Can Religion And Science Co-Exist In The Long Descent?

  • Posted on: 26 January 2022
  • By: David Trammel

Can Faith in the Unknowing, co-exist with the Scientific Method?

I ask this because I just rewatched one of my favorite movies recently. The 2007 indi classic "The Man From Earth" is without a doubt one of the best movies to me, which has been ever made. Time to revisit the 14 thousand year old man.

If marooned on the proverbial island, and offered limited entertainment, this movie would join the most amazing 1990 three person cerebral treat "Mindwalk" and what I consider one of the two best Robin William's films "Bicentennial Man". (I slightly favor it over the other top two film of his, that is the 1998 heart tugger "What Dreams May Come"). I would probably add the three part Sci-Fi Channel mini-series "Dune", then me, the seagulls and the beach crabs would be set.

(As long as we had unlimited beer, lol.)

Funny. that I did not connect the obvious, all of three of these films and the mini-series in some way deal with the intersection of spirituality and science.

For those who have not seen "The Man From Earth", it is set in the modern day. The main character is a Professor John Oldman, played by David Lee Smith. Professor Olman has unexpectedly announced he was leaving the College he teaches at. Several of his fellow professors (and a co-ed involved with one fellow professor and John's teaching assistant who John is having an affair with) surprise Oldman with a impromptu going away party.

During the discussions John confides to them he is actually almost 14 thousand years old, an immortal first born in pre-historic times, who has traveled across the World. And every ten years or so, he "Moves On", abandoning his current Life (when people around him notice he does not age) to seek a new Life somewhere else. Oldman decides to be honest and tell these few friends his real story, to as he admits "Say goodbye as his true self." He is meet at first with disbelief and then anger. Yet as his fellow scholars, can not disprove his story, they come to accept if not a belief his story is real, but a openness to the possibility of it being true. The ending is both profound and leaves you with a smile.

At a time when we as a race and as a civilization face huge, perhaps unsurmountable challenges it seems that we also face a collision of the belief in truthfulness of and the recognition of the authority of, the two big sources of each. Science and Religion both are at a cross roads.

The Fall of Science
If you haven't been hiding in a cave for the last few years, you'll probably have noticed, Science isn't doing that well right now.

The veneer of respectability and authority that Science claims has suffered major cracks, many self inflicted. The whore's bargain that scientists and researchers in the college systems have made with Industry for grant money and funding has become more and more obvious to the General Public. The perception that a business can literally "buy" the result they want, in order to promote and market a product is common now. And worse than just paying for a favorable review, the perception verified by past examples of researchers painting rosy pictures on products which are later revealed to be dangerous or even deadly BUT are hugely profitable has directly lead to distrust that people had for the Covid vaccines. People didn't wake up one morning and in mass say "I don't believe you". Their distrust is the product of decades of violating the trust that was won with centuries of learning.

Unfortunately, this has come at the worst of times. Decreasing resources and rising problems are going to make learning the facts and deciding what course to take even more important. Science, like some lapsed alcoholic, has fallen off the wagon.

Add to that the higher and higher cost of a college degree, and the requirement of higher and higher levels of accreditation and government licensing to work in well paying fields is only fueling the perception that Science is not about truth but about deciding who gets to do well and who doesn't. The American Dream that hard work will bring success has been unmasked and made clear to be out of reach for too many.

"Will public trust in science survive the pandemic? - The confluence of rapidly evolving science, mixed messaging, misinformation, and flagrant politicization in the US is creating a perfect storm for eroding trust in science"

And The Fall of Religion
Like Science, the institutions of Larger Religion aren't doing that well today.

Facing it's own crisis of authority, the World's major organized religions have with increasing regularity, left the boundaries they accepted in the last two hundred years. While an uneasy truce of sorts has existed between Religion and Science, where each have stuck to their side of the coin, now you see Religion taking on the mantle of "Arbiter of Real Truth" that Science thought was theirs. The one Truth has become a matter of faith, and Religion claims exclusive rights to that.

