Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Science vs religion - The Imaginary Divide

Some of you may already know, or have guessed from previous posts, that I am a bit of a science enthusiast and I am also a (religious) believer. And that's why, several years ago I started to think about the twin themes of Reason and Revelation; "the world of reason or the world of revelation - the world of the philosopher or the world of the mystic". 

That’s a phrase I coined to help me understand our faiths and beliefs, where belief can lead to conflict but also where a lack of faith can leave us without foundations.

In the West, the conditions that allowed the scientific/social enlightenment of the 18thC started to develop ideas which claimed that an expansion of our knowledge would bring about a rational understanding of our old superstitions and beliefs. That God Himself would be explained away in the reasoning that followed.

And interestingly enough, the conflict between science and religion/faith is a conversation that has been popping up again and again for me over the last wee while. My neice Esther (O'Connor, singer/songwriter with Ashton Lane) recently introduced me to a sermon on line called "The Imaginary Divide". Of the many points that were made, one thing that did stay with me is that faith, not specifically the religious kind, can take us beyond reason and doesn't have to contradict it.

It was the French writer and philosopher Voltaire who said "Faith consists of believing when it is beyond the powers of reason to believe".  A theoretical scientist for example, has to imagine a place where they have never been before. It is so true of science that many of the greatest discoveries were, and continue to be made possible by an audacity of imagination: a leap of faith. I think therefore we can question the wisdom of an exclusively reasoned and rational world- or universal-view, by saying that intuition and faith are as essential as logic and reason. Perhaps Einstein was fairly close to the mark when he said "religion without science is lame, science without religion is blind".

Now, most of us accept that there is a balance to be found between science and religion. They are different ways of expressing different perspectives of the same universe and our place within it. "What is a scientist after all?" said Jacques Yves Cousteau. "It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on." If that's the case then what is religion? I'd say it is when a curious man is looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of experience, trying to know what's going on.

And that leads me back to what the wonderful Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said in a BBC program here in the UK a few years ago. He said "Science takes things apart to see how they work, religion puts things together to see what they mean".  Dead on!

A bit about the new works...

"Like his earlier mezzotints and etchings, Duffin's newer work reflects his inner journey through philosophical and scientific matters...through form, symbol, colour and texture...the iconographic vocabulary of gargoyles, angels, doves, guns and bombs being intuitive to the Western viewer."

"Though pondering matters of war, hatred and disruption Duffin reiterates a phrase often integrated in his work: "Peace starts with a smile" reminding us that the most powerful weapon we hold as individuals is a smile. It seems however, that the power which Duffin himself holds as an artist is to raise the difficult subjects which permeate contemporary society and reflect them back to the viewer in a thought-inspiring way. What he seeks across cultural and religious divides is the humanity that connects us..." 

Isabelle Thul, ArtMag UK.