A prevailing view among scientists and atheists is that everything is knowable. Humans are simply particles in motion, governed by biology and physics. Given the right tools and information, some people believe that human beings could know all the secrets of the universe, past and present. This mode of thought has led to a number of remarkable discoveries, but according to theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman, writing for the scientific website the Edge, it is fundamentally “reductionist.”
Viewing the human experience as nothing more than biology and physics allows for only happenings. “There are no meanings, no values, no doings,” Kauffman writes. There is also no room for spirituality, or acceptance of forces beyond human comprehension. “Science has driven a wedge between faith and reason,” according to Kauffman, elevating science and devaluing faith as irrelevant.
The schism between science and religion has turned into a philosophical “cold war” according to philosopher Ken Wilber. In an interview with Salon.com, Wilber talks about how neither science nor religion are fundamentally wrong. They’re actually complimentary, if a person looks at them the right way. Wilber says some of the world’s greatest scientists, including Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, and Sir Arthur Eddington, were fundamentally mystics, because they understood the limits of physics and science.
“Understanding the limits to human knowledge and intervention is going to be the question of the twenty-first century,” according to opera director Peter Sellars in an interview with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (pdf). Science is able to push the boundaries of knowledge, but science alone has proven itself unable to understand the limits. That’s where not only faith, but art can play a useful role.
Uniting arts and sciences, faith and reason, could instill some reverence and responsibility into science. In the twentieth century, “science was made into a God, a substitute for religion,” Sellars said in the interview. Sellars’ new opera, Dr. Atomic, is about the atomic bomb, one of the most destructive creations of science. “And it’s bad enough for a religion to be a religion,” Sellars said, “but when science becomes a religion, it’s very dangerous.”