Right off the bat I want to apologise for the shortness of this entry. Honestly the same old work commitments completely put the blog out of my mind until the last minute (well actually they've been putting almost everything out). Anyhow, with some recent progress came free time and with that comes the opportunity to write about a fun little subject I've been thinking about for a while.
Science and religion seem to be seen as opposing influences more and more often these days. These disagreements stem from the fact that either being religious is seen as anathema to logical scientific work or that areas where science disagrees with religions merely demonstrate how dangerous it is. I could make a long winded case showing that this is true, but perhaps it's easier to say that it is, to me, obvious that these two different systems of belief (of living even) are clearly not aligned whereas I think they should be.
This idea came from the fact that again and again I was reading scientists and mathematicians talking about when they truly understood some essential law of nature, it was like contacting something higher. Not necessarily a higher being or power, but a higher sense of order and wonder. There is a great documentary about the mathematician Paul Erdös, N is a number, where he makes this point very eloquently. He completely dedicated his life to maths and the discovery of new ways of understanding it, and he talks about how in maths, on the one hand there are great proofs, which are extremely elegant and beautiful, and on the other there are clumsy, clunky ones. When you see an elegant proof, he says, then you are seeing the one which God has written down in his notebook.
I think if you asked many deeply religious people how to get closest to god, they would probably say you should do his work, preach the word and do kind/charitable acts. However I think what better way is there to be close to God than to see, to rediscover even for yourself, one of the basic rules which he set in place in creating this reality. Surely in the careful balance and elegance of those rules he has left just a small measure of his signature.
I am sure that some would see what I'm saying as heretical, that God told us pray, so we should pray. Honestly though, if you believe in Him, then surely you can see that he left these markers in place in such a way that we could, not only find them again and again, but also that finding them would improve humanity in such a huge and far reaching way.
This then, is my final point. I think there is local charity, feeding, clothing and caring for those who need it, and certainly that is wonderful. Science though is a kind of charity which is just as rarefied. Scientists don't expect great credit (look at Norman Borlaug whose work saved millions from starving... then ask yourself why you've never heard of him). Certainly they also don't expect to get paid great sums. Yet still, scientific advancements are huge force in the improvement of life for all humanity (take modern medicine, mobile phones, electricity, there are any number of examples to choose from).
Surely for any religious person then, by taking part in new discoveries, you are not only helping people in a meek and humble way, but you are also bringing yourself as close to the heart of God's creation, to his very indent upon our universe, as you will ever be able to get. Obviously it's hyperbole to say all religious people should be scientists, still now that I have this perspective I can't think of anything more holy, nor any pursuit which religions ought to be more deeply in favour of.