Amit Goswami, Ph.D.

theoretical quantum physicist

Can Science and Religion be Integrated?

Can science and religion be integrated?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?

First, it is only a perception that religions are pluralistic and science is not.Science is monolithic only so far as science of matter–physics and chemistry–is concerned.Psychology, the science of the psyche, has three different paradigms–behavioral-cognitive consisting of hard science orientation, depth psychology consisting of Freudian psychoanalysis and Jungian analytical psychology and their derivatives with psychotherapy orientation, and humanistic-transpersonal-yoga psychology with positive mental health orientation.Both the later paradigms of psychology acknowledge downward causation and subtle bodies in some form or other.Medicine has the conventional allopathic medicine and also alternative medicine practices that complement it.A prominent part of alternative medicine is Eastern medicine that emphasizes subtle energies called variously as prana, chi, and ki. And biology is in transition right now.The materialist biology is highly developed but with some unsolved (maybe unsolvable) problems.Alternative biology is biology that sees life as the handiwork of a purposive designer with the power of downward causation; but at present it is so poorly developed that hardly anyone can call it a genuine alternative biology.

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 non-material “subtle” bodies connected with our internal experiences–feeling, meaning, and values–in addition to the material body.The subtle bodies correspond to the pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, and the vijnanamaya kosha of the Upanishads.

Finally, 3) All religions posit the importance of certain values as the goal of life; values such as, love, truth, beauty, justice, good.These godly qualities are what give our life meaning, religions maintain, because God designed us.

Currently, 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 and negate about the three religious contentions about 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 externally, matter, are explainable in material terms.However, so far this has only been 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 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 a way that dualism does not ruin the integration.This is the problem that has been solved by this author (for details, read my book The Visionary Window) using some ideas of 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 matter base to consciousness base.

In quantum physics, objects are not determined things of Newtonian vintage.Instead, they are waves of possibility.When we observe, these waves “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.

A comedian in Calcutta was walking the sidewalk when a certain container of rasagullas in a display window grabbed his attention.The fellow went into the shop and asked the mithaiwalla for some rasagullas.But when the mithaiwalla started to bring out the rasagullas in the display window, the comedian stopped him.”I don’t want those; don’t you have some of the same kind in your backroom?”The confectioner was offended.”Sir, all my sweets are fresh and good,” he said indignantly.The comedian said, “No, no.I don’t doubt that.But people have been looking at those rasagullas!”

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; try it and see.

Imagine possible cars in a car lot.Also imagine possible money in your bank account.Now imagine hard and combine the two possibilities!Do you expect a car manifesting in your garage?

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.

Note that in every event of observation, there is the object the observer is looking at and a second object consisting of the observer, a brain.Before observation, before collapse, both are waves of possibility.When consciousness chooses, only then the brain is actualized along with the external object as experiences, as appearances in consciousness.Consciousness identifies with the brain due to a specialness of the brain, a specialness that makes an object with a brain an observer.This conscious identity is what we call the self, what we experience as a subject looking at the collapsed object.Consciousness, the chooser, transcends both the immanent subject and object.

In this generalized science within consciousness, upward causation gives us the waves of possibility to choose from; downward causation consists of the act of choice.Both modes of causation are incorporated.And there is no dualism; the subject-object duality is seen to be an appearance!

Back in the nineteen seventies, when quantum physicists were first proposing that we choose our own reality, many people in America and Europe 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.

For the materialist model of individual consciousness associated with each brain, the solution is called solipsism.Only your consciousness is real; everybody else is a fragment of your imagination.

Many of us feel this way of course.A woman meets a friend after a long time, gets excited and takes her to a caf

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