, to whom he was deeply devoted and from whom he first came to know about the new theory, took it mostly as a hypothesis. Perhaps the best known case of this approach was that of Osiander who was commissioned to supervise the printing of De Revolutionibus. He appended an anonymous preface to the book in which he clarified that it was not “necessary that these hypotheses [of Copernicus] should be true, nor indeed even probable, but it is sufficient if they merely produce calculations which agree with observations.”12  Kepler and others took Osiander severely to task for writing this “unauthorized” preface. But as I have argued in detail, historical evidence can hardly justify such a strong reaction against this preface.13  There is good evidence to believe that even Copernicus wavered with regard to his realist commitment to his theory. For instance, in his dedicatory letter to Pope Paul III he wrote: “So I should like your Holiness to know that I was impelled to consider a different system of deducing the motions of the universe’s spheres for no other reason than the realization that astronomers do not agree among themselves in their investigations of this subject.”14  This statement gave the impression that he was looking for a “different system of deducing the motions,” which gives the impression that his hypothesis of a moving earth was a tool for accounting for observed phenomena better. In the light of all these considerations the well-known historian of science O. Neugebauer makes the following remark about Osiander’s preface: “I realize that one is supposed to be disgusted with Osiander’s preface which he added to the De Revolutionibus (in keen anticipation of the struggle of the next generations), in which he, in the traditional fashion of the ancients, speaks about mere ‘hypotheses’ represented by the cinematic models adopted in this work. It is hard for me to imagine how a careful reader could reach a different conclusion.”15  Despite all its novelty, the theory of Copernicus was beset with numerous problems of all kinds, and contemporary scholars were well aware of them. Kepler too was aware of them, and understood their gravity more than any one else. Yet he pledged unconditional allegiance to it.

In many respects the new theory looked counter-intuitive to contemporary scholars and non-scholars alike. Common sense showed that it was the sun that moved around the earth. Many of his guides and friends like his teacher Michael Mäestlin, his prorector Haffenreffer, and Cardinal Bellarmine (indirectly through the letter to the Carmelite father Foscarini) tried to dissuade Kepler from adhering to this theory, but all was in vain - he stuck to his commitment.

As mentioned already, there were many counter-arguments against this theory, some of which were very serious ones raised by highly reputed astronomers life Tycho Brahe on the basis of solid empirical data. For instance, the parallax problem. It may be noted that Kepler admitted that this was indeed a serious objection. Not only that, he refused to be bought by the explanation given by Copernicus himself. Copernicus had claimed that the parallax shift did occur. But since the distance from the earth to the fixed stars was incomparably large compared to the diameter of the earth’s orbit, it was imperceptibly small. Although Galileo was willing to be convinced by this unconvincing explanation, Kepler refused to accept it. But this did not shake his faith in the veracity of the Copernican theory. His view was that at the moment science has no satisfactory answer to the problem, but in course of time an adequate answer would be forthcoming. About the epicycles also he was greatly disturbed, but this too did not force him to give up Copernicanism. He worked persistently to rid the new theory of the unreal epicycles, and he finally succeeded in doing so. His basic stand could be summarized as follows: defects and problems there are, but the theory is basically true and the problems will be eliminated by further work in science.

Nor was the case that Kepler was an uncritical, naïve, non-exacting scholar. In many ways he was an extremely critical-minded and exacting scientist. Even as a small boy he was very independent and critical, as was evident from the fact that he refused to swallow some of the interpretations of the Bible given by his ministers from the pulpit, especially when they distorted biblical passages to suit their selfish motives. He could not accept fully any of the Christian denominations. He disagreed with the Lutheran doctrine of ubiquity.16  He refused to accept the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. The Catholic teaching of papal infallibility also he rejected. In the scientific field he did not hesitate to take Copernicus to task. Perhaps a most striking example of his exacting attitude was in connection with the vicarious theory, a theory proposed as a working model for his study of the motion of the planet Mars. Although it had many merits, it showed a deviation of 8 minutes. A margin of 10 minutes of arc was well within the acceptable limit at that time. But Kepler refused to be satisfied and decided to start anew, though it meant enormous hard work. As he himself wrote to Longomontanus in 1605, “if I had wished to doubt the 8 minutes, I would have been able to omit more than three times as much effort as I put into the year 1604. Thus you know how deligently I laboured, that from the observations I might be meticulously precise.”17  There is very good reason to believe that Kepler was a highly rational and critical scientific thinker, especially in matters scientific.

