The forces of science and religion, do not just have the potential to be, but have always-already been, in a constant mutual interaction since the genesis of either concept. In fact, to the extent that the present definition of the one makes absent the present definition of the other, they are known to be mutually grounded in each other: for the religious spirit of wonder for that which exceeds the finite grasp of the individual human mind is the condition that makes possible collective scientific pursuit and discovery of the nature of nature. Without genuine wonder of the unknown, scientific reason is not even possible, and without scientific pursuit, what is apparently wonderful cannot be experienced as actually wonderful.
Ultimately, what presents itself as “religion v.s. science,” or “theism v.s. atheism,” are not at all as they are made to appear but is almost always rather something deeper and neither of those things: “my-view v.s. your-view.” It is in these depths that the apparent opposites find their true unity: as different attempts to assert “MY” view of the world as superior, which is a fundamentally imperialist gesture. Hence such debates are eminently political in character, and only secondarily philosophical or intellectual exchanges of reason.
What I think a lot of the unproductive debates between religion and science, which have been waged in the last few decades and is still being waged now, is doing, is occluding the real expression of their tension: the question of whether or not, in our contemporary period of late global capitalism, human labor is still inherently valuable and necessary, or will the inhuman force of capitalization render every thing as valuable as any thing else?
Rather than being viable, opposing positions distinct from each other, they are actually mutually entailing, for capital derives its force from the prior act of positing the inherent value of human labor. Only when we learn to recognize that human labor is not what makes humans valuable, and in tandem surrender with the notion of the necessity of labor as the defining attribute of a human being’s worth, that the capital-labor dialectic can be finally and utterly extinguished, so that a new humanity who knows no difference between science and religion, reason and spirit, will be able to flourish at last.
If the transition from the apparent nature of the debates to their real natures was hard to follow, take it like this: the desire to make sense of a Divine’s creation drove much of the intellectual and practical pursuits of pre-modern people, and established the necessary conditions for the very possibility of science as a clarified and clarifying mode of practice to arise, since science does not come out of nowhere, ex nihilo, but builds upon the foundations of prior intellectual and engineering achievement.
The valuation of human labor is the necessary precondition, logical and temporal, of the capitalist process of accumulation. So much in the same way that belief in God paved the way for scientific naturalism, conception of the inherent value of human labor paves the way for the capitalization process to emerge. So to escape the dialectic between the two by which each merely reproduces the other, you cannot occupy the standpoint of either. You have to discover that which makes such a dialectic possible in the first place, and bring that to the light of awareness. Most likely what you will see is not an eternal dialectic or debate, but a dialogue gone wrong, like married partners who have forgotten their consummation in the heat of differences. Only by remembering the true nature of this primordial dialogue can real communication, and hence real communion, finally begin.
2 Replies to “Science & Religion Beyond Capital & Labor”
I think a lot of this depends on definitions. was Pythagoras a “scientist”? Is science defined as the “discovery of the nature of nature”? If so, it can reasonably be argued that yes, religion and science are interrelated concepts (root word of science is “to know”). I think the problem here is that word “discovery.” This discovery paradigm has not been universal, let alone essential to the dynamic of religions, in my view (unless religion is defined in a restrictive way to mean organized religions, and even then, there are problems). If science has something to do with “discovery”, then I think that phenomenon now known as “religion” (a Latin root word), which for most of human history was simply inseparable from tradition, custom, worldview, identity, etc. etc., had nothing to do with “discovery” or even “knowledge”, if knowledge is defined in a certain way. Now, if you are talking about religion as it is defined in the West, then I think the argument holds a degree of validity. also, the term “primordial” I’m not a big fan of, because it implies that the origin of religion has something to do with “discovering” or “theorizing about” the nature of the world, which anthropologically speaking, is considered an outdated Frazerian evolutionist theory
To clarify, I understand that you are not characterizing religion as fundamentally about discovery, your argument is more nuanced than that. And the interconnected intersecting history of science and religion in Europe and Asia is unquestionable, to the point where we can talk about “natural religion” and early science and all of that. I also like that you talk about the underlying (perhaps religious) conditions and motivations for scientific pursuit. But, I would be careful to talk about this as a “primordial” dialogue. A very ancient one, perhaps, and perhaps other social scientists would disagree and say that there has always been an element of “knowing the world” or “discovering the world” and religion, but I think that this element of religion has been overstated, especially in terms of what was known as “primitive religion.” This is definitely not your old Marxist dialectical view of the nature of religion vs. materialism, but I’m wary of how these things can be misinterpreted