May 11, 2008
Science, the Scapegoat of Religion and Commerce
by Charles Carreon
Since I listen to NPR, I often hear a gentle, liberal voice posing a question from The Templeton Foundation, established by Sir John Templeton, retired millionaire fund manager. Templeton, pictured above, bailed out of the market after a solid career that netted him a final $900 Million payday, and at the age of 95, he's playing philanthropist from his Bahamas-based Templeton Institute, in the operation of which he is assisted by his born-again Christian son, Jack. So Templeton's question, sounding warm and inviting when presented in the voice of an NPR liberal, was something like: “Has science made religion obsolete?”
Well, I said to myself, that's a stupid question for Templeton to ask! Surely he, a man made of cash, should know that it has always been money, not science, that has made religion irrelevant to men. People have been turning arrogantly away from threats of hell when presented with wads of cash ever since the stuff was invented. It is money that turns bankers into con men, boys into killers, and politicians into hypocrites who profess virtue on Sunday, and lie the rest of the week, as well.
Science, making religion obsolete? How could science replace religion? They aren't even used for the same thing. Science is used to satisfy the hunger for truth, the desire to dispel ignorance and illuminate reality, as the Roman natural philosopher Lucretius expressed it so well. Religion is used to blockade the search for truth, to confirm conventional beliefs with the testimony of saints. Religion is used to fill gaps that knowledge never could, and never will.
For example, religions have answered the question, “What happens to us after death?” Science will never tackle this question, since there is no evidence on which to even fashion a hypothesis, much less any way to test your hypothesis if you manage to originate one. And certainly, despite Christ's having reportedly demonstrated his ability to “resurrect” his body after death, the experiment has never been replicated.
Money, on the other hand, serves the primary purpose of religion very well, which is to relieve anxiety about the future. A clergyman who has sexually molested children may fear hell, but he fears a sentence of ten years a great deal more. With enough money, he may cheat judgment by hiring a good lawyer, or fleeing out of the jurisdiction, perhaps back to the sovereign nation of the Vatican, from whence sexual molesters are not extradited. Once safely in Rome, even a monster who has sodomized the little lambs he was sent to protect can obtain absolution. Some prayers, some donations, some crocodile tears, and the matter is accomplished. God is so much easier to bribe than man, but then again, his agents are very understanding about the foibles of men.
Money buys security in this life. Religion buys security in the next. To illustrate how they are put to the identical use, imagine two young nobles, enjoying their wine while the serfs labor outside in the fields. One brother is a secular noble who, under the King's authority, rules with edicts and soldiers over a population of serfs he was free to terrorize, tax and conscript as suited his will. The other brother is a bishop, who rules the same domain with spiritual authority drawn from the Pope and the threat of excommunication, a curse in this life and the next. Lifting a glass of good vin rouge, and looking out the window at the serfs tilling the soil below, the nobleman says to his brother the bishop, “A toast to the two us, my brother, for I rule these people from the cradle to the grave, and you rule them for all eternity.”
Money has always known its place in the scheme of things. You will rarely find a banker having a serious disagreement with a clergyman, and usually they get along as well as the noble brothers in my little vignette. At the worst of times, you find money-changers right in the temple, something that Jesus found offensive, but the bankers found that temples draw the right kind of crowd for financial action, and still build their money-fortresses to resemble Greek and Roman temples.
Money and religion are great reinforcers of hierarchy. Although the Pope may not be saintly, still he commands absolutely reverence, and those without a feel for science may agree that the Pope's official declarations are infallible, despite the obvious errors enunciated with great authority by past and present Popes. The existence of witches, the flatness of the earth, and the virgin birth have all received Papal approval due to hierarchical authority, and not by any means that common sense would call reliable. Similarly, if a man is rich enough and has lots of rich people backing him, he will not be contradicted when he lies, or reprimanded for his poor manners when he is boorish, like the incumbent president, whose lies and churlish remarks are legion, and never has to bear a cross word from anyone.
Science, on the other hand, gives no regard to hierarchy. Let the Pope, the President, or Deepak Chopra say it – it will not be true in the book of science unless it can be proven true by repeatable experiment. Science is an intellectual process that makes it possible to see objects billions of light years away, objects that religion did not prophecy the existence of, and for which money had no need. Science is the beak with which we break the eggshell of ignorance, and that shell is composed illusions solidified by the accretion of centuries of ignorance supported by religion. What will keep us from cracking that illusion is money.
Oh, but you say, without money there is no research. Without research no discovery, without discovery no science. But you are simply wrong. Archimedes made his physics discoveries with the most rudimentary laboratory. Pythagoras measured the distance to the sun with a stick, a shadow, and a map. Newton found inspiration when his lunch hit him on the head. Einstein unraveled the mystery of nuclear energy while daydreaming.
Frankly, the flood of money is leading to the death of Science, and the birth of Expert Witnessing as its replacement. Example: the cause and effect relationship between countless industrial chemicals and cancer is still “not proven,” because the chemical companies will not fund the research, nor will government, enslaved to industry, that is, money. Global warming is similarly the plaything of experts, as if the atmosphere were not a closed container and smoke something that is certain to accumulate and obstruct the passage of light, leading to the retention of heat. Expert Witnesses, acting at the behest of shortsighted industrial money, will delay pronouncing “Science's verdict” on innumerable facts found inconvenient by the state.
Money and religion are not interested in truth, but in convenience. Whenever you ask yourself why the religious and the worldly so often find their interests aligned, remember my little tableaux of the nobleman and the bishop – the cooperation between them will always be tight. The world revealed to the eyes of science may square with some religious notions, but as the Southerners say, even a blind pig finds an acorn sometimes. Attempts to make science religious or religion scientific, are blatantly absurd, for their goals do not support each other. Religion will always preserve vested interests in false beliefs, for the good of the devout, who would otherwise be confused. Likewise, money is always ready to bribe those who cannot be bamboozled with sanctimonious words. The world revealed by money is a phantasmagoria of deceptions that can turn a child into Jon Benet, a Nazi into a man of God, an ordinary woman into Pamela Anderson. The illusionists in this world are the priests and the bankers, who distort our existence to suit the needs of the powerful. Science ends the illusions, regardless of whose position is damaged. That is why it is so unpopular with the powerful, and remains the favorite scapegoat of religion, working hand in glove with money, to keep us all in the dark.