A Humourous Approach To Science And Religion

Science and Religion: a Humourous Approach
by: James Burgess

Science and Religion according to the mythical mullah, Hoja Nasrudin.

Nasrudin is surprised to wake up one morning quite convinced he is from another planet and finds what he sees of this one a little odd. He decides to investigate and identifies that there are two basic explanations about the operating system that governs this reality. He is told that they are absolutely opposed and that he’ll have to make up his mind which one he wants to believe in. Undaunted by this challenge, he decides to set out on a mission of enquiry—and in advance he chooses 3 questions to put to the two spokespersons that he has decided to interview.

How do you pursue knowledge?
What is the deepest mystery left unanswered in your method?
If I get ill will you heal me?

The religious person responds: ‘We have observed that the mystery of life is beyond our general understanding and so we accept what we are taught by our high priests and mystics. They have developed the basic ideas by which we live, and most of these ideas seem to work rather well so we accept them until something new is unfolded to us. When something happens that I don’t understand, I am willing to contemplate upon it until it becomes clear where it fits in the pattern of things.’

Then the scientist retorts: ‘Our methods are much more clearly defined: We observe; We hypothesize; We test; We accept the best hypothesis that satisfies our tests. These specific processes are carried out by the great men of science who uncover truths so that we technicians are able to know things and apply them in practical terms.’

Nasrudin scratches his head and frowns as he tries to understand what the differences are between the 2 answers—which seem rather similar to him.

Now the religious person addresses the second question. ‘I am told that mystics are constantly working with light. They can’t explain it very well—they say that what we can see is only a tiny fraction of what there is. It takes on many completely different forms, which even include particles of matter! Even darkness is a form of light. To me it’s a complete mystery.’

The scientist replies: ‘Much is known through quantum mechanisms of the behaviour of particles of light as waves, which have frequencies below the visible range from radio waves, television waves and heat waves—which are infrared, and above—ultra-violet, X rays, gamma rays and so on. There are one or two questions as yet unanswered about certain properties of light, which are satisfactorily dealt with only when we introduce scientifically proposed ideas of probability. In a sense therefore since areas are left without deterministic explanation, we could call this mystery.’

Having used up two of his questions, Nasrudin is starting to feel sick because he hasn’t been able to identify any significant difference between the explanations of the shy religionist and the confident scientist. He decides to deal with the third question in a more realistic way and will visit first a doctor, then a religious healer. He is told the local Sufi sheikh has occasional good luck when it comes to healing people—anyway, first the doctor.

Unfortunately he is unable to deal with any more of these confusing words that haven’t done much to help him, so he switches off his universal translator and goes to the doctor, happy to trust in non-verbal communication methods.

He sees a doctor’s sign and enters into an office whereupon he is called upon to wait a while so that the importance of the doctor’s atmosphere can be inhaled in preparation for the interview. He looks around at all the certificates with indecipherable names and is duly impressed. A uniformed underling with awesome authority instructs him to come with her. Into the temple chamber he goes. The doctor is wearing a white gown and a strange rubber necklace with two earpieces and a dangly bit with a metallic disc at the end. He has a firm, gentle gaze, a silky voice and gives exquisite profound attention, then he makes strange hieroglyphs upon a piece of paper. Taking a bottle from a shelf he says some words that clearly obey some ritual quality and offers Nasrudin the bottle of liquid to drink and sends him on his way.

The sheikh was also introduced by an assistant after a period of waiting in a room bedecked with symbols of his calling. He also wore a gown and a strange necklace (called a tasbih instead of a stethoscope); he also had good eyes, soft voice and the power to give excellent attention. He also wrote out a charm in hieroglyphs and delivered a formulaic message with a glass of holy water for Nasrudin to drink!

Absolutely baffled and unable to perceive any significant differences between the 2 systems, Nasrudin returned home and went to bed.


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