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Do Scientists Have the Right to Play God?

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2001: A Credibility Gap

Do them there scientists have the right to play God? In the November 16 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, there is an article entitled “We Scientists Have the Right to Play God,” in which Dr. Edmund R. Leach of King’s College, Cambridge, says they do.

First off, Dr. Leach dispatches the original God with a few deft strokes of the pen: “Our idea of God is a product of history.” “Everyone now knows that the cosmology that is presupposed by the language of Christian utterance is quite unrelated to any empirical reality.” And: “The God of Judeo-Christianity is, in all His aspects … anthropomorphic.”

In the latter two sentences, however, the Doctor displays the usual fault of the modern atheist, in that he attacks the somewhat limited presentations of Judaeo-Christianity, but ignores the far more comprehensive, systematic and scientific approach to spiritual reality found in the Vedic writings of India. These writings, as we have frequently tried to demonstrate in BACK TO GODHEAD, not only do not contend with most of the findings of modern science (e.g., evolution and nuclear physics) but outline these concepts in great detail, and then go far beyond them into realms which today’s researcher would dare to look upon only as “speculative.” Furthermore, they bridge the gap between science and faith, and emphatically support the basic teachings of all the world’s great religions.

Of course, in his eagerness to play God, Dr. Leach has no time for anything as troublesome as an exhaustive examination of more Scriptures. He wants to get on to the much more serious business of Dreaming Up Tomorrows, which is about all our scientists today can do to justify themselves, what with The Bomb and chemical-biological warfare—not to mention the industrial ghetto—representing past and present achievements.

Dr. Leach makes two very fundamental errors in the course of his article, and these are well worth looking into: First, he assumes that scientists can, if they choose, create a new morality by which civilization will be benefitted. Second, he concludes that man—that life itself—is no more than an organic, material “mechanism.”

In regard to the first error, we should recognize the fact that scientists need money from outside their own community in order to carry on their researches. And this money can only come from industry and government, sometimes through the medium of the university, sometimes not. In any case, the fact is that our present world economic systems—in both Russia and the West—have proved themselves unable to remain healthy and stable without resort to imperialism and other means of exploitation to stimulate them. For example, even as this is being written, the bombing halt in North Viet Nam is causing slowdowns at a number of American plants. Total peace will lead, inevitably, to a state of widespread unemployment with which our economic policymakers are unable to contend—short of involvement in another crisis situation.

Now, as the governments and industries of the world must, under the present system, commit themselves to war and exploitation in order to survive, we cannot deny the fact that their wealth is going to be channelled toward that end in the future as much as in the past. And our scientists are by no means likely to leave their fold in any sizable numbers, to starve in, perhaps, the manner that artists in the past have starved. In the case of the scientists, this would make work itself impossible.

Even when it does turn to projects of peace, however, the value of modern science to man remains highly questionable. Take, for example, the enormous amounts of wealth that our nations are throwing away today in order to place a few experimenters on the admittedly barren wastes of the Moon.

As to the second error—the concept of life as a “machine”—we suggest that if this is so, morality as an independent function of the human mind, which Dr. Leach asserts it is, cannot exist. Unless something lies outside the machine, all is mechanical, is it not? Our moralizing, our thinking, our very being must all be geared and determined.

The failure of science to inquire further in this direction—into the nature of pure consciousness and its distinction from matter—is, we strongly urge, the reason why men like Dr. Leach continue to offer us all the rosy tomorrows we could ever hope to ask for, while presenting in reality such things as nuclear weapons and fallout, chemical and biological devices of incredible horror, defoliates, napalm and far more (remember where LSD began?) as the practical results of their endeavors. If we were scientists ourselves—psychologists, that is—we might put forward some rather sharp hypotheses as to why such a gap between promise and performance exists.

But this might be more easily explained by recognizing the fact that scientists have done nothing but “play” God for two hundred years and more. It’s nice for Dr. Leach, of course, to urge the scientific community to look for a moral code to govern itself. It’s only high time—if not too late—for these men to rejoin the human race. We only wish to suggest that such an endeavor begin, however, by discarding the narrow-minded anti-religious prejudice which has so long held science back from a serious study of spiritual life and values.

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