Science in Christian Perspective
Notes on "Science and the Whole Person" A Personal Integration of Scientific and Biblical Perspectives
Pseudo-Science and Pseudo-Theology:
(A) Cult and Occult
RICHARD H. BUBE
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Stanford University Stanford, California 94305
From: JASA 29 (March 1977): 22-28.
The prefix "pseudo" means counterfeit. The evaluation of authentic science and authentic theology cannot be made fully unless it is realized that there are counterfeit forms in the world, and unless the characteristics of these counterfeit forms are recognized. An investigation of pseudo-science and pseudo-theology reveals an intimate relationship between them.
Pseudo-Science and Pseudo-Theology
Pseudo-science is an activity that looks like science, uses the terminology of science, claims the authority of science, but at a fundamental level violates the basic integrity of a scientific activity. The mark of a counterfeit is that it closely resembles the authentic. So also pseudotheology is an activity that looks like belief in and worship of the true God, uses standard or invented theological terms and categories, claims to fulfill the needs and to take the place of authentic theology, but at a fundamental level violates the basic integrity of theology and turns out to be only a human enterprise. Since "theology" cannot be discussed in this context in abstract terms, I state as my own definite presupposition that authentic theology is to be identified in terms of the Christian faith as defined by the Biblical revelation. It is in terms of this presupposition that I work out the remainder of this installment. "Authentic science" has been described in previous installments.
The judgment that a particular activity is one of pseudo-science or pseudo-theology is not one easily made by a person who is not intimately conversant with authentic science and Christian faith. The intricacy and ingenuity of the counterfeit in these fields is no less than the misdirected artistry devoted to the production of counterfeit money. It is often not possible, given limited resources and time, to demonstrate in detail the fallacies and aberrations of the counterfeits in the fields of science and theology. I have received, for example, from time to time whole books of mathematical argumentation seeking to prove all kinds of things from unorthodox theories of cosmogony, to basic errors in Einstein's theory of relativity, to simple and classical substitutes for quantum mechanics, to grandiose models for description of the world in terms of concepts and models imported from philosophy, politics or religion. To sit down and attempt to unravel the errors in these arguments would take an immense effort. There is, however, a basic flavor to pseudoscience or pseudotheology that one deeply involved in authentic science or theology can usually detect without detailed analysis of the argument. There are certain critical test points that pseudo-science or pseudo-theology always fail to match.
In scientific circles practitioners of pseudo-science are called such things as "crackpots" or "quacks." In religious circles practitioners of pseudo-theology are called "fanatics" or "heretics." The connotations of the terms are quite similar in both fields. Generally the heretic is one who departs from the orthodox position by departing from the faithful exercise of the discipline that guides and guards orthodoxy. Historically occasional cases exist where men labeled "crackpots" and "heretics" have later been accepted as men of vision ahead of their times, but these are the exceptions that prove the rule: for every one of them there are thousands of pseudo-scientists and pseudo-theologians whose ideas have no validity beyond their own conceptions. The major breakthroughs in scientific and theological understanding have come from men and women who had a thorough grasp of the fundamentals of their discipline;
This continuing series of articles is based on courses given in the Undergraduate Special Seminar Program at Stanford University, at Fuller Theological Seminary, and at Regent College, Vancouver, B.C. Part 1, "Science Isn't Everything" appeared in March (1976), p. 3337. Part 2, "Science Isn't Nothing" appeared in June (1976), p. 82-87. Port 3, "The Philosophy and Practice of Science" appeared in September (1976), p. 127-132.
seldom if ever do such breakthroughs come as the resuit of the
efforts of amateurs
In his book Physicist and Christian, William Pollard' describes the intuitive apprehension of pseudoscience in the area of physics.
In my own held of physics it is a common experience to receive privately published papers which develop all kinds of strange and bizarre theories about everything from the electron to the universe as a whole . . . . To the non-physicist they have as bona fide a ring as a paper in the Physical Review. But to physicists they are immediately recognized as fundamentally different. They constitute in the strict sense of the word unorthodox or heretical physics. In subtle ways impossible to describe clearly to the world at large, they violate everything which has given the physics community power to slowly and painfully acquire real and dependable insights into the nature of things.
