Science made me believe in a god. It’s true. And I was a diehard skeptic about science.
My disillusionment with the subject began mere minutes after I cracked the spine of my first elementary school science textbook. The teacher explained that we’d be doing scientific experiments, and I was ecstatic. Scientists were rock stars. They’d discovered vaccines to prevent terrible diseases. They’d recently put men on the moon. They’d invented those X-ray glasses sold on the back pages of comics. Who wouldn’t want to be a scientist?
We’d already been prepped on the scientific method of constructing a hypothesis, analyzing data and drawing conclusions. I was ready to get my hands dirty. Our teacher explained that we’d read a chapter together in class but, because our school had no lab equipment let alone a laboratory, experiments would be conducted independently at home under parental supervision. If the book called for Bunsen burners or beakers, we’d have to improvise but that’s exactly what real scientists did all the time! I could hardly contain my excitement.
“I have the utmost trust in all of you,” said the teacher. “I know you will wait until after you've conducted your experiments before turning to the end of your chapters.”
Turns out each chapter included the results you should expect from your experiment.
What the hell?
Yes, it sounds ridiculous now but at the time I sincerely believed that we young scientists, working independently in our improvised home kitchen laboratories, were fully expected to seek cures for cancer, invent faster rockets, and, at very least, construct a feasible hypothesis for time travel. Funding to test such theories would be dealt with at a later date.
The notion that we were simply replicating tied-and-true experiments was about as exciting as baking a cake using an Easy Bake Oven mix.
To say I was disappointed does not begin to capture the humiliation. I felt insulted. I refused to conduct a single one of those stupid so-called experiments.
I lost all interest in science and, particularly, science class until the next semester when it came to the matter of matter. The teacher explained that all of it -- our desks, the classroom walls, the floor, even our very own bodies-- consisted of tiny particles called atoms. Kids said, yeah, OK, fine but what about liquids like water? Atoms. What about air? Atoms. What about outer space? It's mostly a vacuum but, yeah, there are some atoms there too. And the moon? Atoms
That’s an approximation of the sound of my mind exploding. What I experienced at that moment was not merely an intellectual understanding but a beautifully pure sensation of knowing that absolutely everything was connected to everything and I was part of a vast infinite whole.
And I concluded that this knowing was what people meant when they talked about God!
Nowhere in our science textbook did it say any such thing. I looked.
I had a hunch that what science aimed to prove with research and experiments was not so very different from what religion aimed to instill with faith and ritual. The two camps just kept getting tripped up on the details.
This was a hypothesis worth testing.
I suppose, in a way, I continue conducting those real life experiments on a daily basis. I am not terribly bothered by the fact that the answers will be revealed at the end of the chapter.
Because this time, I can't turn the pages to peek.