Tag Archives: Science

The Function of Labeling Things

Labeling is a function of the ego’s desire to categorize, define and otherwise put everything in its proper place relative to everything else. At its essence this desire arises out of the ego’s fear of its inability to appreciate reality as a whole. When a thing has been labeled the ego feels like it has  a certain power over the thing. The thing is now confined by its label. However, labels are not the thing that they label even though the ego tends to proceed as if the thing and the label are one.

Despite their inaccuracy, labels can and do serve useful functions. For example, labels can diminish fear. When a fear is labeled it seems to become something less than what it was. The labeler now seems to become (in a sense) more powerful than the fear. The fear thus becomes less scary. Another example is that labels allow for the communication of information from one person to another. The transmission of information is less than one hundred percent accurate but effectively more information is communicated with labels than without them. Labels serve these useful functions by digesting reality into usable chunks. As such, even though they are not perfect they make reality more understandable than it would otherwise be if left unlabeled.

Understanding reality is the chief function of the ego which has taken on the task of making a livable space within reality. Two paths an ego can take to understand reality are science and religion / spirituality. Science seems to rely heavily upon labels. It defines things and in doing so it makes them less than what they actually are. But by doing this it allows scientists to work with the information and arrive at answers.  Theories and equations (for example) are labels. This is the language that science speaks. Religion and spirituality, by contrast, while using labels symbolically also attempts to appreciate at the whole of reality itself. This is its language. As such science and spirituality don’t speak the same language. Because of this they tend to become dismissive of each other.

The ego is an ally in that it seeks to navigate the vast ocean of reality. But unchecked the ego can run amuck. An unchecked ego does not lead to happiness. There is a balancing act between the ego and the truth of reality. The ego desires to make truth understandable. But by doing so through labels the ego makes truth something less than what it actually is. At the same time this function is necessary because without it there would be much less understanding or perhaps no understanding at all.

The self comes to understand that labels are not the truth through observation. Under normal circumstances the self thinks of the label as the thing itself. This is perhaps the best the self can do under the circumstances. Meditation seems to be a way to take in the whole thing or perhaps to take in something more than just the label. But for most people life cannot be lived in a state of meditation. As such labels are useful and necessary but perhaps should be appreciated for what they actually are from time to time.

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Science and Religion

I have observed atheists state that they reject religion because there is no scientific evidence to support the claims that religions make. Taking this point of view assumes that the scientific view-point is the only valid method to observe, define or otherwise deal with reality. I prefer to look at science and religion as two distinct tools that can be used for this purpose.

Following the scientific method has without question led advances in  technology and in understanding the physical properties of the universe. But science only deals with that which can be measured. It seems that many scientists make the assumption that because religious concepts cannot be measured they cannot, therefore, be true.

I think this misses the point of religion. The universe contains that which is known and that which is unknown. For better or worse humanity (or at least a significant segment of humanity) is interested in that which is unknown. Science addresses this interest on the material level. But there is another segment of humanity that is not satisfied with addressing the unknown on the material level alone.

There are many things that cannot be measured that clearly exist; beauty and love for example. True, they can be measured in certain ways such as taking surveys on how many people think something is beautiful or not. But such a measurement is so far removed  from the actual experience of beauty and love that it can never truly be informative of the experience.

Religion, it seems to me, is a way of addressing these unmeasurable unknowns and coming into relation with them through the experience of ritual, symbolism and sacred texts.

According to this way of thinking, one must conclude that one religion is as good as any other as long as the practitioner feels a valid emotional, connection to it. Connections of this sort usually occur when a person is brought up practicing a specific religion and their energy has bonded to the symbology and ritual practices. People attached to a particular religion might not want to agree with this point of view. Believing the religion one practices is the one true faith embodies it with a certain power that it would not otherwise have. This belief (I think) is ultimately based on ego and shame. It says my religion is better than your religion.

In the same respect, this point of view often comes forth when atheists argue with religious people. Such discussions often devolve into a battle of shame egos. This is not unique to arguments about religion. Arguments about politics follows this path as well. The argument itself has nothing to do with which appreciation of reality is correct but rather is about who is better at making the other feel foolish. This is clearly revealed when those who argue become, sarcastic, shaming, angry or flustered. Such a reaction displays that a person’s shame has been touched and they either feel shame themselves or are trying to make their opponent feel ashamed.

 

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