Unfortunately, just as Science has sold itself for money, too often Religion has sold itself for the other coin, that of Power. Figures of leadership that we have trusted, are being exposed as hucksters and charlatans, who preach piety and a humble nature, yet live in million dollar mansions and fly on private luxury jets. That really isn't that hard to understand. After all for most of its life, Religion has been all about Power. Science serves the mistress of business, and Religion serves the master of governance.

In America especially, the marriage of White Evangelicals and Populist Politicians seeing themselves representing a smaller and smaller minority, one that is losing its privledged status on the top of the economic ladder,

For the last hundred years, the 95% of the population NOT in the elites of both business and of governance have had the circus of distractions. Especially in the West and in the capital of the Empire, the United States. The Proletariat of the Modern Age has looked the other way while the Elites plunder their way to riches, and now that resources are growing scarce even in the halls of power, we are waking up. To keep their privledged place at the pig trough of riches, one or the other, Science or Religion will need to be on top.

Just like so many leaving Science, the younger generation is leaving their parent's organized Churches.

"It’s Not Just Young White Liberals Who Are Leaving Religion"

Fighting For The Scraps While The Media Cheers
We are at a turning point in our History.

I see little chance of the people who could make the hard decisions to prevent or even moderate the problems we are going to face over the next century. Making the decision on a path, when too many opposing forces benefit from the status quo and of not doing anything, means for a decision maker that you lose no matter what. Faced with that, I think we will see more fights over access to what little remains. Rather than share in the burden equally, it will be a tooth and nail fight to get the most for your minority, no matter how badly it affects others.

This would be bad enough but there is a third force in the mix that stands ready with its violin to play while we all burn. The Information Industry, aka Media has seen the collapse of traditional sources but the explosion of for profit companies, like Facebook, which make money off of each and every one of us. Money made even more, when they use their science not to benefit the people but to enrich themselves. This focus of profit before good, is going to be the five gallons of gasoline to the coming fire of primacy between Science and Religion. They stand to make things much worse than they could be.

"Facebook profits off hate and that's why it won't change, says whistleblower Frances Haugen

The Wild Card - Spiritual But Not Religious
I see the coming fight from an interesting sideline. I am "pagan". That is I follow a spiritual path of trying to find enlightenment that is less about organized dogma and more about personal discovery. And more and more people are taking the same path.

The term "pagan" covers a wide variety of beliefs and practices though, so the possibility of it fighting it out with the more main stream organized religions is slim. Or of unseating Science either. Paganism does present something of a third side of the equation. A moderator not a combatant.

Unfortunately, we are nether organized nor motivated. Can we make a difference?

"Could neo-paganism be the new ‘religion’ of America?"

Three Sides Of A Coin
Greer once wrote that Science and Religion were two sides of a coin, and Magic (aka Spirituality) was the material between the two. You can't have a one sided coin.

Personally, I think we are in for some trying times. In the coming decades, powerful forces will fight. Each of us can only keep our heads down and make sure we are prepared. Like a dark Midwestern thunderstorm on the horizon, you tie down the loose objects, bring in the kids and the livestock and light a fire to gather round.

See you on the other side.


What are your thoughts? Can the World of the Long Descent see peaceful coexistence between Science and Religion?


Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Great article and topic, David!

It's going to be a wild ride, that much is for sure.

I often feel caught between these days...
Politically in the center, caught between left and right. Spiritually as someone who leans towards a Universalist view, caught between truth with a lower case t, and those who claim they have the One True Way with a capital T, whether they be atheists or some variety of Christian, or even dogmatic in some other religion.

American society has become very tribal -the media systems make this tribalism more extreme. The false binaries tug us in different ways. There is a lot of moralizing and yet there is little virtue on display in the public sphere.

Living in this bizarro world is stress inducing! That's why the Green Wizard must have some skills in their kit to help them deal with the cognitive dissonance all around us, and all the other madness going on.

I'm a bit afraid for the occultists & pagans out there. I've seen people becoming newly religious and they tend to be on the fundamentalist side. A few think we are living in the end times -but so did the church I grew up in the 80s-mid 90s :). I'm a bit concerned of the tendency to think of anything that isn't part of Christianity is therefore Pagan which = Satanic. I see some signs of a new Satanic Panic out there... I've commented on this on Ecosophia before so won't get into that too much here.

