It is truly unfortunate that a vast majority of the public views science as a soulless institution. It considers logic as a robotic trait, and finds it a virtue to be swept away by a tsunami of uncontrolled emotions. Doing ridiculous, and often perilous, deeds out of love, hate, vengeance or envy is thought of as a sign of “being alive”.
Scientists (especially non-religious scientists) are widely perceived as dull, lifeless, and sin-of-sins, non-spiritual beings losing touch with their human roots. They’re sometimes looked upon with pity – as creatures so lost in studying the physical universe that they can’t see and enjoy the pleasures of the metaphysical.
But truth is far from that. Scientists are the Picasso’s and Van Gogh’s of the 21st century. When Craig Venter and his team constructed artificial life, there was more art in it than science.
In their search for spirituality, people often find themselves tapping into the vast reserves of human stupidity and coming up with the most ludicrous ideas: tattooing Chinese ideograms upon their arms, wearing gaudy jewelry, “cleansing” their “auras”, sitting in a certain uncomfortable position for a long period of time with eyes closed – in a pitiful attempt to “clear one’s mind”.
Those who like to believe in life as a mystical force of its own kind might to be disappointed to hear a scientist telling them that it’s actually just a series of nucleic acids studded onto a chain of deoxyribose-sugar. They may be let down on finding out that the only “gods” we know are the fundamental physical forces: gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces. Too dull? Yeah, let’s just get back to our auras and spirits and jinns and angels.
Not many of us realize that the same spirituality we seek in superstitious nonsense can be found right here in science. There’s nirvana in biochemistry and poetry in physics. The deliriousness of a scientist studying a bacterium under a microscope, is comparable to that of a pir meditating in a distant, mountain-top shrine. For those who’ve truly learned to appreciate the physics of our universe and spend a good amount of time studying how nature works, discover a unique kind of high that only they can delineate.
And should a scientist stumble upon an answer to one of his queries or discover something previously unknown to man, the bliss is indescribable.
It is only through psychology that a person can fully appreciate the beauty of a human mind, and through a detailed study of anatomy can one recognize the true brilliance of nature. The feeling that one’s pushing the boundaries of human knowledge outwards, slowly but consistently, is pleasantly intoxicating.
Since I became an Atheist, I’ve found this whole new appreciation for nature. Before my deconversion, I used to take everything for granted by associating false purpose with it – flowers are there to appease our sense of smell, sun’s there to give us light, and stars are there to look pretty. I respected science only for the occasional bounty that fell out of the laboratories and research facilities – like a new camera phone, an iPod, a better graphics card. But there’s so much more to science than that.
So the next time you decide to spend half an hour humming, “Ommmmm…”, try something new: go to a library or an online scientific source and study the constellations. Read a little about the replication of DNA, or evolutionary biology. Odds are that you’ll find the same illumination that you find in prayer and yoga.