Such practitioners of pseudo-science or pseudo-theology generally believe that they have discovered or been provided with some special key to understanding, unshared by members of the "establishment." They are not willing to enter into careful and scholarly discussion with representatives of orthodoxy, but separate themselves into self-contained and carefully guarded enclaves where support for the pseudo-position can be constantly reinforced by elaborate publication and educational procedures. (As a peripheral observation, I have noted that almost every writer in extreme pseudoscience or pseudo-theology is prune to the capitalization of many words in the attempt to emphasize the "key" nature of his position.)
If practitioners of pseudo-science frequently neglect all areas of evidence or physical laws that would contradict their conclusions if considered properly, practitioners of pseudo-theology are essentially unanimous in their rejection of the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity and of the deity of Jesus Christ. (I address myself here particularly to cults which claim a Christian heritage but have forsaken Christian integrity.) I cannot say that there are no cults that are faithful to these cornerstone Biblical teachings, but certainly every major cult can be characterized immediately by the formulation invented to avoid these fundamental doctrines. Likewise every major cult is in agreement, contrary to Biblical teaching, (and here we can include most of the world's great religions as well) that "salvation" is ultimately through knowledge and by "right action" based on that knowledge. To include Eastern religious thought, one may wish to substitute the word "enlightenment" for "knowledge," but the thrust is the same.
In the remainder of this installment, I consider some of the characteristics of specific cults in order to illustrate and develop these concepts of pseudo-science and pseudo-religion and of how they are frequently used to reinforce one another.
Sampling the Universe: Forms of Fatalism
One set of cults claims to be neutral with respect to worldview, philosophy or religion, and claims therefore that it is possible to hold any religious or philosophical position at the same time that one is a faithful cultist. The members of this set of cults that essentially sample the universe for guidance are as ancient as human records. They have apparently existed at all times of recorded history.
The mark of a counterfeit is that it closely resembles the authentic.
These cults believe that the disposition of our lives is partially or totally
determined by forces beyond our control, but that the fate determined by these
forces can be known to us through apparently unrelated observations. By knowing
our proper place in the universe, we may then take what advantage is possible
of this special knowledge to improve our lives and situation in the world. The
forces beyond our control may be wholly impersonal, as in astrology, palmistry,
reading tea leaves, casting sticks or coins in I Ching, or various forms of the
ancient arts of discerning the future by inspection of the entrails of birds or
the livers of animals (hepatoscopy). Or these forces may have aspects
as in spiritualism, witchcraft and Satanism. These latter do involve religious
expressions of their own, whereas the former could be religiously neutral.
Consider astrology as a specific example of an ancient and currently repopularized cultic expression. The evaluation of astrology depends upon what one really believes that it is; although it is not essential that astrology be intrinsically anti-Christian, it seems in practice to become so in most cases. For most devotees, astrology assumes the form of both a pseudoscience and a pseudo-religion. Certainly the Biblical assessment of astrology is negative in that historical context (e.g., Daniel 2:27; Isaiah 47:13,14).
If astrology had a basis in fact, it could be an indicator of human characteristics and potentialities such as are given by studies of the effects of heredity and environment on human beings, or by studies of psychological preferences and facets of human personality. If astrology had a basis in fact, therefore, Christians could regard it properly as one more way to understand the nature of the created world, and it would of necessity have no more antiChristian impact than the study of genetics. For those who accept astrology, on the other hand, it seems empirically that such a neutral approach is seldom followed. It seems much more common for astrology to become the principal focus of life, with "traditional religion" relegated to a secondary and peripheral role in deciding choices and actions. It is necessary, therefore, to distinguish between what might be the case if astrology were a real science, and not a pseudoscience coupled with a pseudo-religion, and what is the case with devotees of astrology.
On the other hand, if astrology has no basis in fact, it is nothing short of foolish to pay any attention to it, or to regard it as indeed supplementary to understanding gained from genetics and psychology. As to whether astrology is an authentic science or a pseudo-science, I must personally conclude that it is an eminent case of the latter. To argue that the planets have dominant effects on our personality, metabolism, and health, not to mention our success, wealth, sex-life, wish-fulfillment etc., and to couple this argument with the admission that we really don't know how they have this effect, adds up for me to a position that can be accepted only on faith with little regard for any objective evidence. Not only is the position non-rational, but it is basically irrational since its conclusions frequently contradict other available evidence. Its popularity is correlatahie with a modern infatuation for the irrational in reaction against excessive rationalism, as discussed earlier in Part 2. When I couple the irrationality of astrology with the admitted uselessness of daily newspaper horoscopes and the realization of the vast business potential in the astrology area, I am confirmed in the conclusion that astrology is a pseudo-science. When I recognize in addition the subtle ways in which faith in astrology can replace faith in the living and loving God, I feel justified in regarding it as a pseudo-religion as well as a pseudo-science. Actually, an investigation into the religious perspectives of astrologers usually reveals a dimension of pantheism or Eastern mysticism regarding the Unity of all things, of which the planetary motions may be only a relatively unimportant manifestation.