I'm right above the belt line of the bible belt, so we'll see what happens & hope to dance & weave amidst all this.

Just some morning thoughts.

David Trammel's picture

Justin, I share your fear that those of us in the minority will be prosecuted in the Future by Religion and Science. Both of their establishment side has a long history of going after those on the fringe of orthodoxy. I take some hope because they tend to go after their own first. Labels of heretic and woke circular firing squads tend to drive the more moderates out and into the arms of the minority. Whether those of us in the tolerant center can use this to our advantage, or whether it just empowers the radical remainder is the big question.

In a bit of synchronicity, this article came across my news feed this morning:

"The backlash against rightwing evangelicals is reshaping American politics and faith"
offers some observations of the recent past on this subject. I know from talking to many who have left their established churches when their clergy began to mix politics and pulpit, they are as disgusted with the push to the fringes as the ones of us outside looking in. Maybe the newly "spiritual but not religious" will join us pagans in pushing back from the extremists on both sides.

Alternatively, while this article speaks just on religion, reread it and substitute the word "science" every time you see religion. Makes for an interesting thought experiment.

I believe much of it has to do with the extremes people in both fields push their basic beliefs to fit subjects and practices that those beliefs just don't cover. I have seen examples of this in the related field of manufacturing myself.

The Elite in various fields. be it Science related, Economic related or Religion related continue to take beliefs in the way things work (I call it dogma, but that might not be the right word) which were codified decades, or even centuries ago, in a world that was relatively simple and apply them to a world that is now very complex. Its not working. Every time some "expert" makes a pronouncement, the Masses listen and in their minds they say, "But what about?" We're having a crisis of too many exceptions to the rules.

Unfortunately I also feel that too many are seeing the exceptions and think, that means everything about the subject is false. There is a lot about Science and also about Religion that is good. I hope we don't throw that out, with the bad in the coming decades of the Long Descent.

Since when is anyone, anywhere, supposed to TRUST in SCIENCE?
Science, the word, means KNOWLEDGE.
If one has knowledge, one does not need trust.
Trust is practically synonymous with LACK of knowledge!

Opinions are not knowledge. Whether received or internally generated, Plato considers all opinions to be ERROR even when they are basically correct! And the same for spiritual truths.

If you have GNOSIS, real experience, then faith occurs as a RESULT not as blind trust.
Only then does faith become the evidence of things not seen.

The whole notion of trusting the priestly arbiters of arcane knowledge is precisely identical to the notion of trusting the priestly arbiters of spiritual doctrine. Elite fostering of blind ignorance and uncritical trust is not in service of truth or holiness. It is about domination and control. And money and prestige.

Science is something that must be continually TESTED and trialled against reality.
Science has NEVER been the last word handed down from on high.

That is a modern perversion of its function, just as televangelism is a degradation of spiritual leadership. Anyone who goes around ‘trusting Science’ is a derned fool. Same as anyone who goes around trusting TV evangelists. In both cases, true knowledge, spiritual or material is something you personally have to dig for, work at, and grasp for yourself.

And if you discover that someone who has knowledge outside your own ken is using that knowledge to take advantage of you, then that is called criminal behavior, a.k.a., fraud.

Sciences of mind and body have been deliberately perverted for the purpose of boosting sales, pushing consumerism, fostering race prejudice, concealing economic shenanigans, directing public dietary habits towards the profits of this or that industry regardless of the actual effects of that diet on human health, and a thousand other quasi-criminal activities.

Likewise, religions and dogmas have been deliberately perverted for the purpose of gaining ascendance in hierarchy, land-grabs, promoting sexual misconduct, and selling indulgences for money, i.e., sheer greed. Not content with Pride, Lust, & Avarice, religious dogmas have also been subverted to serve the ends of Gluttony, Envy, Sloth, Wrath, and that finest of mortal sins, Folly.

