Category Archives: science

the spirituality spot

Fascinating article on the Livescience.com site about a spirituality “spot” in the brain.

The area in question — the right parietal lobe — is responsible for defining “Me,” said researcher Brick Johnstone of Missouri University. It generates self-criticism, he said, and guides us through physical and social terrains by constantly updating our self-knowledge: my hand, my cocktail, my witty conversation skills, my new love interest …

People with less active Me-Definers are more likely to lead spiritual lives, reports the study in the current issue of the journal Zygon.

VERY interesting and worth reading the whole, short article.

In conjunction with this, I’ve also been reading about the link between spirituality and niceness. Crunchy Con had a piece on it as well as The New York Times.

Hmmm, wonder if the two are related? Makes one question how much free will is involved in our spiritual choices, are we really hardwired to lean one way or another, what about people who make total conversions, did thier brains change? Fascinating stuff!

notes from the edge of the river – IV the universe

These writings were from my solo vacation to a little red caboose cabin near Bandera, Texas this past week. A long weekend of relaxing, reflection and exploration.

There’s nothing like staring at the stars to get one’s mind turning to thoughts of how the heck this universe came into being. By 7pm (pre daylight savings) it is too dark in the hill country of Texas to do much outside. So I’m in for the evening. Luckily the owners of the caboose had quite a selection of videos to choose from – yes the VHS kind. I decided on Stephen Hawking’s “Universe”. Truly amazing; watching things like this always reignites my love of science and my awe at people whose minds can figure this stuff out.

For those who believe in a strict constructionist approach to the Bible Mr. Hawking’s theories would be blasphemy. It detailed the big bang theory, dark matter and questions on how the universe might end. The planet Earth was a miniscule part of this discussion as it was just one of hundreds of thousands of mass in the universe. It made the biblical original of earth seem almost ludicrous. If God created this amazing expanse, why focus so much time and energies on Earth? Then again, who knows what God theories exist on other planets!

It made me ponder the divine intervention concept, one, as you know, I don’t particularly believe in. But why would God go through so much trouble (at least I assume it wasn’t easy) to create all this just to ignore it? Maybe, I thought, the evolution of life on earth was a fluke. You picture God playing around with matches or something, suddenly there’s a big bang and next thing you know He’s got kids to look after. 😉

Ok, I’m only 1/2 kidding. But I do wonder about this creation theory. The accidental nature of it isn’t a new theory. The Gnostics believed that it was either created accidentally or maliciously by an “evil” deity. I could understand then why God would want to take human form. To see what it was all about to understand his creations better. Maybe he comes back as every species at some point.

Back to the Gnostics, these dudes were totally sci-fi. So in their concept (as far as I understand it), not only was the world get created maliciously, when that happened divine sparks got trapped inside human bodies. Jesus came to earth to give secret teachings that would free those who had sparks of divinity hidden in them. Frankly this seemed quite credible to me after watching “Universe”. Hey, it’s at least no more incredible than Genesis.

What I love about science and the study of the wider universe is that it gives me a different perspective and a new way of thinking about God. I find it invaluable.

science vs. religion

This debate both annoys and fascinates me to no end. Has anyone actually changed anyone else’s mind? Well, maybe they have. The issue for me is, it’s pointless. Science will never prove or disprove God – nor should that be the goal. God is inherently improvable. That’s kinda the point of faith right? I mean we don’t have to have faith in gravity or the Pythagorean Theorem; they just are – now they still have to be “discovered”. Really smart people had to get together and figure out just how things worked.

God however, didn’t need to be discovered. God as a concept in one form or another has been around as a human concept as long as humans have been. And it doesn’t even take brilliant scientists to believe – anyone can do it! The thing is people who believe in God do it because the need to, not because it’s a proven fact. There would be a profound emptiness in my life if I did not believe in some higher force/spirit/whatever you want to call it. I feel safer because of it; I feel loved; I feel close even when alone. These are feelings quite frankly that I wouldn’t want to be “explained away”.

And maybe that’s how some religious people feel about the scientific theories that challenge or even completely disprove something biblical. They are afraid science will one day completely explain away the existence of God or even the need for God. Frankly I think we have more to fear from Prozac than from evolutionary theory in that regard – but that’s another entry. I can understand that initial fear, I’ve felt it. I think it’s a normal human reaction to not want to lose or even change something that brings you joy.

But is that what God wants for us, just to be happy and feel good? I was struck by a passage from David Plots “Blogging the Bible” series. This passage is from his first post on Exodus:

God shows that He loves a challenge. He has no use for lumpish yes men. His truest favorites so far—Abraham and Moses, as well as Jacob and Joseph—don’t back down from Him.

Maybe we should all take a few notes from our New Testament brethren and talk back occasionally. Not because it will change Him, but it might put us in a more honest position. Instead of the proverbial a**kissing we’ve been doing.

Knowing God is a challenge. We don’t get fireside chats with God (ok, maybe Abraham did). It supposed to be hard otherwise we wouldn’t appreciate it/Him. We should embrace concepts and ideas that are contrary to our own. Accept these challenges. That doesn’t mean agree with every change of the wind, but give it serious thought and understand the roots. Unless there are none – and there are a lot of ideas out there with no roots to stand on. They will die, like all things without roots do so don’t get too worried about those either.

Admittedly the science/religion debate is a tempting one to watch. Check out the Sullivan/Harris debate on Beliefnet. The smack down is just too much fun to pass up, especially if your side is winning! But know from the get go how worthless it is in terms of coming to any conclusions. If you can approach it like you’re watching and endless version of Rocky – both sides going the distance into oblivion – you’re on the right tract. Just make sure you have enough beer to see you through!