Much has been contributed by science but nothing more significant than the power and reliability of the scientific method, i.e., verifiable reasoning successfully tested against observations of the natural world. Yet, the most important contribution-to-be is the fact that the scientific method can also be applied to many endeavors other than those of the known branches of science, including not only to life in general but even to a peek of the afterlife.
This work applies said verifiable reasoning of the scientific method to humanity and to some of the essential beliefs of humanity. And the reliability of such verifiable reasoning is based on its being always open to correction, hence, this is why it is ever a work in progress.
PART I. INTRODUCTION
Chapter 1. Of Science
Many years ago, Isaac Newton not only invented that part of mathematics known as calculus (infinitesimal calculus) but also developed the physical laws that explained the world to which our senses are accustomed.
Years later, another scientist, Albert Einstein, discovered that Newton's laws did not work well when applied to objects traveling at or approaching the speed of light, and Einstein developed the theory of relativity. Later on, Einstein expanded the theory of relativity into the so called general theory of relativity which included the world of Newton, and unified Newton's laws with the laws of relativity. Yet, there was another set of phenomena which Einstein could not explain with relativity.
Einstein's relativity, while successfully explaining the macrocosm, failed to explain the behavior of the world of the microcosm, a world which quantum mechanics, also known as the Copenhagen Interpretation, and often thought of as the "weird science", eventually and successfully explained. The quantum world of the microcosm, is a world which permeates everything from physics to chemistry, to biology, to neuroscience, and it is, in fact, an incredible and strange world, a world of almost magic where intuition and common sense, as we know it, does not seem to apply, a world where things can theoretically exist simultaneously in many states (as if a microcosmic light bulb could be on and could be off at the same time), or where changes to an object that is here can instantaneously effect the same changes to that same object which exists simultaneously many light years away. Yet, progress continues to evolve this fascinating science. Recently, thanks to the work of some quantum physicists, in particular Henry Stapp, a post-Copenhagen Interpretation, or new quantum mechanics, seems to be on its way to do away with the above weirdness and mysterious nature, replacing this with a rationally coherent conception of man and nature, including the essence of human consciousness, and the dethronement of classical physics.
And, as he focuses on the riddle of "life", another quantum mechanics physicist, Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger, a major contributor to what quantum mechanics is today, shares with us a powerful view of what he sees of the genuine mysteries of life, as follows: "physical laws [e.g., laws of chemistry and physics as opposed to, say, biological laws] rest on atomic statistics and are therefore only approximate... all atoms... perform all the time a completely disorderly heat motion, which, so to speak, opposes itself to their orderly behaviour and does not allow the events that happen between a small number of atoms to enrol themselves according to any recognizable laws. Only in the co-operation of an enourmously large number of atoms do statistical laws begin to operate and control the behaviour of these 'assemblées' with an accuracy increasing as the number of atoms involved increases. It is in that way that the events acquire truly orderly features.".
He continues: "...the laws of physics and chemistry are statistical throughout. For it is in relation to the statistical point of view that the structure of the vital parts of living organisms differs so entirely from that of any piece of matter that we physicists and chemists have ever handled physically in our laboratories or mentally at our writing desks." He repeats: "Physical laws rest on atomic statistics and are therefore only approximate." He emphasizes: "[And yet the] working of [a living] organism requires exact physical laws."
He explains: "[the precision of physical laws] is based on the large number of atoms intervening. [As a result,] ...an organism must have a comparatively gross structure [compared to the atoms] in order to enjoy the benefit of fairly accurate laws, both for its internal life and for its interplay with the external world...". However, he finds that: "[yet,] incredibly small groups of atoms, much too small to display exact statistical laws, do play a dominating role in the very orderly and lawful events within living organisms. They have control of the observable large-scale features which the organism acquires in the course of its development, they determine important characteristics of its functioning; and in all this very sharp and strict biological laws are displayed." He continues: "...the most essential part of a living cell – the chromosome fibre – [has] an elaborate, coherent, meaningful design." A design which he thinks is incredible in comparison to material structures which are plain and dull. And he finds that "the one and only thing of paramount interest to us in ourselves is, that we feel and think and perceive. To the physiological process which is responsible for thought and sense all the others play an auxiliary part, at least from the human point of view, if not from that of purely objective biology... ...Indeed, in my view, it lies outside the range of natural science and very probably of human understanding altogether."
So, while classical physics fails to resolve the enigma of there being too few atoms in animated beings as compared to inanimated objects, Schrödinger finds that the answer is supplied both by quantum mechanics and molecules, as follows: "Among the discrete set of states of a given selection of atoms there need not necessarily but there may be a lowest level, implying a close approach of the nuclei to each other. Atoms in such a state form a molecule. The point to stress here is, that the molecule will of necessity have a certain stability; [because] the configuration cannot change, unless at least the energy difference, necessary to 'lift' it to the next higher level, is supplied from outside. Hence this level difference, which is a well defined quantity, determines quantitatively the degree of stability of a molecule."
