SCIENCE, RELIGION AND BELIEF SYSTEMS
SCIENCE, RELIGION and BELIEF SYSTEMS
Religion and science form two basic resources of human culture. History of humanity is full of bigotry, insecurity and conflicts caused by both disciplines. It seems that the struggle of good-bad, right-wrong and real-imaginary will continue till the end of the world.
However, there are certain differences between religion and science in terms of concept, definition and methodology. Science approaches events and phenomena with skepticism peculiar to it. Its most important methods are experiment, observation and reasoning. It does not accept the things that its methodology does not confirm or falsify. It remains neutral regarding the issues that its methods cannot measure and test. It does not reject the existence of metaphysical realities. It does not make decisions about the questions that it cannot answer. If a scientist enters a laboratory by leaving all of his prejudices outside, his chances of attaining the realities will increase. How the universe came into existence, how it works, what might happen in the future are among the areas of interest of science. Rationalists, who extol the mind and experiment, contributed a lot to the development of positive science by doing so. However, humanists, who resist the idea of God, formed their belief system by making science – a dogma like religion. At this point, humanism transformed into a world religion and differed from positive science with this characteristic.
In 2007 November issue of “Scientific American Mind”, an article entitled “Searching for God in the Brain” was published. In this article of David Biello, a study designed by Mario Beauregrand, a neuroscientist of Montreal University was dealt with. The aim of the study carried out through a functional MR device was to measure the perception of God and the feeling of intense communication with God. The aim of the study was to see how active regions in the brain worked when people had deep religious feelings and felt strong divine connections. The article stated that means of modern neuroscience could see what was happening in the brain during prayers and religious experiences. This research is a good example to neurotheology that makes the world of science enthusiastic.
In the quest of religion for what is good, true, nice and real, the point where it rejects the methodology and concepts of science became the area of conflict. In this age, people try to find answers to all kinds of pragmatic questions that are asked by preserving intellectual integrity. Questions like the following have started to be on the agenda more frequently compared to the past: “I want to know the existence of God through evidence. Why do I have to worship? Is there life after death? What are the attributes of God?” In the previous centuries, these questions originated from ignorance; today they are asked in the name of positive science. If today’s belief systems accept the existence of God as undebatable and the necessity of worship unquestionable, they can be rejected by positive science.
If a clergyman accepts the data of religion to be tested through the methodology of positive science and is ready to change his views that are refuted, he may be widely accepted by people. If a person who deals with positive science applies scientific methods on religious values, accepts the proven knowledge and adopts the most reasonable explanation, he may prevent the border violation between religion and science.
If science, which is interested in how the universe was created, and religion, which answers why the universe was created, stay in those boundaries, conflict between them will be prevented and they will help each other to complement each other. For instance, science is interested in what the codes in DNA are like and what is written in them. Religion examines why the codes in DNA were created. If science says, “codes came together without any aim”, it will have transgressed the boundaries. If religion says, “it is unnecessary to deal with the codes in DNA”, it will have interfered in the field of science. To oppose dealing with the codes in DNA will make religion move away from science.
When science remains neutral regarding the issues that it cannot prove, it will not harm the religious viewpoint. However, to defend unproven knowledge may transform science into religion. There are different numbers of religions and different numbers of science methodologies in the world. This mental discussion will cause the agreement on the strongest thoughts. Thus, positive science can be prevented from becoming the world religion.
Science has not been able to form its own ethical system. When it changes the system that it has borrowed from religion, he will have used its own data against humanity. For instance, to intervene in the sequences in the nucleus of atom and to produce energy was an achievement of science. However, when the ethical standard corrupted, to produce atomic bomb harmed humanity. The same danger threatens DNA today. Radical changes are being made by intervening the DNA chain today; and production is increased this way. If they change the human gene, creatures between humans and animals can appear. Or it is possible to produce creatures the resemble man but acts like a monkey by changing the money gene.
Those who oppose evolution radically should not do it on behalf of religion because it has been observed that DNA can be changed. First man was created out of soil. DNA is the array of inorganic and organic materials that are present in soil. It is not contrary to science to state in the Quran that Adam was created out of soil in order to discriminate man from radiant beings. Allah’s absolute power is not in need of the DNA of the monkey. If it is possible to transform human DNA to monkey DNA in the laboratory, how will religion interpret it? The view of religion on developments will be as follows: innovations should not be used to harm humanity; and definitions should be made correctly. (For instance, monkeys in the form of human beings should not be called humans…) If religion and positive science approach evolution, which is a controversial issue, like this, the two disciplines will complement each other.