The Key to Health and Success: Neo-Gnosticism
Gnosticism was a philosophico-religious movement that pre-dated Christian times but continued on afterwards, in which the main conviction was that "salvation" or "emancipation" came through knowledge (Greek, gnosis) which was able to deliver the special possessor of this knowledge from the constraints of matter.
A second group of cults share the claim that their particular founder had insights that prove to be the key to a healthy and successful life; these cults may therefore be considered to be modern examples of gnosticism, or of neo-gnosticism. In each case the founder has lived in the past 200 years and has written prolifically. Each stresses in its own way that "salvation" comes through knowledge; knowledge of that particular key which had been hidden and is hidden still from all who do not participate in the cult. L. Ron Hubbard (1911- ) discovered the principles of "dianeties" and his discovery has grown into the Church of Scientology. The teachings and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses are based to a large extent on the writings of Charles T. Russell (18521916) and his style of biblical interpretation and extrapolation. Christian Science is founded on the book by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) whose textbook dominates Christian Science thought: Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures. Mormonism came into being with Joseph Smith (18051844) who claimed to translate the golden plates delivered to him by an angel and produced the "keys" of the Latter Day Saints: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.
Of this group of four cults of the neo-gnostic type, the Church of Scientology is the most openly nonChristian. At its best Scientology advocates and practices a number of techniques that may have a practical psychological effect; at its worst Scientology is a false religion incompatible with the Christian faith, exhibiting a mixture of pseudo-science and pseudo-religion. Scientology exalts the role of knowledge, assumes that knowledge leads to wisdom, and that wisdom leads to salvation. Scientology openly presents itself as being in a long line of "wisdom" religions: religions that claim special insight able to deliver the initiated. In Scientology the claim is made for the application of the scientific method: what works is right. This pragmatism is both appropriate and useful for the application of the scientific method, but it is also one of the chief limitations of that method as a universal principle of life, as we have discussed in Part 1. The truth is pragmatic, but what is pragmatic in the short range need not be the ultimately true.
It is unfortunate that the cult insistence on the primacy of the cult "key" and the cult community makes it virtually impossible to appreciate authentic science and theology rather than their pseudo counterparts.
Scientology also grasps at the criterion of "good" provided by evolutionism, i.e., good is determined by its survival value. But on what kind of scientific basis is such a definition derived? It cannot be scientifically established. Rather it is a faith assumption that converts what is (what survives) into what ought to be (what is good). This is no definition of "good" at all, and men are unable to agree on what survival (or the greatest good for the greatest number) really means in the absence of more basic and more ultimate value presuppositions.
Scientology claims to he compatible with any religious beliefs, and to interfere with no religious practice. This can be true only if one's religious beliefs are wholly subjective. It seems to be clearly impossible to me to he a Biblical Christian and an advocate of Scientology. Scientology teaches that man is innately good (the basic fallacy of every idealistic neglect of reality); the Bible teaches that man is by nature in rebellion against God. Scientologists admit that Scientology is based primarily on Buddhism, believe that soul or spirit is "that part of man that is part of Cod," and define sin as "that action or omission of action that causes the greatest harm to the greatest overall portion of life."
Although Scientology is problem oriented and prides itself on producing solutions for problems, it is unable to respond to the deepest problems of life except on a superficial level. The problem of death, for example, is left essentially up to the individual to work out in his own "religious" way. The problem of guilt cannot he met by divine forgiveness, for Scentology is "open" enough to permit whatever "God and/or Gods or the principle of a first or prime cause" one might care to believe in. In addition to its religious errors, the practical danger of Scientology appears to lie in the financial as well as the spiritual bondage in which its followers may find themselves entrapped. With respect to the high costs of achieving the upper grades of Scientological standing (grades of "clearness"), frequently reputed to he in the thousands of dollar range, Scientologists reply that they attempt to compress all the benefits of religion into two years rather than a whole lifetime, and that therefore the actual cost is only apparently high; the same amount of money contributed to the institutional church for a lifetime is required within just two years, but with guaranteed results by Scientology.
