Real and Genuine

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Over the past several days I have been going back back and forth with a researcher in a nearby lab over what is “real” or relevant in the systems that we study. In short, are the high doses of chemicals we give our cells in culture relatable to the conditions that those cells would see in a healthy or diseased individual? Unfortunately, the answer is often no. While this is a problem that has plagued basic biological science and biomedical research for decades, it should also spark a similar question for each of us as we study life through the lense of the camera.
More than any other time in the past, we spend a large amount of time taking in and digesting information from a screen. The information and entertainment that comes through that screen has been carefully sculpted to convey a message and change our perceptions. This is not to raise conspiracy theories or become an alarmist, but rather to point out that what we see on TV and the movies actually colors how we see the world around us. In some cases the message is accurate; however, in others the message is not. So the question to consider is this: Is what I see on the screen relatable back to life? We must pick “systems” and entertainment that communicate truth. The damaging effects of dishonest depictions of life are easy to see around us:  violence played out on streets and playgrounds as learned from videogames; a selfish view of love and sex as learned from movies and pornography; a lifestyle of consumerism motivated by an endless stream of ads; a need to appear fake as all we see are smiles and successes on social media. This is the struggle in life: to pick out the real from the fake, the genuine from the forgery.  

Composing and comprised of

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“Science takes things apart to see how they work; religion puts things together to see what they mean.”

 

-Rabbi Sacks

 

In general, the approach of science has been to take things apart in order to understand how each part works. Tissues and cells are taken out of the body and studied in isolated systems. Even specific proteins are extracted from cells to study how they interact with individual proteins outside of any outside interference. Data is compiled and then analyzed from many angles to try and delineate meaning.

 

True, some fields such as epidemiology study large systems, but even in these fields the basic line of reasoning has been to take apart complicated systems and organisms to isolate and study individual elements.

 

Perhaps the most concerning implication of this approach is the underlying premise that an organism, including people, are only the sum of their parts.

 

Conversely, the general approach of religion has been holistic, inclusive, and focused on the system or whole organism. The closest that most faiths have to investigating the components making up to the individual is to speak vaguely and generally about the “essence” of an individual, such as that making up the spirit or soul.

 

Perhaps the most concerning implication of this approach is the seeming indifference to the role components making up a system.

 

Perhaps this is why both faith and science are important: providing a varied approach to understanding who we are, what we are, and why we are here. Alone scientific or religious explanation is inadequate. Accepted as complementary, they can become a powerful tool for understanding our place in the universe.

 

To provide an example, consider a car. We must be concerned both with the components and the car in its entirety to get a good understanding of the purpose and capabilities of the car. Components tell us how the brakes facilitate stopping of the car, how the accelerator is tied to increasing speed, and how the steering wheel moves the front tires. However the components cannot tell us how it will feel to drive the car or much about the inventor of the car. For an understanding of these, they require personal experience behind the wheel and an interaction with the inventor. As J. Lennox reasons, one cannot say that either Henry Ford or the combustion engine are responsible for the car; rather both Henry Ford and the combustion engine are responsible for the car.

 

Using faith and science in tandem as powerful mechanisms of pursuing truth, we can better understand our role and our place in the grand scope of the universe and the astounding adventure of human life.

About This Blog

“Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.”

Niels Bohr

 

The pursuit of the correct questions is the meaning of life. One which we cannot seemingly perfect and can barely even optimize in our limited time on this planet. Whether laboratory science, religious experience, personal emotions, and logical contemplation are all methods by which we try to ask, and answer, the questions of life.
This is the grand adventure in which we find ourselves. A place to ask question, ponder truth, and share in every moment.

 

This is the purpose of this blog. A space to think . To write. To ponder. To adventure together. To share life with.