Does Science Explain All?In the beginning there was darkness. Then there was light.
Then therewas consciousness. Then there were questions and then there was religion. Religions sprouted up all over the world as a response to some of humanity’smost troubling questions and fears. Why are we here? Where do we come from?Why does the world and nature act as it does? What happens when you die?Religions tended to answer all these questions with stories of gods andgoddesses and other supernatural forces that were beyond the understanding ofhumans. Magic, in it’s essence, were the powers wielded by these superiorbeings that caused the unexplainable to happen.
Fast forward a few thousand years to the present. In our age and timethere is little left unexplained. Science seems able to explain everything withmathematical logic and concrete evidence right before our very eyes. Thesubject of science is taught in almost every school on Earth. Gone are the daysof magic and wonder.
The magic of so-called magicians like David Copperfieldare a jest. When people attend a magic show everyone looks for the invisiblewires and hidden projectors. No one really believes the magician hassupernatural powers, except for maybe a handful of children in the audience whostill have faith in Santa Clause. Science does seem to explain all.
It has enabled humans to fly, cureincurable diseases, explore the depths of the oceans, stave off death, walk onthe moon and wipe out entire civilizations with the push of a button. It isbecoming more and more widespread in that people are putting their faith inscience above that in the gods. What parent wouldn’t rather bring their sickchild to a doctor than have faith in the healing power of some mystical entitythat may or may not exist. However strong and almost perfect the view of science is in today’ssociety it cannot and does not cover the entire spectrum of the human experience. Nor does it explain some of the striking similarities present in the variousreligions of Earth. These similarities occur in civilizations not only far fromeach other but also in cultures separated by seemingly impossible to traverseoceans of water.
Many of these similarities occur in the cosmological orcreation myths of the various religions. In the Bible and other in other comparable ancient literatures, creationis a theme expressed in parables or stories to account for the world. In almostevery ancient culture the universe was thought of as darkness, nothing and chaosuntil order is induced by the divine creative hand. The type of orderenvisioned varied from culture to culture. In the Biblical perspective, it wasenvisioned that light should be separated from dark, day from night; and thatthe various forms of plant and animal life be properly categorized.
Althoughthe figure differ from myth to myth, all the ancient stories intend to give apoetic accounting for cosmic origins. When viewed in terms of creational motifs,the stories tend to be similar. Some myths of creation include myths of emergence, as from achildbearing woman, or creation by the marriage of two beings representing theheavens and earth. A common feature of some Hindu, African and Chinese myths isthat of a cosmic egg from which the first humans are “hatched” from.
In othercultures, it must be brought up from primordial waters by a diver, or is formedfrom the dismembered body of a preexisting being. Whether the deity usespreexisting materials, whether he leaves his creation once it is finished, howperfect the creation is, and how the creator and the created interact vary amongthe myths. The creation story also attempts to explain the origins of evil andthe nature of god and humanity. An example of two different religions containing various aspects of eachother could be that of the creation myth of Christianity and aspects ofcreationism found in African religion.
The creator god in the African religionis Nyambi. Nyambi creates a man, Kamonu, and the man does exactly as his goddoes in every way; Similar to the way the god of Christianity creates man in hisown image. Also Nyambi creates for Kamonu a garden to live in, the same way theGarden of Eden was created. Another motif repeated between these two religionsis that of the Bible’s Tower of Babel. Kamonu, after his god left him behind,tried to build a tower to reach his god but like The Tower of Babel it collapsedand the humans failed to reach heaven. In Mesopotamian culture the epic tale Gilgamesh is almost totallyidentical to the Biblical story of Noah and the ark.
In the tale of Gilgamesh,Gilgamesh is warned by Enki that a divine judgment has been passed and the worldis to be destroyed by a giant flood. Gilgamesh is instructed build a boat tobring his family and animals so to escape the flood. Another powerful example of the commonality of myth transcendingcultures is in the Trimurti of Brahman in post classical Hinduism when comparedto the holy trinity of Christianity. Brahman, the Hindu essence of ultimatereality is at the very core of Hinduism, post classical Hinduism sees him inthree aspects.
Each of these three aspects of Brahman is expressed by a godfrom classical Indian literature: Brahma, the creator; Shiva, the destroyer;and Vishnu, the preserver. Very similar to the Holy Christian Trinity of: God,the father; Christ, the son; and the Holy Spirit. In both Hinduism andChristianity the trinities are three and at the same time one entity. In the mythology of many of the Central Asian Pastoral Tribes thesupreme deity of their religion is confronted by an adversary representing thepowers of darkness and evil. Very much like the relationship in the Christianmythos between God and Lucifer, this figure of evil attempts to counter theplans of the celestial good being and aims at gaining dominance over the worldand at establishing a realm of his own in which he would rule over humanity.
The forces of good and evil are not equally balanced, however, and there isnever any real doubt about the final supremacy of the sky-god. Yet according tosome myths the representative of evil and darkness succeeded in leading peopleastray and bringing about a fall similar to that of Adam and Eve. Other mythological motifs not involving Christianity or the Bible isthat of a god or a hero making the dangerous journey to the underworld , orHades, to retrieve a lost love. The Greek mythological tale of Orpheus and theJapanese Shinto myths both contain very similar aspects.
In both of thesestories, Orpheus and Izanagi, lose their spouses to death and venture into theterrible underworld of Hades to try to wrest them back. In both stories theyare on the way to getting back each his wife as long as they don’t look backtowards her. In both tales both Izanagi and Orpheus look back, losing thechance they had at having their loves returned to them. These are just some of the universal myths contained within variousreligions of the world.
How do all these myths seem to transcend thegeographical and cultural boundaries of Earth? Carl Gustav Jung, a leadingpsychologist and contemporary of Freud, came up with a theory involving thecollective unconscious of a person’s psyche. The collective unconscious,according to Jung, is made up of what he called “archetypes”, or primordialimages. These correspond to such experiences such as confronting death orchoosing a mate and manifest themselves symbolically in religion, myths, fairytales and fantasies. Joseph Campbell, considered by most to have been the foremost expert onworld religions and mythology, believed to be a fact that; “. . .
mythologies andtheir deities are productions and projections of the psyche”. It was his beliefthat religions and myths come from one’s own creative imagination andunconsciousness. He further believed that humankind is intrinsically linked inthat some part of human nature creates these myths and religions out of a needfor them. We all have the same basic psychological makeup just as we all havethe same basic physical makeup. Recent scientific studies suggest that the average human uses only tento fifteen percent of his or her brain. What happens to the other eighty-fiveto ninety percent of it? Does it just sit there and have absolutely no use? Ordoes it perhaps contain the universal commonalties of what links us all as agreat big tribe of human beings; containing our greatest hopes, our worst fears,our dreams and creativity.
Perhaps it does contain a link to the realm ofmysticism and surrealism which artists such as Salvador Dali tried so hard torender on canvas. Science doesn’t know what it contains. It’s in our skullsand we’re not even sure what it contains, maybe the answers to our ownprimordial questions. WORKS CITEDWorld Religions From Ancient History to the Present editor: Geoffrey Parrinder,copyright 1971, The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd. Essays On a Science of Mythology Carl Jung, copyright 1949, Pantheon Books Inc.
Myths To Live By Joseph Campbell, copyright 1972, Viking PressReligions of the World Lewis M. Hopfe, Copyright 1976, Prentice-Hall Inc.Mythology Edith Hamilton, copyright 1942, Little Brown Inc.Encarta ’95 copyright 1995, Microsoft corp.Philosophy