PhilosophyScience & Tech.

Reflections on the institutions of Science & Religion

In many religious institutions worldwide, male dominance prevails, often sidelining women and limiting their roles within these faiths. Such structures not only fail to acknowledge women’s dignity but also perpetuate their suppression under the guise of protection. This historical imbalance has led to profound injustices, prompting even the Pope to issue apologies for the mistreatment of women within the Church. The Pontiff wrote in 1995:

“Women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented,” he wrote. “And if objective blame, especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the church, for this I am truly sorry.”

Moreover, religion’s resistance to change and its adherence to outdated beliefs sometimes mirrors the rigidity found in scientific circles. While science is celebrated for its openness to inquiry, it, too, has its moments of reluctance, as evidenced by its past dismissal of groundbreaking ideas and the marginalization of women in scientific pursuits.

We can look to notable examples like British scientist Rosalind Franklin, who captured the first photograph of DNA in 1952 and dedicated nearly a year to its analysis. Yet, it was Watson and Crick who received the Nobel Prize for elucidating its structure. Franklin’s contributions extended beyond genetics; her insights into coal’s structure proved pivotal in Britain’s development of effective gas masks during the 1940s.

Another remarkable figure is Katherine Johnson, celebrated for her mathematical prowess and highlighted in the film ‘Hidden Figures.’ Johnson’s calculations were indispensable in plotting the trajectories that propelled Alan Shepard and John Glenn into space, underscoring her pivotal role in early space exploration.

Similarly, the groundbreaking work of African American chemist Alice Ball deserves recognition. Ball’s innovative method of injecting chaulmoogra oil into the bloodstream revolutionized the treatment of leprosy. Tragically, her untimely death led to her colleague Arthur Dean wrongfully claiming credit for her discoveries in a paper titled ‘Dean’s Method.’

In addition, Eunice Foote, an American scientist, made significant strides in our understanding of climate science by demonstrating the greenhouse effect in the mid-19th century. Despite publishing her findings, they were largely overlooked, and her male colleague later received credit for the discovery. Foote’s experience underscores the challenges faced by women scientists in gaining recognition for their groundbreaking research.

The contributions of women in science, though often overlooked, are significant. Figures like Rosalind Franklin, Katherine Johnson, Alice Ball, and Eunice Foote faced numerous obstacles in their careers, yet their groundbreaking work has left an indelible mark on scientific history. Despite these achievements, the scientific community has been slow to acknowledge and rectify its past injustices, much like religious institutions.

Science’s purported openness to new ideas is sometimes challenged by its reluctance to embrace unconventional theories until overwhelming evidence demands it. The historical ridicule faced by proponents of theories like continental drift proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912. It took mainstream science 50 years after that to accept this concept based on overwhelming evidence.

Similarly, scientists initially dismissed the notion of an asteroid causing the extinction of the dinosaurs, a theory that is now widely accepted. At its inception, this idea was often derided as pseudo-science and largely ignored by the scientific community.

Moreover, resistance to novel concepts extends beyond singular instances like the asteroid theory. The reluctance to entertain ideas such as atoms, exoplanets, and evolution mirrors the entrenched skepticism often associated with religious institutions. This resistance to change, even in the face of compelling evidence, draws parallels to the conservatism observed within certain religious doctrines.

Immanuel Velikovsky, a proponent of the Electric Universe theory, faced widespread ridicule for his ideas. His book “Worlds in Collision” was initially rejected by numerous publishing houses before being picked up by MacMillan. However, under pressure from threatened boycotts by scientists, MacMillan retracted its support and transferred the book to another publisher, where it became a bestseller.

While Velikovsky’s theories may ultimately prove incorrect, the scientific community’s response should be grounded in evidence and scrutiny, not ridicule and censorship. This situation raises questions about the difference between the Catholic Church’s censorship of Galileo and the scientific community’s treatment of Velikovsky, particularly given science’s claim to be objective and evidence-based.

Renowned scientist Carl Sagan aptly remarked on this issue, asserting that the suppression of uncomfortable ideas has no place in the pursuit of knowledge. Such actions, whether in religion, politics, or science, hinder progress and undermine the principles of open inquiry and intellectual freedom.

However, science has been known to resist ideas that challenge established beliefs, even to this day. Consider the case of American engineer John Nelson, who was tasked by his employer Radio Corporation of America (RCA) with resolving glitches in a military communication system during World War II. While conventional wisdom attributed radio signal interference to sunspots, Nelson’s research led him to a different conclusion.

Through meticulous investigation, Nelson discovered a correlation between the quality of radio signals and the relative alignment of large planets such as Saturn, Neptune, and Jupiter. Despite his findings, mainstream science struggled to explain this phenomenon within existing frameworks of gravity or magnetism. Nelson’s theory, which suggested that planetary alignments influenced solar activity and consequently radio signal quality, was met with skepticism from the scientific community.

Interestingly, Nelson’s research bore striking parallels to astrology, although he had no knowledge of or reliance on astrological principles. His observations indicated that configurations such as planetary oppositions or squares correlated with significant solar storms, while other alignments resulted in minimal solar activity.

While Nelson’s research yielded accurate predictions, it fell outside the conventional boundaries of science, leading to rejection by RCA. The scientific community’s reluctance to accept Nelson’s findings illustrates the resistance to ideas perceived as unconventional or unorthodox.

This observation draws intriguing parallels between Nelson’s research and principles found in astrology, despite his complete independence from astrological influence. In astrology, when two planets align at 180°, it’s termed an “opposition,” often associated with heightened tension and conflict. Similarly, a 90° alignment, known as a “square,” is believed to signify challenges and struggles.

Nelson’s findings suggested that during planetary oppositions or squares, significant solar storms occurred, coinciding with astrological interpretations of planetary configurations. Conversely, when planets were not aligned in these configurations, solar activity remained minimal. This unexpected correlation between celestial alignments and solar phenomena highlights the interconnectedness of various cosmic forces, bridging the realms of scientific inquiry and astrological observation.

The lack of recognition or awards for Nelson underscores the closed-mindedness prevalent in certain scientific circles. Had his hypothesis been embraced, it would have challenged established paradigms and potentially necessitated a reevaluation of our understanding of celestial phenomena. However, the reluctance to entertain such ideas reflects a broader unwillingness within science to explore alternative perspectives.

Moreover, accepting Nelson’s theory would have implications for the relationship between electromagnetic waves and solar activity, potentially lending credence to astrological concepts. This is due to the fact that all brain activity is based upon electromagnetic impulses and it would mean our thoughts and actions are influenced by the relative position of planets. This discomfort with the implications of his research further illustrates the reluctance of science to embrace ideas that diverge from accepted norms.

In essence, Nelson’s experience highlights the tension between scientific orthodoxy and the pursuit of innovative ideas, underscoring the need for greater openness and receptivity within the scientific community.

Furthermore, the influence of vested interests, particularly in corporate-funded research, raises questions about the impartiality of scientific inquiry. This bias undermines science’s claim to objective truth and mirrors the power dynamics often associated with religious institutions.

In light of these observations, it becomes evident that while religion and science may appear diametrically opposed, they share common human tendencies rooted in entrenched belief systems and power dynamics. Both institutions have a history of resistance to change, often at the expense of marginalized voices and genuine inquiry.

Ultimately, acknowledging these similarities can foster a more nuanced understanding of the complexities inherent in both religion and science. By confronting their shared challenges and embracing inclusivity and openness, these institutions can evolve towards more equitable and enlightened paths of inquiry and discovery.

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