Our contemporary reliance on computers and number crunching only came about because the mechanical means of calculating trajectories for ballistics was faster than using a group of human minds for the task. This whole ‘computer age’ is an outgrowth of world war and the will to kill on a massive industrial scale. It is a direct descendant and heir to the throne of power over the ignorant peasantry and the conquered foes who are both barred from gaining and sharing in the closely guarded and secreted knowledge.

Science is not science if it is not open and shared and continually challenged.
Faith is not faith if it is not open and shared and frequently tested.

Besides, science, as a discipline, is just as woolly and fuzzy as spiritual seeking ever was. One small fact has been known to topple many a high-wrought, rationally structured tower.

The cathedral of scientific knowledge is made of fuzzy-wuzzy conceptual stones and insubstantial cognitive bricks. Building it requires the same shaky bamboo scaffolding that religions use to build up an inner understanding of the unseen spiritual world.

It is extraordinary how many scientific ‘discoveries’ have come about as a result of sheer accidents, synchonicities, and dreams. Seekers of knowledge about the material world and seekers of knowledge about the spiritual world are often obliged to meet on the same ground of being.

Someone recently referenced an article about a shared understanding of quantum mechanics between Bohm and Krishnamurti. Where there are REAL seekers of truth, they are not afraid to look beyond the gates of orthodoxy into the fields of the fantastic and the mystical.

Science as a body of knowledge is, and ever will be, INCOMPLETE. It is literally impossible to know ALL there is to know about the universe. The human endeavour called Science, with the capital S, is hopelessly outclassed already. Science does not know exactly how we digest our food. Scientists have only a vague, disputed statistical notion of how many cells there are in our brains. Science has neither defined nor replicated the phenomenon of love. Modern Western medicine has no cure for homely hemorrhoids or bothersome bunions. Yet doctors have the arrogance to suppose themselves masters of knowledge and the ultimate arbiters of human health.

The sin of Folly seems to cut straight across the science/spiritual dividing line.

The mysteries of the material are no less and no more unknowable than those of the spirit.
They are as one in our world. Humility, not arrogance, and steady, honest seeking are required for advancement in any realm of knowing.

Genuine seekers of truth are always a threat to the political establishments, no matter what realm they work in. There is a Sufi story about a Teacher who was commanded by his king to come immediately to Court to consult with the king and his advisors about some troubling rumors of unrest brewing. The Teacher (forgot his name, sorry) was not inclined to drop what he was doing and run off to the city, so he sent a message that he was “dependent upon the air of Samarkand at the moment,” thus unable to attend. A few weeks later, when an armed assassin emerged from behind the king’s throne, the Teacher himself popped out from behind a pillar in the Court and took the fellow’s knife away. The king, though grateful, was still sore about not being obeyed and asked the Teacher why he had not come when summoned. The Teacher said something to the effect that is it not the business of adepts to buzz about hither and yon at the whim of kings but to do what is needed, where and when it is needed, and not before.

Pagan or Muslim or any other seeker can gain the ability to do what is needed, when it is needed and be where one ought when one ought. Be diligent in your practices and Knowledge will come.

But if trouble does come our way, we can meet it like aged Archimedes who was so wholly concentrating on his work that he neglected to flee the war. When the soldiers came in, all he said was “don’t disturb my experiment.” I suspect the fellow who put him to the sword did not long survive the act of slaying the foremost scientist of war machines in his day! And not being captured and pressured to work for the enemy probably suited Archimedes just fine.

So, Alfred E. Neumann’s motto of “What, me Worry?” seems appropriate.

lathechuck's picture

Just as we don't trust the Information Industry to tell us about Science, or Politics, we shouldn't trust it to tell us about Religion. I imagine that there are thousands of congregations gathering in churches, synagogues, and Islamic centers to teach, learn, and pray together, perhaps with musical performance and/or participation. They provide human contact and person-to-person communication unrestricted by the gatekeepers of on-line communications, unlimited by the bounds of the workplace and family. They do nothing newsworthy.

The one that I associate with is multi-ethnic and welcoming to all (e.g., LGBTXYZ)... except we've been meeting only over video during this Omicron wave of the coronavirus pandemic. We celebrate female leadership, and are not involved with politics at any level.