Science's Greatest Challenge

There was a lot of stuff going on in the life of Stone Age wo/​man that s/​he couldn’t explain. For instance, where they them­selves came from orig­i­nally and where they went when they stopped living. So what do you do when you have no clue, and have to say some­thing to your offspring when they ask ques­tions, get fright­ened, mourn a family member and so on? You invent a warm, fuzzy story to comfort, calm and sooth the offspring.

That worked for a long time, then an Agricultural Revolution came by, and not because hunter/​gatherer man wanted to work for the food that other­wise only needed to be picked, or picked up. No, they wanted beer! For that they were will­ing to wait several months for the corn to grow, and then even work on it to get in a drink­able form.

A fun fact about beer: It has the one of the high­est ratings on the glycemic index, which means that it has the high­est effect on our blood sugar level compared to other food sources. Hence the beer belly: when we drink beer, the blood sugar level skyrock­ets, and the body answers by pump­ing insulin into the blood stream to lower the blood sugar level, and sadly, convert the sugar into fat which it disposes on the belly (if you’re a man). But also, glucose (sugar) is the energy of the brain. So a higher-octane brain fuel starts a chain of wild ideas that we see the effects of now, some 10−12,000 years later. If you don’t believe me, sit sober in a pub a whole evening, and count the really prac­ti­cal ideas (research show that creative people get less creative under influ­ence of alco­hol, while less creative people let their inhi­bi­tions go and become more creative, at least up to a certain level of alco­hol consump­tion, beyond that level it’s all down­hill).

Somewhere along the way, people started to ques­tion where we came from in more detail, and the mind-expand­ing effect of beer gener­ated more ideas and expla­na­tions. Still having no clue about what really went on in nature, the warm, fuzzy and comfort­ing stories became more detailed and vivid, and pretty soon the person with the best story had follow­ers: Organized reli­gion was born.

Let me add here: I think every­one is enti­tled to believe what s/​he wants. If you have a spir­i­tual expe­ri­ence you cannot explain, you are enti­tled to inter­pret this as you wish. What I really cannot stand, though, are people who push their stories onto other people, also known as orga­nized reli­gion.

Anyway, for many thou­sands of years, orga­nized reli­gion gave answers to common prob­lems, had a sooth­ing effect on emotional strug­gles, and above all, promised an after­life that was better than the life we now experience—way better, too! This promise made the misery of every­day life as ‘slaves’ to an upper class (kings and priests) not only bearable—it was now also noble. In the words of Pope Leo X (1475−1521): “All ages can testi­fie enough howe prof­itable that fable of Christe hath ben to us and our companie.” In clear English: “It has served us well, this myth of Christ.”

The power of this régime was unchal­lenged until the next great revo­lu­tion in our species history: the Industrial Revolution, or science revo­lu­tion, if you will.

So although “great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12), being rewarded in this life is better still. Science was able to deliver were orga­nized reli­gion couldn’t: it gave ordi­nary people the possi­bil­ity of living as only kings and priest had been able to before. Predictably, this gave orga­nized reli­gion a knock that it still is taking the count for, and in the parts of the world were mate­r­ial stan­dard of living rose sharply, the need for reward in the after­life took a dive. Add to that the level of knowl­edge and expla­na­tions about nature that science provided, which exposed orga­nized reli­gions’ stories and answers for the hoax it was (like a pope on a market­ing tour in Africa telling aids candi­dates to stay off the condoms).

And yet, in the light of the horror of the Catholic Church and Islam, science hasn’t yet put orga­nized reli­gion out of its misery. People with mate­r­ial riches, which should be living in trust and happi­ness, real­izes that the second house, the third car and the fourth flat screen TV doesn’t really reward them as much as it used to… Something is miss­ing.

So do we go back to mass delu­sion, blindly follow­ing the guy with the best story (and the funny hat and cloth­ing)?

I suggest this is science’ great­est chal­lenge: in our search for mean­ing and purpose, the awe-inspir­ing aspects of science do not reach enough people. Instead the fight­ing within science turns many people off. The story of Dr. Semmelweiss comes to mind, as well as the more recent fight over the reasons and effects of climate change. This fight­ing among scien­tist is of course the strength of science: No idea gets away with a hard sell or BS. Evidence, proof and repeat­able exper­i­ments have the final say. Scientists do (finally) admit error in the face of proof, lead­ers of orga­nized reli­gion never do (unless they awake from their indoc­tri­na­tion).

Science is winning the ‘battle’ here, no doubt. This does not mean oblit­er­a­tion of reli­gion. As I stated earlier, every­one has the right to believe what they want, and gather in groups to share their expe­ri­ences too. Science has done more for human­ity in a few hundred years than orga­nized reli­gion has in several thou­sand years, even with­out discount­ing all the nasty stuff orga­nized reli­gion has caused. Organized reli­gion is running out of ways to scare people into its fold, while science has barely begun scratch­ing the surface of the power of good it will do for human­ity.

But like any top qual­ity prod­uct, making it isn’t enough; the beauty and glory of science needs to be ‘sold’ in an invit­ing, intrigu­ing way as well, so laymen can relate and be enthused by it.



  • Thanks for the feed­back!


  • Hi,

    I think economic crisis will continue to come and go as long as we measure success only as finan­cial success: In a very long term perspec­tive, we need to change focus from mate­r­ial (outer) growth to (inner) grow­ing as human beings.

    In Scandinavia (where I live), we already see the tendency that people who are finan­cially success­ful ‘mini­mal­ize’ and live their lives with less “stuff” and spend­ing their money on expe­ri­enc­ing places and people instead.

    When every­body on this planet spend their days doing what they really love instead of chas­ing more and more money, we will be on the right track.

    Another way to look at this: Before the Wright broth­ers managed to keep an airplane in the air by itself, all planes crashed no matter how hard the pilots worked to make them fly. Our economic models are just like that and regu­lar crashes is what we get.

    We need an economic model based on the “Wright Brothers” version: Flying with­out crash­ing…


  • How you think when the economic crisis will end? I wish to make statis­tics of inde­pen­dent opin­ions!

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