Positive science produces hypotheses related to natural world and formulates them. Scientific answers cannot be obtained from the questions that cannot be refuted. Science does not reject supernatural causes completely but it thinks that these causes are inefficient.
Positive science measures the paranormal and abnormal phenomena, mysticism and abstract reality through the high standards of science. The high standards of science stopped reducing reality to material and concrete reality in recent years. Abstract reality can be likened to art reality. One cannot act with the exactness of the material world there. Even if what is produced is objective, its standard is virtual and indicates a scientific reality. This reductive view of materialist approach, which says, “I do not believe in the things that I do not see” and reduces the mind to visuality, is in the waste bin of history now.
Positive science cannot act conceitedly and superiorly in the presence of the realities in the universe. It is not dominant over nature. The claim to be dominant over nature is the superiority delusion. For science, it is a sign of world theism in the disguise of science not to be able to define its place in the world correctly.
Science does not act depending on authority or a supernatural power. Its reference point is evidence. However, supernatural reality is always present among the alternatives as a scientific phenomenon. A scientific method that does not accept religious views as a phenomenon is a prejudiced method.
If religion objects to its knowledge being questioned, it will come into conflict with the mind and science. The religions that do not accept their teachings to be questioned like the trinity belief of Christianity or the spirit belief of Buddhism are bound to be viewed with doubt. The belief systems that avoid being questioned cannot survive. The relationship between religion and science that will maintain their boundaries will illuminate the future of humanity. Science needs the property of religion that adds meaning to life, its power of consoling and its capacity to explain what happens after death. A religion that guides people with true teachings will not avoid being tested by positive science. On the other hand, the possibility that the realities that will occur will restrict the freedom area of science will not bother real scientists. In fact, such a view will bring about the coordination of religion and positive science. If the aim is to attain the truth and universal realities, every individual that has an objective viewpoint will approve that this is the easiest, most efficient and ideal method.
While phenotype forms based on the effect of cultures and the environment, genotype forms through genes. Genotype can be defined as the operating system in the computer and phenotype as the programs that we add to this system. There is a genetic standard in both physical and psychological structure of man. Everybody belongs to one personality structure among the twelve basic personality structures. Accordingly, some people can be extroverted, some skeptical and some dependent. They are the personal inborn characteristics that form the main framework. However, a person can lead those characteristics to different dimensions through the environment he lives in, what he learns from his parents and social contact. Man builds the walls on the genes, which can be likened to the load-bearing system of a building, and forms his own personality.
Behaviors are genetic expressions of man. Animals like cats, dogs and horses lived together with people for centuries but they did not learn anything about people because they have no such tendency in their genes. These animals were able to learn to the extent that their program in their nature allowed them to learn; in that case, man’s behaviors develop through phenotype not spontaneously.
It is seen that feelings like love, rage and hatred except sexual motives become active in different parts of the brain. Due to these characteristics of the brain, the external effect is more important than the internal mechanism in the development of human psychology. Therefore, the importance of the transfer of knowledge and culture and social contact becomes apparent. At this point, social feelings are on the foreground. Social feelings, which are not present in the other living beings and which make it possible for man to live more comprehensively, are the feelings that make a human human and prevents him from living alone. These feelings also make man live in a family, form an identity peculiar to him and become a social being.
The science of psychology has dealt with behaviors and feelings up to now. Thought underlies these two phenomena. In this field of science, the existence of a different energy band that cannot be measured by five senses and that can be defined as spiritual reality in man within the framework of the “integrity of sciences” is talked about. It is thought that this energy band is a radiant energy and that the spiritual reality that it forms should be accepted to be within the boundaries of psychology. With the discovery of mirror neurons in man in 2007, the information that a strong feeling like love and fury of a person affected another person passing by became known in the science circles. This dominant feeling in man inadvertently activates the mirror neurons in the person opposite him and causes feelings like love or fury to emerge toward that person at that moment. The most important evidence for it is the studies about tissue culture. When monkey’s neurons and human neurons are placed in the tissue culture, it is observed that the neurite of the monkey connects to the neuron of the monkey and human neurite connects to the human neuron. Moreover, the fact that there are senses that science cannot measure now and that are defined as magnetic senses was revealed. Some of them are internal senses.