In other words, according to Schrödinger, quantum mechanics helps to explain why, in the biological world, a small number of atoms, "of the order of 1,000 and possibly much less... [display] a most regular and lawful activity with a durability or permanence that borders upon the miraculus [in achieving stability.]" He further clarifies: "The reason for this is that the atoms forming a molecule, whether there be few or many of them, are united by forces of exactly the same nature as the numerous atoms which build up a true solid, [e.g.,] a crystal... [and] this solidity [is what accounts for their stability.]" As a result, the "unfolding of events in the life cycle of an organism exhibits an admirable regularity and orderliness, unrivalled by anything we meet with in inanimate matter. We find it controlled by a supremely well-ordered group of atoms, which represent only a very small fraction of the sum total in every cell. Moreover... the dislocation of just a few atoms within the group of 'governing atoms' of the germ cell suffices to bring about a well-defined change in the large-scale hereditary characteristics of the organism."
Schrödinger shares with us his amazement at his own discovery with the following words: "These facts are easily the most interesting that science has revealed in our day. To put it briefly, we witness the event that existing order displays the power of maintaining itself and of producing orderly events. Whether we find it astonishing or whether we find it quite plausible that a small but highly organized group of atoms be capable of acting in this manner, the situation is unprecedented, it is unknown anywhere else except in living matter."
Also, a few years ago, a new theory named "string theory" (actually, "supersymmetric string theory", or "superstring theory", or just "string theory" for short --where a string, the smallest indivisible unit of matter, is usually a tiny one-dimensional loop) emerged with the potential of unifying the entire laws of the universe. A theory which may in fact unify and replace both relativity and quantum mechanics. A theory with mathematical equations so complex that, to this day, no computer exists which is powerful enough to solve them. A theory which can be presently studied only through the simulation of its mathematical equations.
Complacent or blasé, as we may be, sitting on this planet Earth, looking at only a very small portion of an even vaster universe, little do we imagine that actually there may be an infinite number of universes. Or that the universe has actually eleven dimensions (seven of which so infinitesimally small that they are not visible to the naked eye, and an eighth, time, which is the only one with a direction). These are some of the things that "string theory" (a subset of M-theory) increasingly and consistently suggests.
And what about that which we call the vacuum of outer space and which turns out to be not a vacuum, as it is actually filled with "energy"? Or that the universe is like a balloon, inside of which is what we know as the universe and outside of which is what we know (do we actually?) as really "nothing"? And guess what, this balloon sometimes tears; but fortunately the tears get quickly repaired.
But, just like relativity is a proven science for the macrocosm, quantum mechanics is a proven science for the microcosm. And while Einstein could not merge the two into a unified science, M-theory seems to successfully do. All this, and more, is eloquently shared by one of the major exponents of this new and fascinating theory, physicist Brian Greene.
More recently, Simon C. Morris, a renowned world paleontologist, published a rational exposition that evolutionary "convergence is ubiquitous and the constraints of life make the emergence of the various biological properties very probable, if not inevitable... what is at issue is not the precise pathway by which we evolved, but the various and successive likelihoods of the evolutionary steps that culminated in our humanness". In other words, it is not whether it is or not a random process as generally perceived, but rather a programmed though lengthy process which can't help but produce one model, in this case: man --the being who knows and who knows that he knows. The being who, sitting on this unassuming secondary planet, has penetrated with the amazing "collective intelligence" of humanity realms unheard of across space and time.
Another world renowned scientist, biologist and entomologist Edward O. Wilson, who describes science as the "remarkable engine of testable learning", uses his knowledge of the natural sciences to emphasize that evolution is not only shaped by the genes but also by humanity's culture. And this is what he says: "In order to grasp the human condition, both the genes and culture must be understood, not separately in the traditional manner of science and the humanities, but together, in recognition of the realities of human evolution". He also alerts us about the future of our planet: "scientists estimate that if habitat conversion and other destructive human activities continue at their present rates, half the species of plants and animals on Earth could be either gone or at least fated for early extinction by the end of the century", "...we are close to running out of fresh water", "we have... altered Earth's atmosphere and climate away from the norm" and, with a plea for "the class-action case on behalf of Earth's entire afflicted fauna and flora...", and as an example of our planet's fragility he adds: "people need insects to survive, but insects do not need us... if insects were to vanish, the terrestrial environment would soon collapse into chaos".
On cultural evolution Wilson conjectures: "Natural selection... prepares organisms only for necessities...". "Biological capacity evolves until it maximizes the fitness of organisms for the niches they fill, and not a squiggle more...". He continues: "Every species, every kind of butterfly, bat, fish, and primate, including 'Homo sapiens', occupies a distinctive niche...", "Natural selection, in short, does not anticipate future needs. But this principle, while explaining so much so well, presents a difficulty. If the principle is universally true, how did natural selection prepare the mind for civilization before civilization existed? That is the great mystery of human evolution...".
Personally, I find that the above great mystery can not exist for the following reasons. It is quite clear that evolution through natural selection does not anticipate future needs. In fact, what this means is that evolution through natural selection is a reactive (and not a proactive) process. From a rational standpoint, insofar as civilization is concerned, evolution through natural selection favorably selects those who succeed at dealing with civilization as civilization occurs. And, these successful humans just continue to propagate minds increasingly adept at dealing with civilization, like in any other type of evolutionary change. Thus, it does not pose any "great mystery of human evolution" since it does not prepare beforehand "the mind for civilization before civilization existed".