Remarkable resemblance can be detected between Scientology and Christian Science in spite of the historical differences in their origin and formulation. Christian Science is of course much more biblically oriented, but only insofar as the Bible agrees with the system of Mary Baker Eddy. Accepting as the Principle par excellence that a perfect Cause must bring forth a perfect Effect, the creation account of Genesis 1 is taken to demand that since God is perfect, man must be perfect-not only in creation but today as well. Since Genesis 2 and 3 (and the rest of the Bible) provide the reasons why man as he now is is not perfect, Christian Scientists have no hesitation to dismiss Genesis 2 and 3 as inferior to Genesis 1. The "key" to health and success in Christian Science is the attainment of spiritual unity with God and the realization that man is only spiritual and not material. But the God referred to is not the Cod of the Trinity or of the Bible, but a Divine Principle which is impersonal. Jesus, in his "material manhood," was not the Christ. Evil is not real but is the result of our faulty apprehension of reality. Here Christian Science shows wide overlap with the emphases of Eastern religions, as discussed below.
The "keys" to the Scriptures of Mormonism, provided in the writings of Joseph Smith and of the proclamations of the leader of the Church of Latter Day Saints to this day, openly claim to be revelation which corrects and clarifies the older revelation of the commonly accepted Bible. Mormon study of the Bible perse is made all but impossible by an insistence on looking for evidence of missing portions, altered texts and variant readings in order to justify the works of Joseph Smith as essential portions of the whole Scriptures. Without consideration of the severe scholarly problems in arguing for the authenticity of the Smith writings as revelation given in "reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics," or of frequent quotations in these writings from the Bible in its word-for-word King James translation (including the errors in that translation), it can be noted that Mormons reject the Trinity and regard Jesus and the Devil as spiritual brothers, and they also consider God to be an exalted man with a physical body. The Mormon doctrine of salvation involves not only faith in Jesus, but also baptism by immersion, obedience to the teachings of the Mormon church, good works, and the keeping of the commandments of God as Mormons
Cultic advocates often speak of the scientific demonstration of the validity of a spiritual nature to man. Although this may sound like good news for the religious person, it is usually an extremely dangerous pitfall.
interpret them. Thus the atonement of Christ is not sufficient, but is only a
first step which must be supplemented by human works. Actually all
of beliefs or works, will enjoy some degree of "salvation"
in a hierarchically
structured heaven of which the highest category is Godhead, reserved for the faithful
Mormons who have
fulfilled all the requirements.
Jehovah's Witnesses not only have taken the writings of Charles T. Russell as guides to interpreting the Bible, but have published their own translation of the Bible (the New World Translation) with such variants in translation as may be used to support the Witnesses' doctrines. Jehovah's Witnesses also reject the Trinity and the deity of Christ. The atonement of Christ provided the foundation upon which the work and obedience of the faithful can he built to enable them to he among the literal 144,000 of Revelation 7:4; 14:1,3 to enter the established kingdom. Christ has already returned secretly and invisibly in 1914 and is presently about the business of setting up his kingdom.
All of these four cults maintain fairly closed communities and are not open to genuine scholarly interchange or debate with either the scientific community or the Christian community. They involve many sincere and well-intentioned people who are desperately seeking for some source of security and assurance in our tension-ridden day. It is unfortunate that the cult insistence on the primacy of the cult "key" and the cult community makes it virtually impossible for these people to appreciate authentic science and theology rather than their pseudo counterparts. The obvious hard work of many dedicated cult devotees can he associated with the cult consciousness that man's work is the basis for his ultimate position, both in this life and in the life to come.
Becoming One with the Universe: Eastern Religion
Since the Eastern religions in their classical forms make little pretense at being scientific, it may seem inappropriate to include them in a discussion centering around pseudo-science, or it may seem presumptuous to treat such religions with their long history and millions of adherents under the category of pseudo-religion. On the other hand, we have already seen above the influences of Eastern religious thought on astrology, Scientology and Christian Science, We are also living in a day in which interest in the Eastern religions is at a new high in the Western world, and many cultic forms do manifest aspects of pseudo-science and pseudo-religion of relevance to us.
