Shall the Medicine of Science Govern the Ethics of the Mind?
His questions were of the same shade as its many predecessors. Or so I thought. Questions at the intersection of God and science challenge the validity of the former by the might of the latter. For a decade, I’ve fielded questions in University debate halls, coffee shops, and Temples, all razor focused on a narrow galaxy of questions within a universe of enigmas. Yet, this brilliant chemist posed a question which highlights the limits of the mind, the border between logic and faith, and the importance of truly listening to every angle opposing your very own.
Debates between the professed theologian and academic scientist span the history of humankind; these struggles will never be solved, yet the fruits of these discussions will perpetually blossom. The chemist wasn’t asking if God exists; he didn’t debate if science disproves God; the chemist didn’t seek for a solution to holes in religion or symmetries in quantum physics and Kabbalah. He posed a question very few students do, and it opened a window not exclusively to his mind, but to the minds of our future. Our entire future.
The chemist could not begin to ask those questions because his initial duty was to resolve an inner struggle: “Ayden” he posed “ is it even possible for me to believe in God? Is there a way for me to come to believe in God if I am a sincere scientist?”
As scientists we are hardwired to quantify the world, love the microscope, glorify the lab, and cherish the data. We are discouraged from believing – or even thinking of believing – in any entity which may not be grasped by its very nature. The deeper we probe into neurons and atoms, the further our minds gravitate to the frequency of spirituality. This chemist did not ask for proof of God. He asked for a way to retrain his mind, to look at the world anew, to escape one mode of thinking for another. Perhaps, one need not escape but only synthesize.
Looking deeper at the holistic question reveals a wildly unjustified war occurring between science and theology. Carving away the external layers of the question leaves a clear grasp on what this person was asking: if I am scientist, if my entire life has been science, is it possible for me to alter my mind such that my mind would accept the concept of God? The subtle difference laying at the kernel of this question exemplifies the new battle any scientist, medical student or graduate student faces. We are trained – hardwired- to believe not to believe. We are programmed to accept what is only tangible. The sadness rests in realizing that individuals in my field of work are so distanced from anything but the metaphorical lab that they can’t even envision altering their minds. Evolutionary human nature dictates we ought to evolve our patterns of thought, behavioral economics continuously illuminates the fallacies our brain conjures up as realities, and yet the chemist could not envision a world in which his mind would allow him to believe in anything but the physical. It isn’t a question regarding the synergies- or lack thereof- between science and religion. It’s a question of freedom of thought. More and more of “us” are not mindful that the boundaries of our minds become tampered with as we choose- with those very same minds- methods of natural perception which automatically negate the possibility of believing in anything transcendent.
Shall science and religion respect sacred boundaries which separate their masterful fields? Perhaps. Should scientists be encouraged to strengthen their analytical skills? Yes, 100%. Should that process automatically rob a person of his belief in himself to juggle his love for science and his wonders of string theory and quantum mechanics? No.
The tragedy isn’t denying religion or God. Every man for himself, every journey respected, and every inner conviction honored. If one concludes that God doesn’t exist, there is nothing wrong with that. The tragedy facing our brilliant medical scientists lies in the volcanic eruption of an ethical mind. Your mind is your key to the wonders of the world, and if you may not even entertain the notion of God, your mind has been robbed.
Many a great men have battled with this question. No sect of thought or domain of knowledge is free from grappling with these esoteric issues. The fundamental paradox rests in its intrinsic and innate unsolvable nature. No priest, Imam, Rabbi or Guru can prove God exists, and no logician or philosopher could prove a negative. The toggle shall perpetuate into the new dawn of every horizon. Yet, one must at least have the capacity to believe they can believe. To believe it is possible to research God even when being a medical scientist. As life-long learners ambitious to change ourselves and the world for the better, we owe it to our minds, brains, hearts, and consciousness to confidently explore the terrain you were hardwired to negate as irrational.
Our future depends on it. Our children depend on it. Our educational system depends on it. Our lives depend on it. And, our scientific progress into the unknown depends on it ad infinitum.