Wilson concludes: "The brain constantly searches for meaning, for connections between objects and qualities that cross-cut the senses and provide information about external existence...", and "...as shown in the elementary cases of paralanguage [i.e., nonverbal communication] and color vocabulary, culture has risen from the genes and forever bears their stamp...[and] ...it has acquired a life of its own...".
It was Wilson the first to publish the concept of the influence of culture on evolution, introducing the term "gene-culture coevolution", in 1981. However, it was another biologist, the great geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (deceased in 1975), who was the first to actually postulate it, as shown by his posthumously published work of 1983.
Dobzhansky clearly posited: "...The interactions between biological and cultural evolution are double headed. The abilities man gains from cultural evolution feed back and modify his biological evolution and that of other organisms. The consequences of cultural evolution have modified the gene pools of the human species itself...". "By virtue of his cultural evolution, man has become the first species capable of both his own destruction and that of a large number of other species. Moreover, man is capable --at least in principle-- of consciously guiding his own evolution...".
Dobzhansky continued: "What gives man an extraordinary supremacy, what has permitted him to evolve at an unprecedented speed, is the transmission of learned experiences by means of an articulate and reflective language...". "Cultural evolution, that which separates us most strongly from other animals, not only permits but also forces us to interfere with our own evolution...". "In today's world, the pace of cultural evolution has completely outstripped that of biological evolution...". "The speed with which cultural changes occur may easily prevent the origin and development of mechanisms, even cultural mechanisms, that properly correct cultural disharmonies...".
Dobzhansky concluded: "The cultural evolution of man must now create a truly humanistic ethic. The survival of the species will be possible only if we dispose of...", i.e., if we overcome, "...ethics and altruisms that are limited to family, tribe, or those who hold the same religion or philosophy...", "...art, or the arts, is a human phenomenon. Animals do not produce works of art. The capacity to communicate with other individuals by an artistic expression composed, structured, freely chosen, and reflective is one of the characteristics which distinguishes man from other organisms... Art has always been a means of communication. Its role is more important than ever before... Faced with cultural degradation, art, by becoming even more than before a means of humanistic communication, can mitigate the alienation and the disequilibrium of modern man... The arts have an essential and new function in this progressive evolution: art is a product of cultural evolution; it must be a factor in its own future development... We do not know whether mankind will successfully develop the feedback mechanisms needed to control and guide cultural evolution."
The above advances of science help explain why science is not only enlightening, in that it provides a better appreciation of the universe, but in that it also provides an actual peek at God. I have four pronoun genders in my personal vocabulary, i.e., "he" (masculine), "she" (feminine), "it" (neuter), and "God" (sacred). I don't believe that God is masculine (to be referred to as "he"), or is feminine, or that it has a neuter gender. Humanity has sometimes unfortunately ascribed human (anthropomorphic) qualities to God throughout history. Like Voltaire once said, "If God created man, then man returned the favor".
PART II. SOME VERIFIABLE RATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
Chapter 2. Of Humanity (Ethics)
But, let's stop to think. From a "perception" point of view, it is evident that we have imperfect senses, so "whatever we perceive needs to be understood while making allowance for our imperfect senses". This must sound like it is stating the obvious but, actually, this is not so obvious, as we often reject and refuse to acknowledge what we perceive because we forget that we are perceiving with limitations. In fact, we forget that we may be perceiving only a hint or an aspect but not all that may be there. And this is not just common sense but it truly is reality as there are quantum physicists, like Michael A. Nielsen and Isaac L. Chuang, who find that the world to which we are accustomed and consider to be normal is just an approximation that can be derived from the true world which is described by quantum mechanics. In other words, there is much more to reality than our senses can perceive or that our intuition can fathom. But in spite of all this, it is amazing that with these limited senses how much man has collectively perceived sitting on this secondary and unimportant planet.
Man has been endowed with certain individual attributes (e.g., a brain, the power of reason, etc.). It is obviously a purpose in man's life to reasonably use, to the best of his ability, the attributes with which he has been endowed, as the contribution of his life. And it is equally obvious a flaw in man's individual character, and a shirking of responsibility, whenever man fails to reasonably use such attributes. After all, it is only thanks to the collective sharing and using of such individual attributes over time that has produced humanity's amazing "collective intelligence" and the scientific breakthroughs mentioned before. Additionally, it is arrogant for man to sometimes try to dictate how things should have been created. All that man can really do is learn from his rational perceptions.
Chapter 3. Of Faith and Reason
There are two fundamental attributes in man which are worth considering: the power of faith and the power of reason. They are both mutually exclusive. The power of faith is irrational and based on "belief" which excludes reason. In fact, the dictionary defines faith as a "firm belief in something for which there is no proof". Superstition, one may add, is also a belief, defined by the dictionary as "a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation; an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God". Reason, on the other hand, is defined by the dictionary as "intelligence, the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways".
That faith is irrational is not surprising as it is no different from other of man's emotions which are mostly irrational. Faith provides on one extreme the same kind of "soothing effect" that trust or hope generates, or the calming effect that the soothing words of a mother's lullaby has on a child. On the other extreme, faith provides the irrational strength that helps, sometimes, to overcome the insurmountable, even at the sacrifice of one's own life --an example of faith's irrational character. Traditionally, the power of faith has focused on what man didn't understand, and that he generally perceived as being supernatural or threatening, e.g., the eruption of a volcano, an eclipse, the afterworld, etc.
