Welcome Letter from the Abbot President
I am not a scientist, but I can be a science popularizer. Scientists are writing papers that nobody reads. Information has to be marketed in a form that people understand so it reaches a larger audience. I have done a lot of research for my own edification.
My website condenses an unbelievable amount of information down into short posts I think reveal some of the most interesting things I have learned along the way. Please take a few minutes to check my site, subscribe for email updates, and join the blog and the Facebook page to leave comments or have a conversation. We are also on Twitter.
The first scientist I knew was my father. After leaving the Army he worked with Dr. James Van Allen and NASA to build satellites that went into space on the space shuttles. He later became quality control on defense technology at Rockwell-Collins. I got my degree studying business and political science before I started working for the Freemasons, the secular priesthood, in and around Washington, D. C.
As exclusively theistic and male, that old, honorable fraternity was not secular and inclusive enough for my modern cosmopolitan values, so I started my own society to advance the cause of science. Faith without evidence does not make a person good, nor does skepticism make a person bad. People of faith may be rational and altruistic in their daily affairs just as nonbelievers and agnostics may be.
Discussion and debate can be civil and good-natured even while it is blunt. The Order of Science is neutral in regards exclusive societies and was not formed to compete with them. Men and women of all religious affiliations and beliefs, or lack thereof, are welcome to join our global community.
My father was a physicist and an engineer, but I went in another direction. I studied political science as a major at the University of Iowa and continued my own research in Washington D.C. and Jakarta, Indonesia. I also studied library and information science.
Here on the island of Java, the best I can do is to survive and do what I can for my family. I am not a scientist or a priest. I want to be the odd fellow that helps motivate people to meditate and learn about the scientific worldview. The best way I can do that is with a science-oriented membership organization and a science website.
The Science Abbey website is not the work of a scientist, but of a former librarian and curator, so I will bring you meta-meta information in an organized and purified form. That means information about data about information. My first example of this is a post about the best sites listing the best science blogs and science websites. In a later article I will provide a simple taxonomic list of the sciences and the best sites to bookmark for staying up to date on each branch of science.
In an age of big data and fake news this service is especially vital to an informed democracy and global community. We want to make your life and work more efficient and effective. Science Abbey website stands alone in its function. We do the groundwork so you don’t have to.
I am not a scientist or a priest; I am just a man who meditates and enjoys research. As a librarian and curator for the Freemasons in the Washington, D. C. area I felt as though I was part of a secular priesthood. This secular community existed alongside and in harmony with our members’ diverse religious affiliations. The Science Abbey is similar in nature to this fraternal institution.
While Freemasonry maintains a 2000 year old Mystery Tradition born in Alexandria, Egypt, the Science Abbey pays reverence to the ancient tradition of science, which originated in the same city during the same era. Members of the Order of Science do not have to be scientists. The order gladly welcomes science enthusiasts and supporters.
That’s right, I am not a scientist, and yet I am promoting science. That is because everybody should be doing science. First, you have to learn the five steps of science, then you can begin to think like a scientist and make changes in your life according to science. This is good for everyone, because science is our method of discovering what is true.
Acting on ideas that are untrue will always result in disaster or a false sense of security. Truth does not belong to any particular religion, race, gender or political party; but truth belongs to science. In the words of the great Bill Nye, “It’s not magic. It’s science!”
Science is the child of wonder. Wonder is the fertile soil that birthed both spirituality and science. Science may be misconstrued as being something rigid and narrow. Indeed, all belief is a rigid and narrow mentality, for it is belief that says, “I know what is true without reason, without evidence, and nothing will ever change my mind.” Science is one of the rare methods of observation that begins with the Socratic “I know nothing.” It directly observes the universe, records what it finds, tests its hypotheses, forms theories, and changes to conform to reality when it acquires new information.