The brain is an organ of perception that perceives the changes in man; it perceives material facts through five senses; in addition, it perceives magnetic feelings and reads the emotional clues regarding issues like whether we are loved or not. Therefore, empathy is important. Women read the emotional clues more than men do. Girls empathize more easily than boys do. These properties show us that there is an energy transformation in the brain. The brain that perceives the feelings of the person opposite forms an emotional response to that person and shows its reaction through body language. The expression of the feelings in us enables the people opposite us to read it. This happens when the emotional perception activates a system that transforms the feelings in the brain. This situation, which takes place thanks to mirror neurons, is known to be important in the science of psychology; it does not seem possible to think psychology outside spirituality. Thus, it becomes clear that it is impossible to think man outside biology.
Many concepts in philosophy changed thanks to these researches. For instance, philosophy and neurology combined to form “neurophilosophy”. New concepts called “neuromarketing” or “neuroeconomy” emerged based on the transformation of the feelings and thoughts in human brain. Thus, the perspectives in psychology changed. The perspective of spiritual psychology was added to the previous concepts like behavioral, cognitive and evolutionary perspectives that existed; thus, the philosophy of psychology developed.
Humanistic psychology virtually became the religion of science. The hierarchy pyramid that Maslow formed by putting human pyramid of needs in the center is a good definition for human psychology but humanistic understanding sees man as the focus of the universe and regards him as perfect and ethical by birth.
“The thought that man is born as an ethical person and that he does not need an ethical teaching” regards man’s inherent motives and inclinations as non-existent. This perspective of psychology puts man in the center of the universe unlike Freud’s definitions of man “who pursues his sexual motives and runs away from death”. Freud’s description of man and the definitions of humanistic philosophy are opposite. The understanding of humanism that sanctifies the soul and ego argues that all of the evil thoughts that come to a person’s mind come from outside, sanctifying the concept of “self”. Unlike humanistic philosophy that regards man like an “angel”, Freud defines him as animal that talks.
Thinking that evil tendencies are away from man made it impossible to explain some illnesses; it even caused some illnesses to increase. Some parts of the human brain produce nonsensical thoughts automatically. The thought of a person who fears cutting himself while chopping vegetables is an example of automatic thought. Humanistic view states that such a thought that comes to the mind is a danger that can harm a person and that it is necessary to take measures immediately. The experts who approach treatment with this thought say that this thought is very dangerous and that it definitely needs to be struggled against. Thus, the illness increases. Freudian approach states that unwanted thoughts do not exist in man and it defines man as a being that pursues certain vital functions. In that case, the success of the treatment is quite low.
The reason why spiritual psychology is successful in the treatment is the fact that its views corresponds to biological psychology. Biological psychology states that cell connections in a part of the brain produce automatic thoughts and that when a person focuses on something and intensifies his thoughts on it, the brain starts its program related to that issue. It is like a mother producing exaggerated thoughts related to protection of her child. These thoughts that are known as “apprehensions” cause disorders. When a person accepts that this thought is an automatic thought produced by a part of the brain and notices that it is necessary to clean out the obsessions originating from the wrong operation of one part of the brain, the treatment will be easier. The treatment of this situation, which conforms to the concept of devil in spiritual psychology, seems possible.
Spiritual psychology states that devil exists and it suggests wrong thoughts to the human brain; it tells the person that those thoughts do not belong to him and that he needs to proceed without paying attention to them. These statements come about when the information in biological psychology corresponds to the information in spiritual psychology. Thus, as biological psychology develops, it corrects the mistakes of behavioral, psychoanalytical psychology; this last information is within the scope of positive science. Today, the developments in the scientific field generally develop in a way that supports the theses of spiritual psychology.
Worship can be defined as obeying one’s Creator and refraining from some pleasures due to the respect one feels toward Him. The first condition in worship and prayer is intention. If the intention is not worshipping the Creator, the rituals that are performed and the pleasures that are abandoned will not serve the aim and they will not conform to divine consent. Worship like this can be seen as rituals that transform into obsession.