Finally, Kepler’s faith was proven right. Today nobody doubts about the Copernican theory. It had to undergo a long period of evolution and development. Kepler himself contributed substantially towards this development. One by one all the objections were taken care of, including the most formidable one of the stellar parallax, thanks to the ingenious work of Bessel in 1838, almost 300 years after Copernicus proposed his theory.

The question arising from our study of Kepler is this: How could such a critical-minded, hard-headed, extremely intelligent and highly creative person like Kepler have embraced the new theory not just as a better computational device but as a true representation of the actual world, despite all of the system’s known defects and challenges? Of course, nobody knows the answer for certain. Many scholars have given their own answers.18  It seems to me that Kepler’s genius enabled him to have a deep insight into the Copernican theory and this created in him a strong faith in the basic veracity of the theory. This faith based on his intuition sustained and supported him all the way through despite all apparent opposition.

In the case of Galileo’s acceptance of and adherence to Copernicanism also one can see a similar situation. It seems to me that Galileo was right not so much for the reasons he gave in defense of the Copernican theory as the deep, ingenious insight he had into the basic rightness of the theory, an insight he struggled hard to articulate, but failed to substantiate satisfactorily.

Isaac Newton and the Law of Gravitation
It is no exaggeration to say that Newton’s contribution to the development of science was almost unparalleled in the history of science. Not only did he complete the great work initiated by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes and others, but also effected a unification of many strands of science existing at the time. Particularly, his law of gravitation, the law which says that all material bodies attract each other with a certain force, was hailed as a stroke of genius, almost a miracle. But this theory, despite its great practical success, had several serious, inherent problems as was pointed out to him by Leibniz, Berkeley, Bentley and others. Newton acknowledged many of these problems as valid and serious and worked to remedy them. His tireless efforts were not very successful, yet he affirmed that his law of gravitation was a true law of nature.

Although many objections were proposed, we will consider only three of them. The first major objection was known as the problem of action at a distance. In simple language it can be put as follows: We know the sun exerts its gravitational attractive force on the earth and drags it around. The sun is at distance of 150 million kilometers from the earth and there does not seem to be any physical link connecting the two. How can the sun at such a large distance physically drag the earth without any contact? At that time the understanding was that the mover and the moved should have some kind of connection. This problem was known as action at a distance. Leibniz argued that in the absence of a satisfactory explanation, one would have to conclude that the phenomenon involved either a miracle or magic. Historians tell us that Newton tried long and hard to find an answer to this objection, but without success.

Another problem concerned the cause of gravitation. What is the source of this force? From where does it come? A physical force without a known cause did not make sense to the scientists of the day. For this too Newton had no satisfactory answer.

A third difficulty was pointed out by Newton’s own disciple,
Bishop Richard Bentley. Since according to the law of gravitation, all bodies should attract each other with a force, we can have two situations: if the universe is finite and the bodies are distributed evenly, then the mutual attraction of all the particles will give rise to huge central mass. This of course we do not see happening. On the other hand, if the universe was infinite and had an infinite number of particles, then any particle would be pulled by an infinite number of others from all sides. This would result in a state of ‘no motion’ for all particles. This too we do not see happening in the universe. This problem was a direct consequence of the law of gravitation, and Newton’s answer to it was very much casuistic and failed to satisfy his critics. Thus Newton was well aware that his theory had serious difficulties.

In the case Newton’s acceptance of the law of gravitation also we can see all the characteristics of faith we discussed earlier. He was convinced that this was a law of nature, and as such absolutely true. Again, there were counterintuitive aspects in this case. For instance, action at a distance went against all common experience and common sense wisdom. In this case also we see that counter-arguments were ineffective to make him abandon his theory. Finally, with the development of science the law became well established.

It can be argued that it was Newton’s faith based on his insight or intuition into the basic rightness of the law that enabled him to hold his ground despite objections and opposition. It is true that the law was successful in solving many problems, and this could have reassured Newton. However, the objections raised were serious ones and touched the very foundations of his law and so were a strong challenge to him. Pragmatic success alone could not have reassured him in such a situation.

