The sciences are beautiful and wonderful things. They have provided society with tools to understand the workings of nature and to test the veracity of what we think we know. Testing and retesting, observing and re-observing--we come upon truths about how the universe expands and cools, how life adapts and evolves. Ultimately it has trained us to ask and keep asking the difficult questions. While the scientific approach might have at its roots humanity's insatiable curiosity, now that it has matured it appears to have turned into some kind of insatiable skepticism. "We can never know" or a philosophy of non-knowledge must be the inner mantra of the 21st Century human. It appears that many are giving themselves over to an infinite regression of questioning evidence, maybe even questioning science itself.
I say this because I was having an interesting conversation regarding Evolution the other day. Evolution is an amazing thing to read on paper and muse about on lazy days. It is logical and we can see how organisms have mutated and adapted their characteristics throughout the years. But is it correct? Is it what really happened? I then went into a downward spiral of questioning. If evolution is real and humans have risen to the apex of existence, then why do insects remain insects, why are many apes still bent and hairy, why do cows allow themselves to be adapted to being easily eaten?
With enough asking, one will come to the conclusion that "I can never know." Evidences aren't the only ones now to be cast under the light of skepticism, but knowledge itself. After all, much of what we know, even the laws of science were once mere theories. The laws simply gathered up enough evidence to quiet our most gnawing questions about the universe. If something acts predictably (de/confirming a hypothesis), somehow it is truer than things that move along random paths and processes.
In the end it is the "I" who decides what is true, what is real. Nothing is real until I see evidence of it. To the modern human, the final judge of things is ultimately the "I" who studies the evidences or lack thereof.With this I realize that religion isn't the one dying. What (I hope) is leaving this world is the religious way of thinking that teaches a person to remove his "I-judge" persona in order to allow the acceptance of absolute truths imparted by an authority figure. Followers bow their head in humility, in self-deprecation toward dogma. Religions have always taken their power from "quieting the questions," but that was at a time when they had all the answers. Without having the answers, it is but natural for the curious "I" to reawaken. Religions are alive but the religious way of thinking is dying.
While many might fear that the deposition of religion means the rise of a godless society, I feel that fear is unnecessary. With the awakening of the discerning self, it is now relatively safer to ask questions again. We are free to know or not know. Moreover, I feel we are freer to go along our chosen paths to explore what we feel needs to be explored, without the guilt of being called doubters or unbelievers. That I say God exists is my hypothesis, with everyday evidences strengthening my beliefs at times and then challenging it during others. That I can read Buddhist and Taoist texts and take from their wisdom without being judged as having a "watered down faith" is a wonderful privilege. Who is to judge my belief now but me, the owner of it?
If we can allow one another to find his or her own beliefs, then we may very well be entering a new renaissance.