By Aslam Shah
Once upon a time, Man was so careful in his travels as he believed he would fall off the edge of the Earth when he reached ‘world’s end’. A catholic church in the 1960s found the idea of Earth’s motion so ludicrous and threatening to their faith that they would charge anyone found with supporting the idea that was first surfaced by Galileo’s observations. In the 1930s and early 40s, a German nation was duped into believing arguably history’s biggest lie, the anti-Semitic view that this world was meant for the Aryan race and that all Jews must be annihilated from our planet. These ideas that now seem so baffling and easily downplayed by the layman were once the ideals of a group of people. But they were there present in our history and must have served a tangible purpose to mankind. Like all elements of Life, Man’s understanding of the universe is a constantly evolving phenomenon in an attempt to adapt to nature’s inconsistent intuitive and ideological demands, and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
The lack of knowledge has historically proven to be destructive to peace. Conflicting ideas form a basis for paranoia and fear, which in turn cause the destruction of peace. Hence, Man has always found the inclination to acquire knowledge and a common understanding for inner and communal peace. For example, the Israel-Palestine conflict which began in the 1940s still exists today as neither nation can come to a common understanding of the belonging of the state that is Palestine. Modern youths in the area are also taught varying perspectives in schools regarding the origins of the land and to whom it belongs. These discrepancies only escalate misunderstanding. The inaccurate knowledge imparted can also be identified as the lack of true knowledge. The Holocaust, civil rights movement, two world wars, events that have defined our past all stemmed from ‘conflicting knowledge’. Man’s indifferent understanding of the universe can create a disequilibrium in peace. Thus, we have always tried to work towards a common understanding of the universe, a task that history has proven to be impossible.
The modern day Man is more capable of attaining knowledge through rational methods rather than traditional ones. Democratic system in nations, empirical studies in science and judicial systems are products of modern knowledge where perception and ideas must stem from an equal voice and evidential studies. A traditional method used to elect a nation’s leader is to pass the role to the son of the predecessor who is deemed capable by default rather than a modern method of voting where the people would elect one. In fact, the old system may have stemmed from traditional attitudes that mankind adopted. We were indeed way more arrogant than we should be; for a long time without knowledge, Man believed that the Earth was located in the centre of the universe until findings less than 600 years ago by Corpenicus proved otherwise. Knowledge kept us grounded with the same logical reasoning and thinking that abolished wars and slavery which has been non-existent in this modern world.
Another source of conflict between human beings is the constant tension that exists between scientific evidence and religious beliefs. According to the Bible, man was made to model God as Man was ‘’created in his image’’. In the Qu’ran it is mentioned that men were sent to Earth as khalifas (representatives from God). The exclusive and spiritual representatives of Man and the Earth are common among many other monotheistic and non-monotheistic beliefs. This tenet inclined Man to believe, for centuries until the early 1600s, that Earth had an exclusive place in the universe and that everything else revolved around it. It was important for Man to believe this at this period as it clearly underlay the ‘chosen’ nature of Man and Earth as the only existing elements of life in the universe.
To debunk this idea that was ingrained in people for such a long time would surely cause conflict and chaos. The early 1600s was a period where various technological barriers were broken down and spiritual believers were skeptical towards scientific knowledge as it undermined the role of God as a superior being whose vast knowledge is incomparable to Man. It was a period when electricity was first described and the magnetic field was first understood. The telescope was invented and so was the submarine. It could be that these breakthroughs were a threat to the definitive role of Man and God and its assumed relationship. The natures of these inventions impelled the traditionalists to realise that Man may begin to assume the role of God. Did our heads get too big with knowledge? Weren’t they suppose to shrink?
To understand the central importance of science and religion to our lives in the future, we should take a look at how their roles have changed over the years. We first have to analyze the collective role of religion through concepts such as karma and ‘Hereafter’ where Man’s actions on Earth will be reciprocated with either Heaven or Hell. In some religions, the concept of reincarnation is central to their faith where one will return to Earth as another living creature based on his/her deeds from the previous life. In monotheistic religions, the ‘Hereafter’ arrives once Armageddon or destruction of Earth happens and hence, logically, believers of God will need religion till the end of time. Religion itself is an evolutionary process where certain norms that were not accepted have slowly gained support through religious scholars. Accepting homosexuality for example was only recently advocated by the Dalai Lama and the Pope Francis of the Vatican church. These ideas were once heavily criticized and disdained upon. As Man is increasingly brought under the radar of modernization, science assumes a more elemental role in his universe as science’s role in the hereafter is absent. Stephen Hawking explained the existence of life itself as a very precise rate of expansion of the universe. If the universe expanded any faster or slower, physical conditions would not permit Life on Earth. This precision may invite the attribution of God’s role in making the universe seemingly perfect and this ‘perfection’ cannot be merely an act of nature.
Believers in the present and future may still need religion to help them understand scientific phenomena as such occurrences of the universe that seemingly happen by ‘chance’ are weak evidences as compared to role of a superior being in it. The role of spiritual beliefs has undoubtedly evolved along with phenomena in the universe and these roles can satisfy changing needs.
Perhaps science and religion are not meant to be separate fields at all because either field has never proven to exclusively give answers to our understanding of the universe. Our needs are to adapt and survive; to feel at ease and to progress; and these needs will remain static in an ever-changing universe. The human being is so weak , fragile in a body with many limitations. The hawk can see past 3 football fields , fleas jump 80 times their height / Rats, bats and dogs hear sounds we never experienced before. Our sight can’t see the waves , molecules and many different colours all surrounding us. Our ears need reassuring even when one is being directly spoken. Our existence in the spectrum of time is merely a speck of dust in the Sahara. We come and go as our space in time’s spectrum is so minute. The knowledge one know’s is like a drop of water in the ocean and what we know changes over time and even after our deaths. With over 6000 spoken languages in this world , one is deemed wise when he knows 6 . Are we even good enough to understand this world?