The last three centuries have witnessed a mighty struggle between traditional religions and modern science. This struggle arises from two major misconceptions regarding the effective reach & power of Science. The first misconception is that all reality past, present & future is amenable to scientific inquiry and therefore no alternative way, such as religion, of knowing reality is needed. The second misconception is that the unlimited growth of Mankind's scientific knowledge would afford Man an unlimited power to control and shape all of reality, including Mankind's societies. As we shall see below, recent discoveries in Biology & Computer Science prove both of these suppositions false. Specifically, in the last decade, there have been a number of key discoveries in biology that when examined from a computational complexity theory viewpoint offer a potential dialectic reconciliation of these two paths to Truth.
While traditional religions are based on the intuitions of countless generations of pre-scientific people, thus lacking the intellectual rigor of real science, they are not necessarily totally devoid of validity. On the other hand, so called scientific theories of psychology, sociology & politics, are fundamentally WRONG. In fact, they all wrongly assume that the paradigm of the physical sciences applies to them.
The physical sciences deal with systems which are computable or predictable. The young science of process (Computer Science) has shown that there are many processes which are uncomputable. Computable systems are controllable systems. In fact, one can always choose suitable starting conditions to end up in a desired future state. This controllability is at the root of the fascination of the best & brightest with science in the last few centuries. That is, the delusion that Man is complete master of his destiny with the corollary consequence that no Deus ex Machina is required to explain all of reality.
The recent discoveries in Evolutionary Biology (EvoDevo), when seen from a computational complexity point of view, prove definitely that reality, at the biological and higher complexity levels, is not, generally computable or predictable. Therefore biological & higher complexity systems are NOT controllable or robot like. In other words, reality is made up of layers of computable/predictable systems (the physical sciences: physics, astronomy, cosmology, inorganic chemistry) and generally unpredictable systems. I.e. biology, psychology, sociology, political systems, financial systems, industrial systems and the arts. It is, of course, no happenstance that Science developed first about the lower complexity layer of reality.
In other words reality is composed of several levels of increasing complexity. There are two key aspects of this division:
The last three centuries or so of scientific development have engendered, in society, a presupposition of scientific controllability, and a belief, especially among non scientists, that as a result of ever expanding scientific knowledge, Mankind would reach, in a not too distant future, a perfect nirvana of a world with no inequities, stress or suffering.
The recent developments in biology herald a new phase in scientific development, that while promising dazzling results in bioengineering and medicine, will drastically downsize Mankind hubris about its powers. Instead of dreaming of unattainable god-like powers to shape & influence Nature, man will bask in the contemplation of a Universe that has an innate ability to evolve itself in myriads of unexpected and beautiful directions and creations.
With the DNA sequencing technology we are rapidly accumulating a vast amount of comparative genetic information which in turn is shedding a lot of objective light on the evolutionary process. One of the most important conclusion from all this evidence is that evolution is a proven fact and it is no longer possible to argue against its reality. Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly possible to reconstruct the genealogical quasi-tree of large collections of related species. It is now possible to look at specific traits of a species members and to indicate when that trait was first evolved. For example the bilateral symmetry of vertebrates was evolved during the Cambrian period about 510 MYA when the first fishes appeared.
In addition to the factual reality of evolution, one can prove, as done in Complexity, that evolution is indeed logically necessary, that is, biology could not be created in any other way.
Unfortunately the development of Science, in recent centuries, has resulted in the naive assumption that complex systems such as politics could be handled in a progressive manner by adopting a scientific theory of politics, replacing religions replete of scientifically provable errors. Indeed it is true that the physical sciences have proven some of these early religious beliefs false. To wit Galileo Galilei condemnation by the Church for believing that the Sun & not the Earth was the center of the Universe. Many more examples can be given of such clamorous rebuttals. However, subsequent cultural developments have not led to an enlightened philosophical view reconciling what is positively known (science) with what is not known, the future of complex systems (religion). As a consequence, the cultural developments of the 20th & 21st centuries are leading to the total destruction of the traditional religions by replacing them with a religion of man, which spans a number of pseudo scientific beliefs such as: global warming; extreme forms of egalitarianism; the unrestricted supremacy of the community over the individual; the ownership of the means of production by the State, that is the conflating of economic & political power; extreme forms of sexual permissiveness; the complete control by the community of policies regarding beginning & end of life decisions; etc.
This new religion is nothing more than the Antonio Gramsci version of Marxism. It is indeed, as well argued on the numberwatch website, a religion masquerading as science. It is like all religions very intolerant of the non believers and very dangerous because of its powerful appeal to the unsuccessful and extreme concentration of wealth & power in the hands of its priests.
The three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity & Islam, which arose in the Middle East, share a great deal of common elements. In fact, all three postulate the existence of an all powerful and knowing God who created Heaven & Earth. The major difference between them is the nature of the relationship of God to Man. In Judaism God is a severe Father to Mankind, in Christianity He is still assumed to be a Father but of more benevolent & loving kind. In Islam Man is viewed as a subject of God. Excluding, for the time being, the religions of the Extreme Orient we can say that the naive so called scientific thinking of the 18th, 19th, 20th & present century resulted into the religion of man being thought of as antithesis of the religion of God. The arguments presented in this note then can be stated briefly by saying: "the advances in biology & computer science prove that neither of these theologies are supported by scientific evidence".
The question then is: "what theology would be supported by the available scientific evidence?". It seems clear that the only remaining possibility. Namely, that the Universe creates itself & cannot be controlled in its becoming has to be the valid one. Interestingly the great religions of the Extreme Orient are religions of the Universe so possibly they can be candidates for a moral outlook that does not conflict with actuality, but would inform a moral behavior, on Mankind part, that would not be as destructive as that promoted by the ME religions.
A crucial consequence of reality structure of predictable and unpredictable spheres is that there does not exist & there never will be any individual or group of people who can validly claim to have dependable insights on how to steer a society or a culture towards a GOOD future. The best that can be done is to rely on the wisdom of the crowds. Namely, democratic decision making processes involving as large a crowd as possible and some universal & broad moral principle. Namely, a golden rule.
There are, of course, alternative golden rules. To start with the rule that characterized feudal societies. Namely, The Golden Rule: Them who have the Gold Make the Rules. This rather brutal rule has been transcended in the last centuries by the Judeo-Christian golden rule. Namely: Do unto others as you wish they would do unto you. The latter has been, when observed, quite successful in steering these societies towards an undenyably exciting future. However, there are circumstances when this Judeo-Christian golden rule does not lead to better futures. For example, if two parties collude in applying this rule to themselves at the expense of alien or stranger groups it fails to guarantee "good" futures.
The ultimate golden rule is Behave so to maximize future possibilities. In other words, anything that curtails future outcomes is evil, anything which fosters future outcomes is good. Another way to put it is that a moral being is good if his operate is not in the way of evolutionary process. Evolutionary process should be understood to include the biological, psychological, cultural, social, political, artistic & productive processes.
Copyright Ugo O. Gagliardi 2010