The aim of prayer and worship is to make a person approach the Creator. “To fear Allah, to show respect to Him ad to approve that he is the Creator” are the most concise words that define worship. It is quite significant that the statement, “There is no God but Allah and Hz. Muhammad is His slave and Messenger” is presented as the first condition of the religion of Islam. When a person enters a religion, he attains the protection and security of his Creator. Showing respect to the rules by the person during this time is a result of love of God and wishing to attain His consent. When a baby is afraid of something, it feels relieved by taking refuge in its mother; similarly, people take refuge in the Power that has power over everything and that knows even the wishes in a person’s heart and feel relieved. A person experiences an inner pleasure and healthiness thanks to the peace and security he takes from his belief. Worship and prayer make man some payment in advance: To feel that one is not alone… Along with personal benefits, worship has some social benefits. However, it is important how one defines the power that is worshipped in the social area. The benefit of worshipping in the religions of nature or the religions in which there exists the god of the earth is limited. Worship that the mind does not approve means a temporary consolation. Healthy and sound worship and prayer become meaningful if they are based on the mind and if they are approved by the feelings of the heart. A person sees a part of the whole in such worship.
The spirit of man resembles a field. If it is purified of the sins that grow like weeds and is prepared for the new season through nice seeds, beautiful flowers start to blossom in us when the sun of mercy and the rain of mercy are received. This work of care and maintenance, which takes place in the spirit of every man, is a tiring task.
Worship starts when one notices his mistakes and wants to be purified. If man plans his will with the intention of doing good deeds, he will be regarded to have reset himself every day. The worship that a person does by showing his preference to do good deeds in the presence of negative thoughts, traps of pleasure and seducing elements will be in compliance with the divine target.
Man is a living being that has limited power but has unlimited needs and wishes. This being of limited power worships with the intention of establishing a connection with the authority that has the absolute and eternal willpower. Thus, he experiences the feeling that he is protected by the divine power. The wish to establish a connection with the source of unlimited power, “the Omnipotent Being”, produces a firm security. This orientation and supplication is the definition of real worship. A person who realizes that he is a slave and knows the limits of his power will receive the benefits of his prayer soon. The most important benefit of prayer is that it helps to maintain the feeling of hope by making a person feel that he is not alone.
Dr. Herbert Benson is a researcher that has been dealing with the effects of prayer on human physiology for thirty years. In his book called “Handbook of Religion and Health”, Dr. Benson states that belief has a healing effect of 60-90% on illnesses. As a result of the research done with 1200 people, it was understood that religious people lived longer and more healthily. It was also understood that the people who loved worshipping and who regularly worshipped became ill less frequently and stayed in the hospital less. As a result of the research, it was determined that among the people who had heart surgeries, those who lived religiously had a risk of death fourteen times less than those who never worshipped. Dr. Benson reported that complex activities took place in the brains of the people in the MR screening when they prayed. The body temperature of a person who prays increases. The body has a feeling of stimulation starting with a shiver; the power of perception becomes sharp, and the level of consciousness and awareness increase.
A person who feels that his psychological integrity breaks down and experiences an intense trouble with the feeling of losing his control can decrease his anxiety when he forms a mental shelter. For instance, the anxiety of death and the panic caused by it produces the feeling of lack of control. The negative thoughts that swarm the brain during this period can be overcome by the belief of God and protective angel. Americans who noticed this reality summarize the feeling of shelter of man with the following aphorism: “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
The first step in the transformation of prayer into a meditative deed is to beautify the thought through mental imagination and then to focus the thought on a single point and to concentrate in the form of producing mercy, compassion and love. These three steps can be possible only through education. In the mental imagination in the thought of servitude before prayer and worship, man needs to confess to himself that he will take refuge in the thought of Lordship and deity, that he will ask for care and help from Him and that he will be deprived of goodness if he does not feel that closeness. Prayer and worship that are away from such orientation become deprived of awe and profundity.
The feeling that prayer brings about in man is a necessary and useful feeling in the general course of life. Instead of despising prayer by thinking that the old, the weak and the children need it, being together with the person who prays because of attaining this benefit is a better approach. The time when the psychological benefit of prayer becomes most distinct is when a person prays when he is not ill or when he is not in need. Saying prayers and worshipping when one is ill and in need is like candle light; saying prayers and worshipping when one is young and strong is like the sun. The prayer of such a person should receive admiration and respect because that person has a consciousness of servitude and he is regarded to be making spiritual investments now for the hardships in the future.