Reason, on the contrary, while also a part of man, is an attribute that seems to be capable of improvement and strengthening, and that benefits from the learning of humanity's collective reasoning. And so, exemplified by science's requirement that a given reasoning be confirmed, the power of reason has developed and grown just as man's accumulated knowledge has also developed and grown throughout the ages. And, just as what man didn't understand and believed to be supernatural has yielded to man's increased understanding of the world, so has the power of faith increasingly yielded to the power of reason (as science), becoming mostly focused on only the afterworld.
Some find hope in faith, others find hope in reason's probability, as faith has often been found to be so improbable, and reason is always open to correction. Besides, history tells us that without the moderation of reason and science, the power of faith has turned misguided, sometimes giving rise to superstition, fanaticism, and even the condemnation of nascent science. As a result, it is increasingly clear that faith should start only where reason stops, supplementing it but without conflicts or contradictions. To be otherwise is for man to surrender his intelligence and to settle for irrationality.
Chapter 4. Of God
The concept of God is not a product of faith but a product of reason. Irrational beings, i.e., those members of the animal kingdom which lack the power of reason, do not conceive the idea of God. Yet, man's individual reason, that which becomes the amazing "collective intelligence" of humanity, seems to constantly yearn, among other things, for the perfection of a superior being called God.
With this in mind, if and when man wonders about the concept of God, one place to turn to is the dictionaries to learn what man means by the word God. And man finds in all dictionaries that, no matter in what language, man generally defines God with attributes like: "the Absolute Being; the Creator of the Earth and the Universe; Omnipotent; Omniscient; Eternal; Omnipresent;" etc. And of all the attributes that man ascribes to the word God there seem to be at least five that are definitely not subjective, i.e., the attributes of "Omnipotent, Absolute, Eternal, Omnipresent and Omniscient".
If man were looking into the meaning of the word "table", in a similar way, man would find it defined in the dictionary as "a solid surface with four solid legs". And man would set out to see if such a concept exists. And upon finding it in the physical world, man would be satisfied that "table" is not a fantasy as it, in fact, exists.
So if man sets out to see whether one can find something that is omnipotent, absolute, eternal, omnipresent and that is omniscient, and through a careful process finds something that meets the criteria of being omnipotent, absolute, eternal, omnipresent and omniscient, man would be satisfied that "God" in fact exists. And as we know, man finds that "energy" meets the criteria.
We know that science, as discovered many years ago by the chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, has proven that "energy can not be created and can not be destroyed, it can only be transformed". But this means that energy is eternal. Besides, science shows that energy is omnipotent, omnipresent and absolute. Energy has unlimited influence. Nothing exists without energy. Energy permeates and encompasses everything. It sustains everything, whether animate or inanimate. In fact it even exists in what was thought to be the vacuum of outer space. And, as it will become clearer further down, the multiple expressions of energy also show that energy is omniscient in that it possesses a "universal and complete knowledge" (the dictionary definition of "omniscient") to produce such multiple expressions, some of which we are familiar with, such as life, among others. So energy does meet the criteria of the concept of God.
The findings of string theory (a subset of M-theory) also suggest that all energy is THE SAME. In other words, the energy that sustains the existence of a piece of granite is exactly the same as the energy that sustains the existence of a pint of water or the energy that sustains the existence of man. The only thing that varies is the vibration of the string.
And the fact that the objective attributes of the concept of "God" match those which science has found in "energy" is not something accidental and should not come as a surprise for the following reasons. We know that the concept of God is a product of reason. But reason, as everything in man, is the product of evolution, both genetic and cultural evolution. But evolution, being a reactive and not a proactive process, is the result of outside influences from the natural world. And the natural world is a multiplicity of expressions of energy, some of them pleasing, such as a beautiful day, some of them threatening, such as a volcano erupting, some of them amazing and full of wonderment, such as the vastness of the universe, some of them absorbing like the reflective aspects of man's language. And all these influences shaped man and all that constitutes man, including reason. And in shaping reason these expressions of energy also shaped the different concepts that man's reason produced. This included the concept of supreme causes or "gods" capable of providing love and protection for the different expressions of energy. And this concept eventually evolved to that of only one supreme being called "God", with objective attributes equal to that which we call "energy". In other words, energy evolved man and, among other things, inspired man to develop the concept of God.
And if we find this to be limiting, lets again remember that "whatever we perceive needs to be understood while making allowance for our imperfect senses". This means that before rejecting this perception that "energy" satisfies the attributes of God, and of perhaps rather feeling that "energy" falls short of all that one may think of God, one needs to realize that "energy" is only what our limited and imperfect senses perceive of God. In other words God may be much more, it just happens that our limited senses can perceive only the energy aspect of God. Yet, that there is "much more" is something suggested by the following evidence. Science (particularly quantum mechanics) has already shown us that the limitations of our senses prevent us from perceiving all that is already known to be really there. As a result, this suggests that there is a strong probability that there is certainly "much more" than what we can fathom. In any case, the argument against atheism is undeniably settled. God eternal, absolute, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and as defined by man exists physically, just as much as man exists physically, but without the restrictions of man's physical existence.
