Science and Death

Science is useless, or worse, on dealing with death (as I’ve suggested before).

On the one hand, science gives us these amazing evolutionary, geologic and universal time scales in which individual organisms, species and entire planets are just part of a much greater dance of creation and permutation. It grounds our consciousness in the material world–but it is a material world that ranges from an infinitesimal level where we can barely recognize it as matter at all; to a cosmic scale made up mostly of emptiness. It is a mystical space, in which life and death are part of something much more incredible.

Yet science so frequently evaluates its social success in terms of its ability to increase our life spans a few years, and to delay our inevitable death. It is obsessed with health, fearful of climate change and spends billions of dollar and person-hours trying to find more ways to evade and deny death. At the same time it denies reincarnation, resurrection, endless cycles of time that are much more successful in truly making death seem like more than just an end. It seems obsessed with pulling us out of this universal dance of permutation, in making us more attached to this body. In all other respects science is a relentless proponent of change. But in terms of human life, and the environment in which those lives currently exist, science digs in the heels and only wants to escape change. From this perspective, science is a totally futile endeavor.

Successful spiritual practice situates itself in the context of death as much as life. Science gives us a great cosmic context in which to place our lives and deaths, and then totally drops the ball.

Addendum: Of course, many individuals buck these generalizations–it is more about institutional organization than its practitioners. Some spiritual practitioners are obsessed with longevity and immortality. And many are healers–a concern with health does not necessarily mean fear of death. And many scientists are increasingly concerned with helping people experience a ‘good death’ that includes spiritual realization–such as the doctors engaged in the psylocybin and cancer research project (whom I saw at the Psychedemia conference).

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Posted on September 30, 2012, in My Bad Science, The Big Questions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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