Another opinion u-turn

I realised with a bump the other day that I no longer view a person being both a scientist and religious as a contradiction. This is another example of a u-turn of my opinions in recent years.

I was watching TV and two characters were having a discussion. The person was talking about how they came to be religious and the other person said “but you’re a scientist”. The first person said there was no conflict between being religious and being a scientist, they were just two different languages used to describe the same ‘miracles’, to which the other person replied, but one is the right way.

I’m sure I’ve seen this exact discussion played out many times on TV or in films. I’m sure you have too.

This time, as soon as the character said science and religion are not a contradiction my imagination immediately hooked into the ways that this view was correct. In my mind’s eye I had a flurry of impressions that are sort of visual and sort of emotional at once.

The visuals were mainly fractal or patterned, with the word “interlocking” sort of booming over the top but also being the word that explained the underlying nature of the patterns.

Every since I read Sarah Perry quoting Christopher Alexander about how a successful pattern appears to grasp the other shapes in the pattern (deep interlock), followed by subsequent discussion in a philosophy group I’m in, this is the overriding feeling I have had about how life is. An interlocking pattern that grasps itself, with the force of friction, which is a strong force, as that TV show demonstrated when they tried to prize apart two interleaved phone books with big trucks. A perfect quote from Sarah’s essay is useful here: “there is no separation, despite the fact that there is a strong boundary”.

In one part of the pattern could go science, which is discrete within itself, which has a boundary, like one part of a pattern if you focus on the shapes made by only one colour, but which is interlocked with belief, magic, the unknown, which is visible if you look at the lines or shapes in the pattern when you focus on the contrasting colour.


To call one “right” and the other “wrong” is absurd of course, was my afterthought.

It was quite a jolt for me to realise just how many times I’d heard this discussion in the media, and how this was the first ever time I’d taken the side of the person with faith. And it seems so obvious that the person with faith is correct. Or rather, to get upset that a person is both a scientist but also holds religious views seems daft to me now.

The old me was so much on the side of science and rightness. I did see it as a contradiction. But I also couldn’t understand what the person of faith could be thinking. What mental gymnastics must this person be doing to get science and religion to seem non-contradictory? I just didn’t know.

But now when I think of faith-with-science I get starburst, fractal imaginings of rich pattern and texture, along with an emotional sense of acceptance, of how right these patterns feel, or the possibilities of these patterns. A feeling that simultaneously this worldview feels more right than before, but finding less importance in being “right” at all.

How did this change happen to me? Well, years¬†of thinking went into it I’m sure, but reading Meaningness & Kegan at the right time of my life feels like the tipping point. Plus a healthy dose of psychedelics. They help a lot with abstract visualisation. Whether Kegan (and even better, Cook-Greuter) are right about this stages stuff or not, I am so glad to be able to put a name to it, point a finger at it, as something that I’m experiencing as very real.


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