Not only do the Eastern religions agree with other cults in rejecting the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, and the biblical revelation of reconciliation with a personal God by grace through faith, but they reject even the biblical doctrine of Creation, which forms the implicit base for so much of Western thought. Unless this rejection of the doctrine of Creation is realized to be at the heart of Eastern religious thought, any understanding of it is impossible. Eastern thought fairly generally treats the acceptance of matter as the cause of evil, and the effort to preserve the individual as the cause of moral failure. Man does evil according to Eastern thought because he is finite, limited, individual and conscious of self as reality; he can be delivered from this bondage only by withdrawing from finiteness, limitations of space and time, handicapping illusions of individuality, and destructive self-consciousness into the great Unity of unindividuated reality. The method of withdrawal usually involves some form of meditation and obedience to discipline: to the
Scientifically demonstrable results described in a particular religious context cannot be taken as evidence that that context is thereby verified.
acquisition of knowledge, not by the Western method of "study," but by the Eastern method of "satori," sudden nonrational enlightenment. The biblical doctrine of creation takes seriously the pronouncement of God that the universe, according to his creation purpose, is good, and that evil which we see around us today is not the inevitable consequence of the structure of' the created universe (with its finite, limited, selfconscious individuals), but is the result of human moral rebellion against God. Moral rebellion has little meaning within Eastern thought; unless we perceive that God is us, and that we are God-that all is God and that we are all, we are blinded by the limitations of appearances and fail to grasp the Unity of reality.
The methods of meditation and discipline may cover a wide range within Eastern thought from the devotion to the eightfold way of conservative Buddhism, to the short-cut through meditation alone of Zen Buddhism, to the pop meditation of Transcendental Meditation for which only a single meaningless word (a mantra) provided by a guru needs to be repeated for 15 minutes twice a day to achieve satori, health, peace, success and utimatc enlightenment. While recognizing the fallacious theological foundation of these claims, we should, however, be willing also to recognize the possibility of useful natural body and even mind training through such methods. Eastern religious thought has roots in antiquity and an association with folkscience and pseudo-science through the years. Just as folk-science often provided medical aid long before medical science understood the cause, and in such cases based its argument upon fallacious pseudo-science and pseudo-religion, so we may expect it to be possible that methods of disciplining body and mind advocated by Eastern religions may be effective without confirming the religious premises associated historically with them. As the treatments of chiropractic may often be useful for particular ailments (and even more useful than available medical treatments) and yet no confirmation is thereby given of the basic philosophy of chiropractic, so also we may expect some positive results to be achievable by the practice of yoga, acupuncture, Transcendental Meditation etc. without providing any confirmation of the religious superstructure on which these practices are historically hung. If we do not make this distinction between the possible beneficial results of physical and mental discipline and the religions framework within which their devotees present them, we may well find ourselves in the embarrassing position of denying scientifically demonstrable results in an effort to avoid supporting pseudo-religious concepts. This is the kind of dilemma that Christians have long been in with respect to the biological theory of organic evolution, and it is time that lessons learned in that encounter be applied to this field developing from the background of Eastern religions.
Today a large field is developing on the borderline between pseudo-science and authentic science with renewed interest in parapsychology, paramedicine, extrasensory perception, clairvoyance, psychokinesis and related phenomena. Although these areas could he investigated purely in terms of natural science (and should he so investigated), they are most frequently conceptually tied to a mode of thought derived from the Eastern religions. While disagreeing in detail, they agree in general with the claims of Scientology and Christian Science that a person in full tune with the universe (a "clear," or one united to the divine Principle) has within himself the ability to transcend the limitations of space and time, to burst the bonds of finiteness and individuality, and to propel himself into the All with the ability to exercise the powers thereof. Thus the Christian Scientist argues that only failure to achieve the ultimate apprehension of reality causes Christian Scientists to experience death; the Scientologist says, "A person who is Clear has gone beyond the ordinary. He knows himself. He understands himself and can fashion his own happiness at will. He is 'cleared' of all the obstacles that prevented him from reaching his highest aspirations."2
Advocates of these positions often speak of their scientific demonstration of the validity of a spiritual nature to man. Although this may sound like good news for the religious person, it is usually an extremely dangerous pitfall. For what the advocates of these positions mean is a spiritual nature of man constructed according to human expectations and not in accord with the biblical revelation, Dr. James Pike claimed that he had found such scientific evidence for the existence of an afterlife through his seance contacts with his dead son, but it was an afterlife fashioned after the thoughts of autonomous man and not after the clear word of biblical revelation. These combinations of pseudo-science and pseudo-religion, like the others, are an attempt to construct a religious view over which man has control, rather than encountering the religious reality over which God has control. Christians must be aware, as the biblical record makes clear from the magicians of the court of Pharaoh (Exodus 7:11,22; 8:7) to the Beast of Revelation (Revelation 13:13-15), that simple performance of an extraordinary feat does not authenticate the philosophy and religion of those who perform it.