So, sustained by an eternal energy (God), a universe exists with a mineral world, a vegetal world, a fungal world, and an animal world (of which we are a part), a universe ruled by what we perceive as the laws of nature, including the law of evolution. And eternal energy (God) sustains said law of evolution to produce a specific model, man, so that, in infinite wisdom, in its quest to produce man it also produces an additional ecology of species to support said man. And, no different from what makes a child smile or cry, eternal energy (God) sustains what we perceive as good or evil, what we perceive as pleasure or pain and what we perceive as love or hatred, so as to help us grow and to show the way to all of us, both the affected and the witnesses. And eternal energy (God) permeates, encompasses and sustains all that exists which we perceive with our limited senses as an eternal, absolute, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient energy. An energy which can not be created or destroyed, only transformed, an eternal energy that permeates, encompasses and sustains man: an expression and a temple of such eternal energy (God).
Man is an expression of God because man is energy, like everything else. And man is a temple of God because God (physically perceived as energy) is in every cell of man's body and in every atom of everything else.
Chapter 5. Of Consciousness and Soul
Before proceeding, it may be helpful to clarify the difference between "consciousness" and "soul".
The dictionary defines the word "consciousness" as "the quality or state of being aware specially of something within oneself; the state of being characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, and thought; the normal state of conscious life;..." among others. Thus, human consciousness (personality), a product of the human brain, with all its dated baggage of a lifetime of memories good and bad, is an useful attribute of the brain for living humans, but not something worth to survive the body for eternity. Besides, since the brain does not survive the body, neither does human consciousness.
On the other hand, the dictionary defines the word "soul" as "that immaterial essence, animating principle, actuating cause of an individual life, or that spiritual principle embodied in human beings, in all rational and spiritual beings, or in the universe". But, every living thing that exists (whether it is a man, a dog, etc.) has an individuality, i.e., a soul. And each soul, as an essence of the individual's energy, is itself an expression of eternal energy (i.e., God). And each individual's soul is different and unique, and so is man's soul. But not only does man, the thinking being, have a more evolved soul but, obviously, a soul is an evolving soul. And I say "obviously" because humanity's unhappy history teaches us that man is in need of more evolution of the soul. And, as a result of this need for more evolution of the soul, and if the soul survives the body, the evolution would require a soul to undergo a process of reincarnation, but not into this humanity. Because, if the reincarnation were to take place into this humanity then this humanity would have shown an improvement over the ages. Yet this humanity has not been shown to have made much progress over the ages. So, the reincarnation would have to be rather in some other "humanity", in some different world, perhaps even in a different universe but, certainly, in a different place.
So, what can science tell us about whether the soul survives the body?
As we know from "Chapter 1 Of Science", according to geneticists, particularly Theodosius Dobzhansky, "the abilities man gains from cultural evolution feed back and modify his biological evolution… " and "[c]ultural evolution… not only permits but also forces us to interfere with our own evolution…". In other words, cultural evolution not only has the power to modify the genes but it actually modifies the genes, i.e., their energy. And, as we also know from both "Chapter 1 Of Science" and "Chapter 4 Of God", the findings of string theory (a subset of M-theory) suggest that all energy is the same except for the vibrations of the string. This means that the changes that cultural evolution makes to the genes are actually modifications of the vibrations of the string which makes up the energy of such genes. And energy (God), being eternal, not only survives the body but survives it in a changed state which reflects the individuality, i.e., the soul, of that individual.
Thus, man's soul not only survives the body, but is in need of more evolution and it requires a process of reincarnation, but not into this humanity.
Chapter 6. Of Prayer, Praying and Meditation
It is evident that man's body has the capacity for self healing and regeneration during sleep. Also, my personal experience suggests that man does profit from his prayers. But, by this I do not mean that God (energy) is like a servant-god waiting to satisfy man's prayers, but rather that God has endowed man himself with the ability to benefit from his own prayers. And to better understand this, a distinction needs to be made about "prayer" and the act of "praying".
The dictionary defines "prayer" as "an address (as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought". And it defines "praying" as "the act of making that petition or address", i.e., the gerund of the verb to pray. The reason for making this distinction is because "prayer" and "praying" have different effects as we will see further down. For the moment, let's investigate the effectiveness of prayers themselves.
There are essentially two types of prayers, intercessory prayers, i.e., prayers made for the benefit of somebody else, and personal prayers, i.e., prayers made for our own benefit.
Regarding intercessory prayers, in 2006 a carefully controlled experiment was conducted by several scientists including, among others, Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston, Massachusetts. The following is how the "American Heart Journal" describes the experiment:
"Patients at 6 US hospitals were randomly assigned to 1 to 3 groups: 604 received intercessory prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; and 601 received intercessory prayer after being informed they would receive prayer. Intercessory prayer was provided for 14 days, starting the night before the coronary artery bypass graft (CABG). The primary outcome was [to be the] presence of any complication within 30 days of CABG. Secondary outcomes were [to be] any major event and mortality."
The experiment established the ineffectiveness of intercessory prayers, concluding with the following quote:
"Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications."
