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Objection!

Ok – I’m all for compatibilism. I’m all for using analogies from other realms of experience such as art to explain compartmentalization of science and religion.

But a million dollar prize for recognizing that science can’t “fully understand” nature, and for asserting that underlying realities can be “glimpsed” through art, and presumably understood through religion is, to me, outrageous. Even from an outfit like the Templeton Foundation.

Congratulations to Bernard d’Espagnat on winning this prize, but shame on Templeton for awarding it to him for this.

Asked whether that entails a kind of mysticism, d’Espagnat responds that “science isn’t everything” and that we are already accustomed to the idea that “when we hear beautiful music, or see paintings, or read poetry, [we get] a faint glimpse of a reality that underlies empirical reality.” In the possibility of a veiled reality that is perceived in different and fragmentary ways through science, art, and spirituality, d’Espagnat also sees, perhaps, a way to reconcile the apparently conflicting visions of reality that science and religion provide.

Smackdown is held for the final paragraph, and it’s just what I was thinking:

D’Espagnat’s writings on quantum mechanics lay out with great clarity the genuine puzzles that quantum mechanics presents, says Jeffrey Bub of the University of Maryland, College Park. But he’s skeptical about finding common ground among notions of reality from art, science, and spirituality. As he puts it, if there’s something about the physical world that quantum mechanics isn’t telling you, “it doesn’t follow that those gaps can be filled with poetry.

Art – music, poetry, visual, performing – all of it has value and speaks to an emergent experience that is unique, more or less, to humans. Perhaps the same is true of religion. Not one of these appears to include tools for understanding an underlying objective reality that helps the quarks dance.

If there is a “revealed” religious truth, it may be confirmed by science, though it never has been. Or it may be unavailable for objective inspection. In that case it can only be known through faith in the revelatory process: faith that the words or experience by which it is learned are reliable indicators of real and transcendent truth. That faith can be problematic, and surely lies behind the non-compatibilist thinking of many. But it’s available if it’s what you want. It just lacks mechanisms for ensuring objective reliability.

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