A Dark “teh-tarik” Time for the Soul )*

08Nov06

I’m being philosophical. I closed two books I was reading to wear me to sleep; “Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love” and “God Does’t Play A Dice”. I was laying in bed, still could’t sleep. My mind flew back to sophomore years in CS dept. at UI.There was a compulsory course named “Basic Social Science”. The lecturer was a shabby doctor from Political Science dept (It seems there was also the symetrical-pair of that course, named “Basic Natural Science” for Social Department students). It is very rarely of me to remember words spoken in classroom down to the puctuation mark, but there was something said in the class that I still carry around until now.


During the first day, the lecturer put the following notion up for discussion that subsequntly sparked tension for quite a while, “…that religion and science are two different things. One departed from indoctrinated dogmas, and the other departed from observation and critical thinking…“. Then, I don’t remember what he said afterwards. What I do remember is that afterwards, almost whole class, disregarding what faith they embraced, accused the lecturer as a blaspheme, atheist, unsuitable and not sensitive enough to teach in a classroom filled with religious Indonesian students. Most of this accusation was done under the table. Complaints landed to Dean’s office but no direct questions ever address in classroom where healthy intellectual debate supposed to take place.

I’m not here for standing for that lecturer. There is nothing to it, it was way back then. Honestly, the young and green me was also part of those bunch I mentioned. It’s just that, now that I look back, I think it would be more beneficial for me and my intelectual development if I wasn’t straightly plunged into the anger of the masses, bandwagoning everyone condemning a person who share of what he understood and belive. How do I feel If I share what faith, wisdom, and knowledge I develop and gather and getting that sort of responses?

What the lecturer said has certain degree of truth. Religions do start from faith. A dogma. An accepted truth in the embracer circle without needing any evidence. That’s the point of the word ‘faith’. In Islam the first condition a person has to fulfill for being a Muslim is to recite syahadah and withhold it’s truth. In Catholicism, a person must accept trinity doctrine as true. While the whole scientific body of knowledge is build by hypothesis, observation, and what’s important, proof.
Is this bad? Does this means having religious faith means a first step towards intellectual numbness? Aborting human ability to use their intelligence and being critical? If I can go back in time and sit in that class, I wan to ask the lecturer this: “Why does important figures in the history of science had taken religious concept quite seriously?”. Sounds like a desprate question of a debate partner loosing the debate. But consider the following figures:

Galileo Galilei, much celebrated physicist of the rennaisance, whose work distangled man kind from the dogmatic teaching of Aristotele and placing properly recorded experiments in important place in scientific experiments, during his lifetime identifies him self as being a catholic. (Might be for other more pragmatical reasons like.

Albert Einstein, the man of the 20th century, believed that “…deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe forms my idea of God”.

Not to mention eastern and Muslim scientists from years before which derive their eagerness to study the universe for “revealing God’s words in nature”.

Another questions developing in my mind is : science may be providing explanation for worldly phenomena, but does science provide definitions for right or wrong? good or bad?

Are effort to converge science and religon, of which in pass decades gained momentum in major religions, all futile effort? Like trying to merge the sea and the sky?

I do believe in one thing though. That both science and religion are developing from human fascination towards the universe.

Much of this tought I may not be able to find any satisfying answers. But I do know one thing; Resorting back to that green and naive sophomore, who thought he was clean and must steer clear out of dissenting taught, won’t help also. I must also prepare my mind to take what it’s needed and deny what it’s not. God help me.

)* The title is a pun from Douglas Adam’s “The Dark Tea Time for the Soul” a conspiratorially philosophical book which fun to read, and also the fact that I’m writing this in Ipoh, Malaysia. The capital of ‘Teh Tarik’, A foamy beverage which is fun to watch as it being prepared as it to drink.

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