Well, so much for intercessory prayers. But, what about personal prayers, are they effective?
Stop to reflect for a moment about how many times you truly think that you or other people have realized what was petitioned in the prayer. For example, how many times do you think that people have prayed for the cure of their incurable diseases, before they died? Or, how many times do you think that you or others have prayed to win the lottery, and actually won it? One could go on seriously focusing on cases that could be verified as not being coincidental. As recently disclosed in the media, even Mother Teresa, the missionary Roman Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata (Calcutta), India in 1950, felt that prayers had let her down.So, it doesn't take much more to highlight the ineffectiveness of prayers in general.
But, if prayers are ineffective, why do people pray? This question takes us to the second portion of this section's title, i.e., praying. Prayer and praying have really quite different effects. Even though the evidence is that we don't obtain the petition of the prayer, when one prays one often feels good and hopeful, regardless of whether the petition will be obtained. It is a "feeling of acceptance" that is developed when we relinquish the petition that we have made. In any case, what matters is the calm or healing that is felt.
Anecdotal evidence, quoted by some physicians, suggests that people who pray actually fare and do better health-wise than those who do not pray. Whether we psych ourselves or not with the prayer is irrelevant for this discussion, what is important here is that the act of praying is generally beneficial to man. In other words, man has the ability or capacity to influence his physical well-being by instilling himself with hope and optimism through the act of praying. It actually reduces the stress.
So, one thing is clear, even if intercessory and personal prayers are ineffective in obtaining what is being petitioned, they are quite effective in making man feel better. It is as if the act of praying were almost as beneficial as the act of meditating. And this takes us to the third portion of the title of this section, meditation.
Controlled experiments have established that meditation elicits the self-healing and regeneration which is otherwise obtained through the act of sleeping. Except that it is even better.
Back in 1975, Dr. Herbert Benson, at the time Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Director of the Hypertension Section of the Boston Beth Israel Hospital, coined the term "Relaxation Response". To quote Dr. Benson: "The term Relaxation Response... refers to the inborn capacity of the body to enter a special state characterized by lowered heart rate, decreased rate of breathing, lowered blood pressure, slower brain waves, and an overall reduction of the speed of metabolism. In addition, the changes produced by this Response counteract the harmful effects and uncomfortable feeling of stress."
Benson continues: "Certain meditative and prayerful instructions can be employed to elicit the Relaxation Response...the effects of this simple technique [of the Relaxation Response] combined with a person's deepest personal beliefs, can create other internal environments that can help the individual reach enhanced states of health and well-being. This combination of a Relaxation Response technique with the individual's belief system... contains two powerful but familiar spiritual vehicles: (1) meditation; and (2) a deeply held set of philosophical or religious convictions... The power the mind can exercise over the body and the five senses becomes important when medical treatment is involved... In medical parlance, this... is often referred to as the 'placebo effect'".
Benson concludes: "The Relaxation Response technique you use usually won't have any dramatic, immediate effect, even though you may feel more rested and refreshed after the first session. The long-term physical and emotional benefits, on the other hand, will become quite evident after you've practiced the technique regularly, over an extended period of weeks... [But,] After you assert your overwhelming desire to get well, back off. In other words... it is important to move from active desire to passive acceptance. In this way, you'll break the buildup of possible stress that performance-related positive thinking has engendered and prevent the stress from having a damaging effect on your body's natural healing capacities."
Thus, the findings are clear. God (energy) is not a servant-god. And prayers are ineffective in obtaining what they petition. But the act of praying and the act of meditation bring all sorts of benefits that enable the inborn capacity that God has given to man's body to enhance man's health and well-being.
Chapter 7. Of Philosophy, in General
The nature of the work "The Philosophy of Science" is not "philosophic" --a term that would misrepresent it and that must be rejected for reasons that will be clearer below.
As stated in the title, "The Philosophy of Science" is a work based on "verifiable reasoned observations of humanity's reality". Philosophy, on the other hand, focuses on the unknown, particularly that which is not presently discernible through verifiable reason. As a result, most of the arguments of philosophy are "unverifiable speculative subjective opinions" that reflect views of the unknown held by different individuals.
The subjective nature of philosophy gives rise to a great number of unique philosophies (i.e., unverifiable speculative subjective opinions). A number which, in some cases, includes different versions which are variations of a same given philosophy to satisfy the naturally different subjective opinions that other individuals have. The following partial list of philosophies is evidence of the multiplicity of such unverifiable speculative subjective opinions (origins in parentheses):
• Absurdism (Soren Kierkegaard): the belief that the efforts of humanity to find meaning in the universe will ultimately fail.
• Agnosticism (Thomas Henry Huxley): the belief that the unknown is inherently unknowable due to the nature of subjective experience.
• Atheism (Ancient Greece): the denial of the existence of Gods or rejection of theism.
• Deism (Lord Herbert of Cherbury): the belief that the existence and nature of God can be derived from reason and personal experience.
• Empiricism (James Frederick Ferrier, John Locke, George Berkeley, and Davis Hume): the belief that the fundamental requirement of scientific method is that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning , intuition, or revelation. It is based on epistemology or "theory of knowledge" which is the branch of philosophy which is concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge.
