By Contributor 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.
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.