Not only in the case of Kepler, Galileo and Newton but also in many other cases we can show the role of faith generated by intuition. In fact, in the context of the genesis and development of any creative theory in science, one can expect to find a situation of this kind.

Some Reflections
The Power of the Human Mind
The human mind without any doubt is the most advanced masterpiece of creation, the full potential of which is yet to be appreciated and applied. It is capable of penetrating the secret inner recesses of reality, long before human technology-driven science reaches there. This is what intuition does and this is why there is always a long time-lag between the findings of human insight and their confirmation by technology-based science. Creative scientists and religious sages are persons endowed with this uncanny gift of intuition and insight.

Our discussion can throw some light on another important area as well. In recent times many scholars have pointed out the striking parallel between some of the intuitive insights of the sages of the East and some of the cosmological findings of contemporary science, especially relativity and quantum theory. Many contemporary scholars, especially in the West, often pass this parallelism over as mere coincidence. However, it seems to me that such an attitude is rather hasty and unjustified since the parallel is strong and significant enough to demand our serious attention. I suspect that this hasty attitude comes because of a lack of appreciation for what the human intuitive mind can accomplish. As we have seen, the mind’s eye can see inner secrets long before the bodily eye can. Perhaps a fairer explanation of this parallel is that what the extraordinarily gifted ancient sages found through their intuitive insight have been confirmed by our contemporary technology-driven science. That it took thousands of years can be looked upon as a testimony to the extraordinary power of the human mind.

Commonality between Religious and Scientific Contexts
Our study shows a rather close similarity between scientific intuition and its counterpart in religion. In the past often the intuitive dimension in science was undervalued, if not denied, thanks to the influence of empiricism, particularly Logical Positivism and its cognates. Today the poverty of the Logical Positivist view has been exposed, and it is well-recognized that intuition does play a role in science, particularly at its creative moments. We do not deny that there are differences between science and religion in many respects, but in the case of the nature and role of intuition-based faith they show marked similarity.

Dialogue between Science and Religion
This recognition of the commonality between science and religion can lend additional encouragement for engaging in a fruitful dialogue between science and religion. In the past, one of the roadblocks to such a dialogue was the overemphasis on the purely rational aspect of the human mind at the expense of the other aspects. The acceptance that intuition also plays an important role in scientific work and creativity can help remove this obstacle. Of course, as we have pointed out already, there are differences between science and religion. For instance, religion relies more heavily on intuition, whereas science places more stress on rationality. But these need not be differences that lead to division and dissension, but rather can be the diversity that enriches and enhances the resources of both. It seems to me fair to say that science without intuition leads to stagnation (no progress), religion without reason leads to superstition, and we need to resist vehemently both stagnation and superstition.

~~~

References

 1 Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics (New York: Bantam Books, 1977), p. 15.
 2 Ibid., p. 10.
 3 Ibid., p. 12.
 4 Michio Kaku, Visions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 74-75.
 5 Alexander Bird, Thomas Kuhn (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), p. 72.
 6 Ibid., pp. 71-72.
 7 Ibid. p. 73.
 8 For details, see Bird, op. cit., p. 73.
 9 Ibid, p. 73.
 10 Johannes Kepler, Letter to Herwart on March 26, 1598, in Gesammlete Werke, ed. W. von Dyck, Max Casper, F. Hammer, B. Vialas (Munich, 1937-) vol. XIII, nr. 91: ll. 188-192.
 11 Kepler, Gesammelte Werke, vol. VII, p.8: ll. 26-29.
 12 Osiander, “To the Reader on the Hypotheses in This Work,” in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, tr. A.M. Duncan (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1976), p. 22.
 13 See Job Kozhamthadam, The Discovery of Kepler’s Laws: The Interaction of Science, Philosophy, and Religion (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), pp. 115 ff.
 14 Ibid., p. 115.
 15 Neugebauer, “On the Planetary theory of Copernicus,” in Vistas in Astronomy 10, ed. Arthur Beer (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1968), p. 100.
 16 A doctrine proposed by Luther, which argues that Christ is omnipresent at every enactment of the Lord’s Supper.
 17 Kepler, Gesammelte Werke XV, nr. 323: ll. 362-366.
 18 For a detailed discussion of the proposed answers, including my own, see my book, The Discovery Of Kepler’s Laws, pp. 119-142.

 

Back

 

ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2010, All rights reserved.