• Existentialism (Soren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger): the denial of God as a transcendent force and the responsibility of human beings to create the meaning and essence of their lives as persons.
• Humanism (Ancient Greece, Gautama Buddha, and Confucius): the belief in the dignity and worth of all people.
• Materialism (Ancient India, Ajita Kesakambali, Payasi, and Kanada): the belief that the only thing that can be truly proven to exist is matter.
• Nihilism (Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi): the belief that being, especially past and current human existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value.
• Ontology (Ancient Greece, Socrates, Plato, Aristoteles): the belief in the study of conceptions of reality and the nature of being and the study of being or existence.
• Pantheism (Ancient Greece, Thales, Parmenides and Heraclitus): the belief that the universe, or nature, and God are equivalent.
• Phenomenology (G.W.F. Hegel, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger): the belief in the reflective study of the essence of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view --an approach to philosophy that begins with an exploration of phenomena (or what presents itself to us in conscious experience) as a means to finally grasp the absolute, logical, ontological and metaphysical Spirit that is behind phenomena.
• Positivism (Auguste Comte): the belief that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only come from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method.
• Rationalism (Socrates, Plotinus, René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, Immanuel Kant and Benedict de Spinoza ): the belief that rational consciousness is the primary reality and includes any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification.
• Relativism (Indian Religions, Mahavira, Bernard Crick, Paul Feyerabend, Thomas Kuhn): the belief that some element or aspect of experience or culture is relative to, i.e., dependent on, some other element or aspect.
• Skepticism (Ancient Greece and René Descartes): the belief in obtaining knowledge through systematic doubt and continual testing.
• Stoicism (Ancient Greece and Zeno of Citium) : the belief in self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions and understanding the universal reason.
• Theism (term coined in 1678 probably in reaction to atheism): the belief in the existence of one or more divinities or deities. It includes polytheism, monotheism, pantheism, among others.
• Utilitarianism (Ancient Greece, Epicurus and Jeremy Bentham): the belief that the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall utility.
In addition to having to cope with the multiplicity of subjective philosophies, one also needs to contend in most cases with the apparently unnecessary but convoluted way with which most of them are written by their authors, as if they were uninterested in sharing their subjectivity. Whether it may have been just plain vanity, deficient writing or purposeful disregard of the reader is not for us to judge. The following are a couple of examples.
Baruch de Spinoza, inspired by the love of Descartes' mathematics, stated: "I will therefore write about human beings as though I were concerned with lines and planes and solids." As a result, he proceeded to write his "Ethics" treatise full of Axioms, Propositions, and Demonstrations like the Geometry of Euclid.
A second example quotes Paul Gorner, Honorary Senior Lecturer of the University of Aberdeen, UK. Gorner says that "by its very nature [i.e., because of its subjectivity] writing about [somebody else's] philosophy is interpretive... [and] By any standards [philosopher] Martin Heidegger's text is difficult... [yet] To a significant extent he forges his own philosophical vocabulary, often making use of peculiarly German features of language...[Besides,] although Heidegger rejects the charge of circularity, there is also a sense in which his procedure is necessarily circular."
In any case, of all these many philosophies, Empiricism seems to be the most objective of them all, free of "unverifiable speculative subjective opinions". Positivism also seems to be fairly objective in acknowledging the benefit of science in establishing reliable and verifiable knowledge. Yet, Positivism appears to fall short in that it specifically identifies scientific knowledge as being the only authentic reliable knowledge. Presumably, knowledge that is not established by one of the sciences is not supportable, even if established through the scientific method.
However, more than being a reliable source of knowledge, one of the most important contributions of science to humanity is that it has demonstrated the power and reliability of the scientific method, i.e., the power of verifiable reasoning successfully tested against observations of the natural world. But really, its most important contribution actually is that this scientific method can also be used in many endeavors other than those of the known branches of science themselves. And that is the method used in the work "The Philosophy of Science" and what is meant when it is said: "reason as exemplified by science". This is why "The Philosophy of Science" is not a philosophy but the verifiable reality of humanity.
So, the multiplicity of unverifiable and speculative subjective opinions of the unknown, i.e., the basis of philosophy in general, only results in an innumerable set of equally unverifiable, speculative and subjective philosophies. At best, one may wonder whether such a practice may have been a necessary step in the evolution of man, perhaps helping to fine-tune in man's mind the yearning for truth that eventually lead to the successful establishment of science's verifiable reasoning approach.
Chapter 8. Of Life
The subject of "life" is perhaps the most intriguing mystery that man has faced from the beginning of reasoning. So, what can be said about life?
The dictionary defines "life" as "the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body; a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings; an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction; the period of existence; a property (as resilience or elasticity) of an inanimate substance or object resembling the animate quality of a living being..." among many other things.
Also, from "Chapter 1. Of Science", we learned from Schrödinger that the differences between inanimate and animate matter are best explained as follows: "[the] unfolding of events in the life cycle of an organism exhibits an admirable regularity and orderliness, unrivalled by anything we meet with in inanimate matter. We find it controlled by a supremely well-ordered group of atoms which represent only a very small fraction of the sum total in every cell. Moreover, from the view we have formed of the mechanism of [evolutional] mutation we conclude that the dislocation of just a few atoms within the group of 'governing atoms' of the germ cell suffices to bring a well-defined change in the large-scale hereditary characteristics of the organism."