One might say that relying on a method that observes the universe based on what we can measure and repeat is simply a belief. There may be realities humans cannot measure. Science is different from faith in its method of falsifiability and its ability to make predictions. With science, the picture is always growing and changing. Science is not, and does not claim to be, an infallible and all-knowing oracle. Its answers are always called theories, no matter how factual the evidence has shown them to be.
If science, the most trustworthy system of demonstrating truth, is constantly under the scrutiny of peer review, how much more so, then, must we be skeptical of beliefs that cannot be demonstrated in any way. How much more should we be skeptical of claims which arise out of the darkness of ignorance and emotion to fill the gap between what we theorize to be true and what we know to be false. It is, as the atheists say, the “god of the gaps” that makes us feel secure in our beliefs, because we have no other explanation for something.
Since science begins and ends with evidence and reason, it is not the place of the Order of Science to cast doubts on beliefs that fall out of the range of scientific inquiry. We highly recommend that beliefs align with logic and scientific findings. Because science is a method of discovering facts, beliefs that contradict science will be found to be false, unless the relevant scientific theory is flawed or incomplete, in which case the theory is revised.
Beliefs that cannot be falsified, like religious beliefs or belief in aliens or pink unicorns, fall out of the purview of science and the Order of Science. Take an idea like synchronicity, for example, which logically is simply coincidence, is yet an intriguing topic of debate. Conversations on these topics should be civil and frank. The order will not advocate for any religious or non-falsifiable belief.
Humans used to blame demons for disease, thank gods for the harvest and praise their Lord Creator for making the world just right for human beings. Every day the god of the gaps grows smaller and smaller as humans make discoveries with science. This does not mean we should take the wonder and magic out of life. If anything, it should be all the more amazing that the cosmos is what it is, and we should embrace our spirituality and engage our religious proclivities. We will always be ignorant of many things, we will always access new vistas of knowledge and we will always seek further enlightenment, this is the promise of science and spirituality.
The Order of Science does not preach a religion. Science Abbey is a practical and inspiring guide to better living. For argument’s sake, what would a scientific religion look like? It would first and foremost postulate an observer or observers, and at the same time it would seek a theory of everything, acknowledging the existence of the universe. Even if there were a god or gods, there is a single unitary underlying existence of which all things are manifestations. This One is eternal, whereas all other things, its parts, are in flux.
We can observe this One when we pay attention. We cannot observe the whole of it, we can only observe a part of it, and we can only perceive it from our subjective point-of-view. The point is that we can observe it. When we are observing the One, this is the “holiest,” or most whole, that we as individuals or communities can become. This is what we call ‘meditation,’ and it is the necessary foundation of this theoretical religion of science.
At Science Abbey, while we respect the measurable advantages of religion, we also acknowledge the measurable disadvantages religions bring to society. Our mission is to increase the former and eliminate the latter. Obviously, we do not worship science or assign divinity to scientists, but we honor scientists as heroes somewhat like the religious among us revere the teachers and saints of their respective faiths. Many of us pay respects to the virtuous acts and wisdom of teachers and adherents from all traditions. Consider how many great scientists have been monastics or clerics.
Religious systems may be inspirational and instructional, but none of them originate in scientific method, and this puts science at a disadvantage in relation to faith-based worldviews. It is time for a system of scientific meditation and monasticism, a new school with an evidence-based worldview: the Order of Science. It is not meant to replace religious heritage; it is meant to complement, preserve and inform other traditions. The Science Abbey website memorializes the saints of science from ancient times to the present.
The ancients include Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Euclid, Archimedes, Heron, Hypatia, Vitruvius and Claudius Ptolemy. The later saints include Zosimos, Geber, Rhazes, Albertus Magnus, Paracelsus, Gilbert, Galilie, Kepler, Descartes, Hobbes, Bacon, Hutton, Boyle, Newton, Ashmole, Franklin, Faraday, Pasteur, Curie, Fleming, Lovelace, Tesla, Wright, Pavlov, Planck, Levi-Strauss, Mendeleev, Goddard, Einstein, Jung, Turing, Watson, Crick, Nash, Sagan, Goodall, Dawkins and Berners-Lee. If your favorite scientist is not listed here, I do empathize, but I had to cut it short.