Transcendental Meditation has become a particularly well-known version of popularized Eastern religious practice, distinguished by the fact that so many practitioners of TM deny that there is any religious content involved. It therefore becomes an interesting test case of the way in which Christians should deal with such phenomena. In order to answer the question of whether TM is a science, a religion, both or neither, answers to a variety of questions must be sought.
1. Are there observable phenomena that are real and reproducible?
2. Are these phenomena beneficial or harmful? What criteria should he used to decide?
3. Do these phenomena have natural causes? Can they he scientifically described?
4. Do these phenomena have supernatural causes? Is it impossible to describe them in natural categories?
5. What is the belief system out of the matrix of which TM arises?
6. Does the belief system in which TM originates
necessarily hind the practitioner?
7, Can TM be regarded simply as a healthy exercise
(like sleeping or jogging) or as an unhealthy exercise
(such as holding one's breath)?
8. If the phenomena observed have supernatural
causes, what is the agency?
9. Can there be spiritual danger in practicing TM?
An analysis of answers to these questions suggests that TM could be a science, a religion, both or neither. It could be a science if certain physiological activity led to demonstrable and reproducible results. The question is, Does it? There appear to be definite resuits but it is not clear that they are uniquely different from deep rest or sleep. A recent report in Science5 directed toward detecting physiological and biochemical effects of TM concludes that "meditation does not induce a unique metabolic state but is seen biochemically as a resting state." Still, TM could be a neutral technique for relaxation.
TM could he a religion if Maharishi's overall perspective and claims for TM are accepted, and if it is appreciated that initiation into TM and the receiving of a mantra occur at a religious ceremony, however hidden this may be from the initiate not acquainted with the language used.
TM could be both religion and science, if physiological disciplines with scientifically describable results were considered to be the ways in which such religion should be expressed. There are many testimonies from Christians that their Christian perception has been deepened by practicing TM.
TM could be neither science nor religion, if it were simply subjective delusion or deliberately perpetrated fraud.
What then should the Christian learn from all this? Essentially three things.
1. The religious context of TM cannot be overlooked or forgotten if TM is being advanced for instruction of the general public. In its present practices, TM does require a religious initiation ceremony and is based upon a monistic religious view of reality.
2. Scientifically demonstrable results described from a particular religious context cannot be taken as evidence that that context is thereby verified.
3. Rejection of a religious context for a variety of non-scientific reasons cannot be taken as the basis for rejecting the reality of scientifically demonstrable results coming from that religious context.
If non-Christians are most often guilty of violating 2., Christians are most often guilty of violating 3. TM (or something analogous to TM) could probably be just healthy "exercise." Unfortunately, the probability that people in general practicing TM would regard it as simply healthy "exercise" is not large.
Although we have been concerned in this installment primarily with those cases where pseudoscience and pseudo-theology are combined, it should be recognized that pseudo-science or pseudo-theology can arise also in other contexts. It is possible, for example, for those who profess an authentic Christian position to become entrapped in pseudo-science; likewise it is possible for those who are engaged in authentic science to become entrapped in pseudo-theology. The Christian, therefore, needs also to be aware that an orthodox religious position does not automatically establish an orthodox scientific understanding, any more than an authentic practice of science guarantees an authentic religious interpretation. Again discrimination is essential. To attack one engaged in pseudo-religion and authentic science by attacking his science is disastrous; so also is the attack on one engaged in pseudo-science and authentic theology by an attack upon his theology. Christians have frequently been guilty of the former, and the world has often been guilty of the latter. Hopefully Christians will have learned from the past not to fall into the same kind of pitfalls as the world.
Any evaluation of authentic science and theology must recognize that there are many counterfeit pseudosciences and pseudo-theologies in the world. Although proponents of such pseudo-science and pseudo-theology may be sincere and dedicated people, they are guilty of missing the essence of what it takes for science and theology to be authentic. Unfortunately the culture out of which the pseudo-science or pseudo-theology comes is a closed culture, seeking primarily to reinforce the characteristic doctrines and to close off openness with
Rejection of a religious context for a variety of non-scientific reasons cannot be taken as the basis for rejecting the reality of scientifically demonstrable results coming from that religious context.
respect to alternatives.