In other words, a very small number of "governing atoms" in every cell not only give life to that individual but also determine the accumulated hereditary characteristics that actually results in a changed state of the individual's energy. And, as we learned earlier, this changed state is none other than the individuality or soul of the individual which eventually survives the body and enhances eternal energy (God). And it is this enhancement, the only act of eternal significance, which appears to be the single and only contribution of life.
So, if one were to ask "What is Life?", simply put and from all evidence, life is a process to enhance eternal energy (God).
Chapter 9. Summary
As one reflects back on the above discussion, some conclusions can be summarized:
It is obviously a flaw in man's individual character, and a shirking of responsibility, whenever man fails to reasonably use the individual attributes with which he has been endowed and fails to learn from his rational perceptions.
Faith should start only where reason stops, supplementing it but without conflicts or contradictions. To be otherwise is for man to surrender his intelligence and to settle for irrationality.
Perceived by our limited senses as an eternal, absolute, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient energy, God eternal, absolute, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and as defined by man undeniably exists physically, just as much as man exists physically, but without the restrictions of man's physical existence.
Of Consciousness and Soul:
Man's soul not only survives the body, but is in need of more evolution and it requires a process of reincarnation, but not into this humanity.
Of Prayer, Praying and Meditation:
God (energy) is not a servant-god. And prayers are ineffective in obtaining what they petition. But the act of praying and the act of meditation bring all sorts of benefits that enable the inborn capacity that God has given to man's body to enhance man's health and well-being.
Of Philosophy, in General:
The multiplicity of unverifiable and speculative subjective opinions of the unknown, i.e., the basis of philosophy in general, only results in an innumerable set of equally unverifiable, speculative and subjective philosophies. On the other hand, in addition to more than being a reliable source of knowledge, science has contributed to humanity the power and reliability of the scientific method. But, most importantly, it has contributed a scientific method that can be also successfully used in many endeavors other than today's known branches of science themselves.
A very small number of "governing atoms" in every cell of an individual's body not only give life to that individual but also determine the accumulated hereditary characteristics that actually results in a changed state of the individual's energy. This changed state is none other than the individuality or soul of the individual which eventually survives the body and enhances eternal energy (God). And it is this enhancement, the only act of eternal significance, which appears to be the single and only contribution of life. So, if one were to ask "What is Life?", simply put and from all evidence, life is a process to enhance eternal energy (God).
PART III. EPILOGUE
Chapter 10. What Next?
With the help of verifiable reason, we have delved into eight topics, some which have often puzzled humanity:
· Life: its single and only contribution.
· “The Philosophy of Science”: not “another philosophy” but it is reality.
· Prayers: they are ineffective but the act of praying helps man to heal himself.
· Soul: it is eternal.
· God: as defined by man, God exists in the physical world.
· Faith: it is as irrational as other of man’s emotions.
· Man’s Ethics: it is based on his reasonable use of his abilities.
· Science: it has as yet to make its major contribution of man’s general use of verifiable reason.
Collective reason improves and advances over time because of science's requirement that each given reasoning be subject to confirmation. This is a constant improvement that appears to be restricted to reason exemplified by science. This rate of improvement, most visible over the last century, has accelerated during the last few decades. Given this, one would expect a few millennia to bring about an amazing and enlightened version of humanity. But not if the concerns of scientists about the future of the environment come to pass.
Reason and rationality are qualities which are evidently in short supply in this humanity. Evolution still has much to do in this respect. As a result, the unfortunate preponderance of irrationality and scientific ignorance, or lack of interest thereof, that exists in humanity certainly clouds this picture, giving room for pause, particularly since, according to biologist E.O. Wilson, "scientific knowledge, humanized and well taught, is the key to achieving a lasting balance in our lives".
Having considered all these dreadful possibilities, if one had to make a guess one's guarded reaction would be that, nevertheless, humanity will overcome and recover from these extremes because of the following reasons: (a) why would it appear that the incredible collective intelligence of man is the only thing of humanity to continue to improve over the ages, if it were not meant to overcome these cultural evolutional shortcomings, and achieve some goals as yet unknown to man? and, while time is running out, (b) why would cultural evolution have such an incredible pace, as compared to gene evolution, if it were not for overcoming such cultural evolutional shortcomings?
I find that just about all philosophies or religions contribute something of value in the evolutionary development of humanity. Unfortunately, they all lack that qualitative aspect only contributed by science, i.e., reasoning subject to verification --the basis of this work ever in progress.
My trinity embodies three concepts: evolution of the consciousness, reasoned revelation, and objective confirmation. Over time, many human attributes have been ascribed to God and included in invocations to God, often undermining the concept of God. Also, God is not just "my" God or "our" God but everybody's. And God is not located in just a distant place called "heaven" but God is really intimately with us and with everything else, always. Here is a suggested non-chauvinistic and non-anthropomorphic invocation:
Oh eternal God, who art with us,
hallowed be Thy name.
Here in Thy kingdom
Thy will be done
in Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
Keep us from temptation
and deliver us from evil.
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