A Strange Turn of Events

By: Dave Hunt; ©1999
Science has contributed much to our modern society, but it has not all been beneficial. Dave Hunt explains some of the implications of recent scientific advances.


Fifty years ago World War II had just ended and mankind had awakened to a new hope. The genius that had produced such amazing weapons of destruction could now be directed toward happier pursuits—the preservation of the peace, political stability, and worldwide prosperity. Let us for a moment try to imagine ourselves transported back to that hopeful moment in history. And let us suppose that we were given a selective view through a window of eternity into the future up to the year 2000.

In the unfolding panorama before us we could not see the actual coming events them­selves. We were allowed only to see the incredible technological developments that sci­ence would produce in the next 50 years. On that basis we were asked to predict the social, moral, and spiritual impact that such unprecedented advances would have upon mankind.

Peering wide-eyed into the future, we saw a new tool of science called a computer.This piece of electronic wizardry would create an explosion of scientific knowledge providing in mere hours far more data than past generations had labored for centuries to uncover.We saw the amazing progress that would come in all fields of science, developments which had once been only fantasy, from the transplanting of human organs and cloning to men walking on the moon and space probes reaching throughout our solar system and beyond.

Given this preview of exploding scientific knowledge, and considering the long-stand­ing antagonism between science and religion, it would have seemed logical to predict a bleak future for any form of spirituality. With science answering all questions and providing seemingly unlimited possibilities, religion would surely be relegated to the scrap heap of history once and for all. No one except a few uneducated religious diehards with mis­placed loyalty to past superstitions would have any lingering interest in the realm of the spirit!

A Strange Turn of Events

Reasonable as such a scenario would have seemed to us, it would have been wrong. Science failed us. And there is now an exploding interest not in organized religion but in a generic spirituality with a universal appeal.

Most amazing is the fact that the top physical scientists (not the social scientists) have led this renaissance of interest in spirituality. In a remarkable book, Ken Wilber brought together what the most renowned scientists of this century have had to say about the existence of a nonphysical, or spiritual, dimension of reality. He concludes:

There is no longer any major physical-theoretical objection to spiritual realities….This view—which is supported by virtually every theorist in this volume [Einstein, Sherrington, Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Planck, Eddington, et al.]—is probably the strongest and most revolutionary conclusion vis-à-vis religion that has ever been “officially” advanced by theoretical science itself.
It is a monumental and epochal turning point in science’s stance toward religion…[and] in all likelihood marks final closure on that most nagging aspect of the age-old debate between the physical sciences and religion….(Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World’s Great Physicists, ed. Ken Wilber (New Science Library, 1984), p. 170

Instead of building a solid basis for peace, science has brought us to the brink of destruction, with a nuclear sword of Damocles hanging by a hair over our heads and eco­logical collapse threatening vast areas of our planet. Moreover, scientific materialism has utterly failed to answer the ultimate questions we face and to quench our insatiable thirst for a satisfying purpose and meaning to life. As Nobel laureate Erwin Schroedinger, who played a vital role in developing today’s physics, reminds us:

The scientific picture of the real world around us is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information… but it is ghastly silent about all…that really matters to us….
It knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity….Whence came I and whither go I? That is the great unfathomable question….Science has no answer to it. (Erwin Schroedinger, cited in Quantum Questions, pp. 81-83)

To be sure, science gave us many fascinating insights, the satisfaction of achieve­ment, and a plethora of new toys, but, as Schroedinger says, it couldn’t provide even the theoretical answers, much less the substance, of that which “really matters to us.” There is a longing in the human heart that no amount of scientific achievement or technological gadgetry, prosperity or pleasure, fame or fortune can satisfy.

The Death of Materialism

What was modern man to do? He didn’t roll over, pinned to the mat of life by the overwhelming strength of truth. There was no great turning to the God of the Bible. Yes, there was an upsurge of Islamic and Christian fundamentalism, but it never gained general favor, certainly not in political or academic circles, nor with the media. Today’s prevailing mood is broad-mindedness, not dogmatism. The only rule is that there are no rules; the only absolute that there are no absolutes—absolutely no absolutes—especially in morals.

“Truth” is “whatever you’re comfortable with.” Just don’t try to push it on anyone else. “If it works for you, or if it feels good,” goes the saying, “that’s okay, but I’ve got my own thing.” Spirituality, yes, but not one transcendent truth.

This modern mentality is fostered to a large extent by the misleading term “human potential.” Implied in that popular expression is the proud supposition that whatever power exists in the universe, including mysterious spiritual or psychic power, it all belongs to us; it represents human potential. We are free to tap into it and use it to our own ends. Such an assumption is not only naïve but could foster a dangerous delusion.

That there is “something” beyond the physical universe—that an immaterial universe apparently exists which is not bound by time, space, and physical laws, and that it involves a mysterious power which seems to be unlimited—has become the general consensus. We now know that matter itself is not physical. The electron has no mass. Moreover, as Nobel laureate Sir John Eccles, a neurophysiologist, argues:

But if there are bona fide mental events—events that are not themselves physical or material—then the whole program of philosophical materialism collapses. The universe…must make (spaceless) room for (massless) entities [i.e. minds]. (Sir John Eccles with Daniel N. Robinson, The Wonder of Being Human— Our Brain and Our Mind (New Science Library, 1985), p. 54)

The existence of a nonphysical dimension inhabited by nonphysical beings is now the generally accepted belief among physical scientists. The only exceptions are a few hard-core atheists and Marxists who still cling to a discredited materialism. Arthur Koestler long ago pointed out:

The nineteenth-century clockwork model of the universe is in shambles and, since matter itself has been dematerialized, materialism can no longer claim to be a scientific philosophy. (Research in Parapsychology 1972 (special dinner address by Arthur Koestler), p. 203)

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