Meet scholars who are working on the frontier of knowledge about the true nature of reality. Part 3/4.
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MaryLynn: Throughout modern history, we have attempted to understand our world and the nature of life through a wide range of disciplines that include science, art, politics, law, economics, sociology and psychology. But is it possible that there is another way of knowing or understanding reality that transcends all of these disciplines and helps us to access a more synthesized view of the world. Male: The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion was founded in January 2006 and brings together people from different disciplines to carry out research in the area of science and religion. The institute draws people from many theological background and discipline of study. Among them are scientists, historians, and sociologists. Dr. Alexander: It’s a way I think for people to understand that there is a proper academic discussion going on between science and faith in various angles in different disciplines. So we actually had the professor here from Harvard who came a few months ago last year to give us a lecture. We bring people over from the states, we brought people from New Zealand, we bring people and give them the platform at Cambridge University for their own views. Male: Cambridge University also offers a science and religion program. And there is an effort to bring this kind of study in to the high schools in the United Kingdom. Dr. Alexander: From time to time, people, staff members are invited to go in to high schools and to give some lectures and organize some debates and discussion. And that’s perfectly feasible within the British system. Because in Britain, actually by law, religion education has to be taught within the schools, by law. And this is quite a normal part of the curriculum in there. We don’t have this radical separation between church and state that we have here in the states. Male: Dr. Alexander comments on how our knowledge of reality can be skewed if we only use one discipline to define it. Dr. Alexander: I think the problem is that people brought up in the scientific culture can so often think that scientific story is the only one that matters. They're like people reading a book, but they see it, they only look at the actual, the black ink on the page. And they look at the structure of the words and they miss the whole message. And I think that’s always a danger in the reductionist approach. Male: According to Dr. Alexander, he employs a reductionist or scientific view when analyzing the immune system or looking at cancer mechanisms. But he feels that one cannot necessarily rely upon this view of the world to get a complete picture or understanding of reality. Dr. Alexander: Reductionism gives us the final story. It just gives us one slice of the story, one little layer in the overall story. And I think we then have to step backwards and start looking at the message as a whole. And that’s terribly important. It’s always a temptation for people who are deeply embedded in the scientific community or living in a scientific culture of some kind. Just to think that the scientific story is the only one that matters. Clearly that’s not the case. Male: According to Dr. Alexander, there are layers of knowledge or reality. He gives the example of how universities are structured and how each discipline offers a different way of viewing life. Essentially, a different reality. Dr. Alexander: If we were really a superman or superwoman, we will be able to look at human being, we would look at the universe and we could see it all at once. We could come up with a sort of complete exploration, uncover all the layers. But we all know that we're not like that in reality. And it’s reflected in the disciplinary structures of our universities. We have humanities departments, we have science departments, and they're all broken down into different sort of study sections. And each sort of discipline has its own way of looking at reality. Male: So whether we're looking at the world through the disciplines of art an