Unlike religions, science is not a belief system. Science is a method of observing and testing facts. It is our window into reality. Truth is truth whether one believes it or not. There are thousands of religions with different beliefs about divinity and morality, but there is only one science. Science done properly will arrive at the same conclusions no matter the time or place.
Science includes checks on biases, it admits when it does not have an answer, and it corrects itself when its theories are inaccurate. If your beliefs do not align with science, chances are, your beliefs are misplaced. If you do not “believe in” science, well, Socrates, Copernicus and Darwin didn’t care what the Muggles think, and neither do I.
Science absolutely answers questions of cosmic origins, of human origins, of the origins of consciousness, and questions of morality and meaning. Universal human rights derive from a secular morality and ethics, which can only be informed by reason and evidence. Religions have taught some basic moral facts, such as benevolence depends on treating others with compassion and justice, and humans are flawed even while we can conceive of and worship a perfect being. Science would preserve, interpret and contribute to the accuracy of religious traditions.
Considering the relative feasibilities of religion and science, you might call attention to the fact that science has had its ups and downs, just like religion. You absolutely have a point. Science has been wrong before. It corrects itself over time, but at no point in history has it ever been faultless. To this day it leaves some questions unanswered.
Humans have used scientific method to produce weapons, drugs, plastics, engines and other things that come with horrible collateral effects. Science is a tool and sometimes it gives power before it gives moral or practical insight into its consequences. I have witnessed some people even questioning if science has been a boon to the world or if the world would have been better off without it.
With these limitations and culpabilities of science in mind, if you wonder if the world would be better without skepticism, reason and science, I ask have you studied what the world was like 500 years ago (when the average life expectancy was thirty years)? The Science Abbey website examines this history. Starting from nothing, science has been gradually filling in the gaps of knowledge, and building a better world piece by piece. I will take the negatives of vaccines over the threat of past diseases. I will take mutually assured destruction with nuclear weapons over constant tribal warfare. I will take painful knowledge over vastly more unbearable ignorance and superstition.
Monty Python asked, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” I have witnessed the question posed, “What has science ever done for us?” What I see is: penicillin, polio vaccine, anesthesia, x-ray, MRI, the pill, optical lenses, heliocentrism, electricity, light bulb, solar power, wind power, paper, printing press, radio, telephone, computer, internet, sanitation systems, refrigeration, periodic table, atomic theory, classical mechanics, quantum theory, evolution, DNA, and even just plain falsifiability. Who has a more reliable method of discovering truth? What system has done more to improve the human condition?
I declare myself to be a defender of the island of Modern Science. And like Churchill I say of our island, “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
I will add, again, we shall defend our island whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the internet, we shall fight in the media, we shall fight in the legislatures and in the courts, we shall fight around the dinner table, we shall fight in every corner in every land upon the face of the earth; we shall never surrender. We shall win and we shall govern with reason, science and universal human rights, forevermore.
Many things we study with Science Abbey are those things studied by attorneys and judges, parliamentarians and monarchs, congressmen and presidents. This religious adherence to learning civics is to prepare the citizen as much as possible to participate in public life, whether they are a manual laborer, a tradesman, a public servant, a professional, a businessman, a trader or banker, an activist or a politician.
The mission of Science Abbey is to unite scientists to liberate humanity from ignorance, greed and deception, from poverty, disease, environmental destruction, and violent conflict over resources or ideology. We must look toward the future. We cannot afford to sit around doing nothing. If scientists do not unite, they will be little more than slaves to a small, powerful authoritarian regime filled with selfishness and inhumanity. This is evident. We see it in history and in current affairs. It is as perpetual as it is urgent. Scientists unite. It is your duty and your honour to liberate humanity from darkness.