What is most responsible for the present state of the world, for the way things are? Isn’t it science and technology? For isn’t it true, as Steven Pinker reminds us, that “…the sciences have made vertiginous leaps in understanding, while technology has given us secular miracles like smartphones, genome scans and stunning photographs of outer planets and distant galaxies. No historian with a long view could miss the fact that we are living in a period of extraordinary intellectual accomplishment.”
In other words isn’t it science, coming to most of us in the form of its principal creation, technology, not religion as in earlier periods, that now dominates our lives from birth to death? If we now number some 7 billion individuals and counting, and are able to adequately feed this many mouths, isn’t it because of the miracles of modern science?
The New Testament miracle of the five loaves and the two fish, when Jesus, looking up to heaven and giving thanks, broke the loaves and gave them to his disciples who then fed more than 5000 men, women and children with the broken pieces, is now an everyday reality. Now the “disciples” of modern agricultural miracles are feeding billions of people and have not come close to reaching the end of the food in their baskets.
At earlier times, probably at all times before the advent of modern science in the 17th century, things were different. Among the deeply spiritual Sioux of our own Great Plains, among the religious monastic orders of the European Middle Ages, the Franciscans, Dominicans et al., among the Shaktists, the Vaishnavites, and the other Hindu religious communities of ancient India, in fact among most people alive on the earth, religion was dominant, vital, almost like air, water, and fire, to their lives.
No longer is this true, now science is dominant. Science, is now what is clearly most vital to our lives. Religion, as well as the houses of religion, the churches, mosques, temples et al. are things of the past, at best, perhaps, museums, points on tourist travel itineraries.
So why do we go on acting as if this were not so? Why hasn’t its proper place in the order of things been given to science? And in fact it is science that we turn to for clean air, clean water, and for harnessing fire. Not religion. In fact religion never had this kind of power.
Why, say in our schools, do we relegate science to a list of subject matters? Science, fully understood, would and should be what all education is about. Science texts ought to be read in the Madrassas instead of the Koran. Talk about change in the Islamic world. This would do it overnight.
Why are so many so far from making this happen, from giving science its rightful place? For doesn’t everyone want the benefits of modern science, in fact, doesn’t everyone already profit from those benefits? And in so many regions of the world it is science, not religion that saves. Why don’t our leaders act as if this were so?
The theories of modern science are the very best descriptions we have of our world, of the earth, the solar system, the universe. We are a part of that world and if we would play our part fully and correctly, if we would realize our individual potentials in our own brief lifetimes, we ought to try to become, to the extent that we are able to, familiar with the world that science is describing.
The writer and biologist, Richard Dawkins, has written a book, almost with all this in mind. For him, as for many others, science is not only the best description we have of our world. Science is also, no less than religion before it, about wonders, about miracles.
But science, unlike religion, directs us not towards another life, but towards this life, towards reality. For when properly understood, as by the brilliant creators of modern science, the ultimate miracle is the “Magic of Reality,” this being the title of Dawkins’ book.