Posted by: chibotaichi | February 24, 2013

Science as Religion vs. Science as Practice

I was always interested in Science as a child, but as I have grown older I have become rather wary of it. Not that I have lost my interest in the Natural World and the like. Far from it! In fact, now more than ever, I find the World around me so utterly fascinating.

I think where Science has lost me is in the all too common arrogance which pervades the ranks. I think I need to qualify that remark: It is worth noting that the arrogance I refer to seems to stem more from the slightly-above-average minded community. I don’t know too many “real” scientists.

At any rate, this arrogance can best be summed up by numerous memes and quotes which circulate on Facebook and other social media. The poster-child is this one: The great thing about Science is that you don’t have to believe in it for it to be true.

There is some undeniable merit to this idea, but it smacks of the same absurd authoritarian superiority that the Church smothered the masses with for centuries.

The popular notion among the too-hip-to-have-faith is that Religion is strictly hocus-pocus and even suggesting the possibility of a deity is soooo last-century. The self-assured industrial and technological generations have come of age believing that belief in anything is a sign of weak-mindedness.

The great thing about Science is that you don’t have to believe in it for it to be true.

And yet, this refrain has been popular for ages in various religious doctrines. The great thing about Religion is that you don’t have to believe in it for it to be true.

It has been my impression over the past few years, that Science requires more Faith than I am liable to muster. Call me fickle, but on any given day, I am not particularly sure that I really expect Gravity to continue to hold my feet to the Earth. Some days, I get the feeling that Today might be the day the Impossible occurs.

To this point I may, of course, be calling out Extremism… I recently read a redeeming quote about Science and its methods. The saving Grace of that statement revealed the only Truth that Science has me convinced of…We can’t assume we Know the whole story.

When a Theory is created, Science demands an experiment to evaluate the hypothesis. After rigorous testing, perhaps the Theory is granted a status of “true,” but only until it can be shaken, at which point, Science adjusts itself and says things like “we used to think that the world is flat” or “we used to think that atoms are the smallest component of reality.”

Good Science is, by nature, quite mutable.

Bad Science is dogma; it IS Religion.

As of late, I love to tell my yoga classes to think of their Practice as an inquiry, as a Scientific (the good kind) exploration. Create a hypothesis: “my balance is good,” “I can’t do bakasana,” “I am always so stressed.” 

Now test that.

Push that Theory to its limits and discover the extent to which the Theory isn’t necessarily True.

Make observations, look, listen, feel…

Because we keep returning to the Mat, we are constantly presenting ourselves with opportunities to evaluate our hypotheses. On any given day, your balance very well may be terrible, but when we become effective self-scientists, we can uncover the roots of our Theory, we can develop the entire picture. What is different on the day you discover that your balance isn’t so bad afterall? Does downward facing dog hurt your wrists on Fridays, but feel great on Mondays? Why did that restorative class leave you feeling fatigued instead of energized?

What is going on Here?!

THAT, is the most important question. It must be asked consistently, constantly, and I believe that the yoga mat is a great place to ask it. The answer is almost exclusively internal. As a Center of Awareness, only YOU can answer that question for yourself.

A good teacher can provide outside observation- your back-leg is sagging, your shoulders are hunching, your spine is losing alignment… but none of the external, nor internal, answers can be ascertained without taking the Time to ask ourselves the questions.

And finding an answer once and thinking we’ve got it is Bad Science. The answers change with the Breath, with the hour, by day, from season to season, through the stages of our lives.

The most important aspect of Good Science is to keep showing up, to keep asking questions, to never stop learning, and to recognize the transitory nature of Knowledge.

Most of what we take to be Fact is utterly unstable. Today is ____.

Foster in yourself a willingness to merely observe and move on. Everyday presents discovery, in this Way.


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