It is striking how obvious, yet subtle, the relationship between science, religion, and truth are. This could be an example of chapter 71’s, My words are very easy to understand and very easy to put into practice, yet no one in the world can understand them or put them into practice. There are profound spiritual implications in core scientific laws (truths). Why then the battle between religion and science? Consider the clearly partisan aspects of religion vis-à-vis the impartial spiritual truth from which religion springs. The conflict I see are battles between partisans of both tribes — religion and science. These passionate adherents are religious and science minded in name mostly.
Disconnection and Reconnection
The spiritual aim of true religion is to give the individual a sense of reconnection. Indeed, the Latin root of religion, religare (“to reconnect,”) says it all — the prefix re “again” + ligare “bind, connect“. That is what the path of science promises as well. There is an important distinction between these two paths of reconnection. Religion draws on feeling; science draws on thinking. Feeling is more primal and thus religion offers a far easier path for reconnection for most people.
As we left our ancient hunter-gathering tribal lifestyle and became civilized, we lost the intimate sense of connection that fosters a sense of well being and self-security. Religion helps fill that void. That people are religious, or science minded, in name only says much about the tribal nature of our species. It is not surprising that we are often only able to feel a sense of reconnection through passionate partisanship. It’s tribal; it’s biological.
Yet, neither religion nor science is enough. If either truly was, they could live and let live. The need to vie with an ‘enemy’ is a clear symptom of an insecurity stemming from a failure to feel fully connected. I assume we began feeling our increasing sense of disconnection long before we became civilized. Language (words and names) began to dominate human awareness tens of thousands of years earlier. This began disconnecting us from the contemporaneous moment-to-moment peaceful simplicity that other animals experience. Now, ironically, I am going to use language to religare science, religion, and truth.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics is Spiritual Truth
I don’t suppose I gave entropy much thought other than as a cornerstone of classical physics, i.e., Second Law of Thermodynamics. While reading a recent Science News report, A New View of Gravity , I realized the natural link between the humble spiritual roots of religion and the essence of science. The link between entropy and gravity made the case solid for me, although I’d have trouble explaining why. Fortunately, a simpler case is possible to make.
An example of increasing entropy is burning coal. In burning coal, you are returning carbon to its simpler — mysterious sameness — state. Returning it to a lump of coal again would require energy to increase order. The input of energy is what made the coal originally, i.e., CO2 + sunlight + plant life + tectonic forces (+ time) = coal. When chapter 80 says return to the use of the knotted rope, this sounds like a call to increase entropy in our approach to life… Simplify!
Language, and the information it contains, is a low entropy system. Increasing entropy would mean decreasing information. Chapter 10 speaks to this also, When your discernment penetrates the four quarters, are you capable of not knowing anything? Complete entropy results in complete loss of information. This amounts to what the Tao Te Ching refers to as, ‘mysterious sameness’, ‘nothing’, ‘stillness’, ’emptiness’, ‘the void’, ‘silence’. It is odd using entropy to illustrate Taoist ‘information’. I love the irony. I expect the increasing information overload in the years ahead will make the Taoist entropic worldview ever more appealing. Let’s face it, sanity lies in simplicity.
A striking irony to me is how language, as a low entropy system, has the opposite effect on large groups of people. Language increases entropy among strangers, albeit as long as they speak the same language. Indeed, language is essential to give a high entropy common ground for organizing civilization. Language reduces spontaneity and individuality by pulling everyone into mutual high entropy ‘common sense’. At the same time, it has the opposite effect in the mind of each individual thinker! Interestingly, chapter 40 seems to parallel maximum entropy.
The Tao Te Ching helps us escape the low entropy nature of language and its domination of our mind, which allows us to see the world more as a baby again. Correlations also help increase entropy of language to the point approaching what I call ‘cognitive singularity’ — a mental black hole. (See Tools of Taoist Thought: Correlations.)
Newton’s Laws of Motion are also Spiritual Truth.
My first experience with connecting spiritual truth with laws of science was years ago while living in Japan (1). I’ve forgotten now how I came to be thinking about classical science in the first place, only that I was considering the action vs. reaction aspects of a rocket.
I recall being blown away when I suddenly realized how Newton’s third law, For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, applies to life in general. I don’t really recall exactly how I tied it in with life. In any case, I see my experience of life as symptomatic of underlying biological forces. This parallels Newton’s Law of Motion. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” corresponds to how my actions on the ‘outside’ are counterbalancing reactions to my ‘inside’ reality. This ‘action reaction’ law is profoundly universal, yet it is only appreciated as a mechanical law. Clearly, we have left most of science’s insights as an untapped source for spiritual understanding. That’s understandable for the spiritual side of science is far more subtle and non-provable in empirically testable ways. By the way, I now see much more relevance to spiritual truth in the other two laws (see Newton’s laws of motion).
(1) I only really found interest in and learned about many facets of life after finishing school. Was I too young to get the most out of school? Alternatively, were subjects taught more to cover educational ground than stimulate interest? Whatever the case, I slept through much of school. Personally, I suspect it just didn’t feel meaningful enough.