Can Science and Religion Be Integrated?
By Amit Goswami, Ph.D.
Lotus Guide: Do you think it’s possible that science may hold some of the keys to resolving the age-old religious conflicts in our world?
Amit Goswami: Yes, I really believe that science will go a long way to resolve differences between religions. Still, there are a lot of fundamentalists in the world; they are the toughest to change. What we need is a populist base of scientific practitioners of spirituality who get results, and the word-of-mouth excitement from that can spread. I call this approach “quantum activism.” I practice it myself and I am available to teach it to anyone to the best of my limited ability. (Amit will give a workshop August 5 in Grass Valley.)
LG: Can science and religion be integrated?
AG: What comes to mind immediately is that religions themselves cannot agree with one another, whereas science is basically monolithic. How can there even be trade between the two, let alone integration? On the other hand, there is common ground for all religions in three respects: 1) All religions agree that there is God—an agent of what they call downward causation. This is to be distinguished from materialists’ upward causation model—namely that all cause originates from the base level of matter, the elementary particles. Religions don’t necessarily disagree with materialists’ upward causation, but they additionally posit occasional intervention by a (nonmaterial) God, creation events for example. 2)
All religions also posit the existence of nonmaterial “subtle” bodies connected with our internal experiences—feeling, meaning, and values—in addition to the material body. 3) All religions posit the importance of certain values as the goal of life, values such as love, truth, beauty, justice, and goodness.
These godly qualities are what give our life meaning, religions maintain, because God designed us. The overall perception of science is that it is materialist. The belief is that science cannot be done without the dogma of material monism: All things of our experience have a material origin. It is only logical that the practitioners of materialist science should have something to object to and negate about the three religious contentions of reality enunciated above. The first, downward causation, scientists negate because “How does a nonmaterial God interact with matter?” It is dualism.
For the second, the postulate of subtle bodies, the same objection is posed—“How do the nonmaterial subtle bodies interact with the material body?” Dualism again. Dualism is not scientifically feasible because two bodies that have nothing in common cannot interact without a mediator. And there is no mediator that we can see, these scientists maintain. Materialists also posit that God, consciousness, mind, feelings, values, all things internal besides what we experience are explainable in material terms. However, so far this has been only a promissory idea that the renowned philosopher Karl Popper called promissory materialism. As for the third contention of religions, the importance of values in our lives, materialist science does not exactly deny it. But they maintain that values originate in matter as genetic programs but that no programmer is required.
Instead, these programs evolve through Darwinian evolution (natural selection) because they help the organism to adapt to environmental changes. So the first problem of integrating science and religion is to generalize science to include downward causation and the subtle bodies in such a way that dualism does not ruin the integration. This author has solved this problem (for details, read my book The Visionary Window) using some ideas from quantum physics. Quantum physics has a very obscure opening; this is what I call a visionary window. If we look through the window, new light appears that enables us to generalize materialist science in the appropriate way. The new light consists of a shift in the metaphysical base of science, from a base in matter to a base in consciousness.
In quantum physics, objects are not determined things of Newtonian vintage. Instead, they are waves of possibility. When we observe these waves, they “collapse” into actual events in our experience. Instead of spread-out waves, what we observe is a localized particle. This is the famous observer effect. Looking affects objects according to quantum physics. But if consciousness is a brain phenomenon, as materialist science posits, the observer effect is a paradox because then brain and its consciousness both consist of possibilities only. Possibilities acting on other possibilities cannot make actuality. The resolution of the paradox is to turn the materialist view of consciousness upside down. Let consciousness be the base of the world and let matter consist of waves of possibilities of consciousness.
Consciousness chooses from the possibility waves of matter within it to collapse the actual events that we observe. Back in the 1970s, when quantum physicists were first proposing that we choose our own reality, many people tried to manifest beautiful expensive cars for themselves. When they couldn’t, they tried at least to manifest parking spaces for their cars in crowded downtown areas, but even then the success rate was not encouraging. Obviously something was missing! The next step was to realize that the choosing consciousness must transcend personality, must be unitive—the same for all of us. If this were not so, you could look at a multifaceted quantum possibility wave and choose one facet and simultaneously somebody else could look and choose an alternative, contradictory facet.
The world then would be pandemonium. Behind our apparent individuality, it is our unity consciousness that chooses actuality from quantum possibilities. This unity consciousness is what religions call God. We don’t ordinarily experience ourselves as God-consciousness because of how the brain works. Our brains sift all experience through our memories. In the process, we become conditioned. We respond to a familiar stimulus as we responded before—we acquire an ego-individuality based on our habit pattern. And yet, whenever we are capable of rising above conditioning, God is there to enable us make a creative choice. I hope you agree that that this is a good beginning for a genuine integration between science and religion.