Often pseudo-science and pseudo-theology appear in a context in which one is used to reinforce the other. Such efforts can be separated into at least three basic categories. First, there are forms of fatalism, in which knowledge of the universe and its future by means of pseudoscientific approaches often turns ultimately into a pseudo-religion. Second, there are forms of gnosticism, in which secret or hidden knowledge is held out as the "key" to health, success, happiness, and "being right with God;" this hidden knowledge is obtained sometimes by pseudoscience, sometimes by revelation, and sometimes by a combination of bothin any ease it is the knowledge itself which "saves." Finally, there are variations of the theme of the Eastern religions, in which self-induced transcendence over matter, finiteness, individuality, space and time, is achieved by discipline and meditation; such transcendence returns the separated self to the unity of the All and hence "saves."
One of the most significant lessons to be learned is that the practice of science by an individual need not be intimately related to his religious understanding. Authentic science and religion should go together; pseudo-science and pseudo-religion are often joined. But an authentic religious view can appear to he supported by pseudo-science, and a pseudo-religious view can appear to be supported by authentic science. Discrimination is essential.
1William C. Pollard, Physicist and Christian, Seabury, Greenwich, Coon. (1961), p. 21
2Perhaps Happiness: A Scientology handbook, p. 5 (1973)
3R. B. Michaels, M. J. Huber and D. S. McCann, "Evaluation of Transcendental Meditation as a Method of Reducing Stress," Science 192, 1242 (1976)
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Perhaps Happiness: A Scientology Handbook defines "Operating Thetan" (p. 46) in the following way:
Operating Thetan: a Clear who has been familiarized with his environment to a point of total cause over matter, energy, space, time and thought, and who is not necessarily in a body. Compare with similar ideas in Christian Science and Eastern religions. Is the concept of "Operating Thetan" a scientific one?
2. Why is the rejection of the Trinity and of the deity at Jesus Christ one of the hallmarks at every pseudo-Christian cult?
3. If fatalism were really authentic so that "reading the signs of the future" could be done to tell what must inevitably happen, what would be the point in reading these signs in order to be able to change the future? If the future
could be changed by deliberate action, then what "future" was being read?
4. There are many reasons for arguing that ultimately all things in the universe are related. Some fraction of my weight for example is determined by the furthest galaxies of the universe. In modern quantum physics we speak of the state of an entire system, recognizing the interrelatedness of the parts. Does this mean that all things are equally interrelated? In fact, does not our everyday ability to describe events depend crucially on the fact that only a few interrelations are sufficiently large to be nun-negligible?
Trace the relationship between Gnosticism, idealism, Utopianism, and disillusionment. Discuss the importance of a critical realism to both authentic science and authentic religion.
6. Examine the following logical argument: a. God is perfect. b. Everything that God does is perfect. c. God made man. d. Man must be perfect. c. Man appears to be imperfect. f. Man's imperfections must be an illusion.
7. Is Buddhist science possible? On what grounds?
8. An article in Scientific American (February 1972) by B. K. Wallace and II. Benson claims scientific evidence that Transcendental Meditation reduces oxygen consumption, causes a rapid decline in the concentration of blood lactate produced by anaerobic metabolism mainly in muscle tissue, produces a rapid rise in the electrical resistance of the skin, causes an increase in intensity of "slow" alpha brain waves, and produces a decrease in respiratory rate and in volume of air breathed. TM's proponents often clams that it is related to neither philosophy nor religion. On the other hand, TM is practiced by the repetition of a "personalized" mantra, which the subject is never permitted to reveal; is alternatively called "The Science of Creative Intelligence," which is based on "the major discovery that there exists in every human being the constant source of intelligence, energy and happiness;" and its founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has been quoted as saying that "theoretically, if everyone practices TM, the problems of stress, war, and man's inhumanity to man would he non-existent." Given this kind of evidence, is TM a science, a religion, a pseudo-science, a pseudo-religion--or an eclectic mixture of several of these depending on who is doing what with it?
9. Given the need and the opportunity, would you try acupuncture? If it helped you, would you attribute religious significance to the outcome and come to accept ancient Chinese views of man's relationship to the universe?
J. N. D. Anderson, Christianity and Comparative Religion, InterVarsity Press, Illinois ( 1970)
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