Dropped call? Blame the spiritual?

By Contributor Bruce Meyer

Bruce Meyer

Everybody knows cellphones are powered by batteries. And if you’re a geeky engineer like me, you know they connect calls by electromagnetic radiation. End of story right?

How do you know the spiritual world isn’t involved also?  How do you know there aren’t little gremlins with mealy claws living inside your phone?  In ancient times many people believed some deity or spirit was directly responsible for the events in the world.  If it rained the gods were favorable; if there was famine God was angry.  This was called supernaturalism.

Believe it or not, supernaturalism is still very much alive today.  Those who oppose evolution or the big bang, for example, are claiming a supernaturalism position.  They see God or Allah as directly responsible for the creation.  There is no other mechanism.  After the time of Aristotle, however, the idea of a clockwork universe gradually developed.  Theologians in the Middle Ages came to understand the cosmos as a place of order that functioned predictably, and supernaturalism was replaced by causation.  God and natural processes were involved with every event.  If your cellphone dropped a call, according to causation, the primary cause would be God and the secondary cause would be interference with electromagnetic waves.   You could not take another breath without both God’s sustaining power and your healthy lungs.

The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect/Wikipedia

In today’s society, naturalism, the viewpoint that natural forces alone govern events in the world, has become more prominent.  If the scientific process cannot measure or explain the cellphone gremlins, according to naturalism, then they don’t exist at all.  Obviously this is a threatening idea to religiously minded people.  Instead of God responsible for the world around us, there is an explainable machinery of science.

Some have recoiled in fear, retreating into various forms of fundamentalism and claims of infallible spiritual texts.  They’ve acquired a sort of split personality regarding supernaturalism and naturalism.  The same people who have no problem using modern technology (and don’t believe in cellphone gremlins) will oppose evolutionary science.

So which one is it?  Is our world run by naturalism or supernaturalism?  Does it run by God or machinery?  It’s not logical to think technology runs the world today, but that God created the world directly without any intervening naturalistic causes.  When did the big change occur?  Why should creation work any differently than everyday life?

In case you think I am espousing a naturalist position, I am not.  Both viewpoints have the same problem: they are fundamentalist in their thinking.  Naturalists cling to math and science as the answer to everything, while religious fundamentalists claim the Bible or the Quran as infallible.  I recently heard Stephen Hawking allude that God was unnecessary for the creation of the universe.  Hawking is a great physicist, but I was shocked by his complete disregard for great thinkers of the past, such as Thomas Aquinas.  Religious fundamentalists equally have amnesia when it comes to the philosophical heritage of the Middle Ages.

Thomas Aquinas, as well as many Muslim scholars, has claimed that every event in the world was caused 100 percent by God and 100 percent by natural forces.  Both were fully involved.

Your dropped call is due to both electromagnetic interference and demons at the same time.  Human beings came to exist both by evolution and by the hand of God.

Take another great man: Steve Jobs.  Now I’m not a fan of Apple, but there are those who consider Apple to be the greatest company in the world; perhaps the greatest ever.  How did he build this incredible enterprise?  Did he use science and technology?

Of course, it’s a computer company.  But that’s not what Jobs claimed as the secret of his success.  He claimed intuition.  Some say he wasn’t even very good at understanding the sleek devices he had created.  But his intuition was able to harness the power of the electronics.

Science has made some incredible achievements in the world, but Jobs showed us that the world isn’t run only by technology.  Yes, science is fully involved, but so is intuition.  Technology is the servant of human intuition.  As some spiritual texts say, “Wisdom is supreme.”  It’s by intuition that we see beyond the matter and energy of the universe to places where scientific inquiry can never go.  It’s by intuition that we look around at the art and beauty of creation and know that some spiritual force is responsible, whether by the big bang or by evolution or whatever naturalistic mechanism was involved.  It’s by spiritual intuition that the majority of people today still worship a deity as a relevant and important part of their lives.

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2 responses to “Dropped call? Blame the spiritual?

  1. Bruce, thanks for your very succinct description of the historical relationship between science and religion in describing the experiences of humans in our universe. I think it is like the difference between right brain and left brain experience of the same reality. Overall, we need them both. In certain moments one is more helpful than the other. In other moments they function in complement to one another. To function as a complete human being, we are best with a developed right and left brain. In understanding our lives and our universe, we need the scientific and the religious perspectives to tell a more complete story.

  2. Hanane Neff-Loutf

    Hi Bruce,

    Thank you for this article.

    People are frightened of the term religious “fendamentalist” specialy when it comes to islam. Do you prefer seeing a doctor who does not go by the fendamentals of his specialty? Every doctor should be a fendamentalist and so does a person who claims to be Muslim or Christian… Muslims believe that the glorious Quran is the very word of God, not inspired but literally His words and therfore INFALLIBLE.
    In the other hand the Quran is not a book of science but a book of signs. In it there is guidance and signs to ponder upon and it addresses those who think and use their intelect. 
    Imagine this, 1432 years ago a man from the desert who can’t read nor write is telling you:

    “Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?” Quran21:30

    And
     
    “And the heaven We constructed with strength, and indeed, We are [its] expander.” Quran 51:47

    Then how can a Muslim fendamentalist not believe that God created the universe through the process that we know today as the big bang and that the universe is expanding? 
    So we don’t oppose the big bang neither evolution (we do not believe we are from monkeys), we don’t give credit to nature but rather to God.
    So is it naturalism or supernaturalism?
    As a Muslim I have to say that the world is run by natural laws assuring a perfect design and a fine tuned balance. These laws are governed by God. Natural laws do not produce events on their own without an external factor/agent.

    As for the dropped call, it could be caused by a transmission failure or by the intervention of supernatural beings, maybe jinns who belong to a different dimension but can enter ours. But this is part of the Unseen, there are things we believe in yet we don’t see them such as gravity, air, jinns and angels ( except our spouses of course 🙂 ). The cell phone itself is a product of man and the process by which it works also is a product of human intelligence, but the process happens by the will of God. Imagine a dropped call that saves your life from a car crash because you were not paying attention. Or a dropped call that causes death because a person was trying to dial the number again while driving… 

    Thanks again!

    Hanane

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