That the prayers accompanied by oral and rhythmic music in the teaching of Mawlana have reached today in the form of “sufi meditation” and that it is in demand in the Western world is not a coincidence. To form prayer groups is an important field of interest for those who look for alternative treatments. Within the content of “the right to receive religious support” that exists in the universal declaration of patients’ rights, it will be appropriate for the treatment clinics to include sufi meditation in the reference of complementary treatment. A doctor who sees a patient concentrating on prayer and worship will notice that this patient is more likely to recover. To know that prayer means to knock on the door, that it expresses an orientation and that it means mental preparation for being good and nice will bring along positive results.
Everybody who grants someone something considers it important to be thanked. If creation were a tree, thanking would be its fruit. To thank proves that the being that thanks is alive. Ingratitude means to deny the one that grants something.
Thanking consciously or unconsciously is important. The difference between a man and an animal that thanks is that thanking is based on consciousness in man. The living beings that thank unconsciously are regarded to have thanked when they try to find food. When a chicken scratches the ground, a fish swims in the aquarium with its mouth open and seeks food with a great desire, they indicate that they love the food given to them. This is indirect thanking. Man is different from the other living beings because he has consciousness; so, he should add vision to his thanking. If he eats and drinks by thinking about the being that grants him food, it will be more appropriate for the divine target and he will attract divine consent.
The indication of ingratitude is greed and dissatisfaction; the indication of thanking is contentment, consent and gladness. A person who works for big things when he thanks for small things opens new doors of thanking for himself. In the Islamic belief, the following is stated: “Allah will not let a person say a prayer which He will not accept.” If man thinks of every prayer as a dimension of life with its dimensions of matter, time and spirit, he will have moved to a valuable and useful position in the course of life.
Man comes to the world with unlimited talents and capacity to learn. He also has a free will. Even if he does not know the rules of the life in the world, he receives written messages reminding him that he is being tested. To know these messages makes him responsible to the Creator. It is a reasonable thing to send prophets as guides for those who want to proceed and to develop themselves when they confront unknown ways. If you follow a guide, you need to obey the rules he tells you.
The genetic inheritance of the creatures is like the programs of operating systems that are inherent and that are not supposed to be changed. The information files that are sent to us through prophets via the operating system enable us to use our ego computer in accordance with its purpose. Man, who is left free to use it or not, has to make correct preferences in order to attain a meaningful purpose and to reach wisdom that will make a difference. When we do not use many programs that have high functions apart from the basic biological programs like eating, drinking and reproduction, the owner of the computer will use his authority to retrieve it from us because we do not use it efficiently.
To use the high functions of a computer depends upon working hard and sacrificing our personal comfort. The work here clarifies the meaning of worship. To worship and to avoid the traps of pleasures necessitate sacrificing one’s freedom and comfort. That is, servitude is based on a discipline. To fulfill the necessities of this discipline and to be able to postpone some pleasures make man gain many things before death. Hosts usually serve the desserts at the end of the feasts in order to increase the pleasure; similarly, man who postpones concrete pleasures and aims abstract pleasures will enjoy this postponement.
When we examine the exemplary incidents in the lives of prophets, we notice that the belief in one God is synonymous to being integrated to the system. The image of the acquisitions brought about by it is to endure difficulties and to suffer at the beginning but the presence of peace is the most distinctive acquisition of this kind of life.
Let us see what we will gain when we are integrated to the belief system through a small analogy: A person who is a citizen of the Republic of Turkey becomes part of a system and receives an identification number. The system in which he is recorded gives him some rights along with some responsibilities. You can have many facilities from civil law to electricity, roads, water, freedom of travel and having a passport. However, if you are integrated to the system but does not fulfill your responsibilities like paying taxes, doing military service and if you disturb the peace, you will be kept away from the system through isolation and deprivation and you will be punished. If you promise to obey the rules and sign but you do not fulfill your duties, you will be subject to a different restriction until you behave and you are purified.
When we apply this metaphor of citizenship to life, we can think that a person who does not consider the worldly life as a temporary residence and does not recognize the system but who has no other place to go to will be tamed by the Creator like some material in the layer of magma.