Emerging Perspectives: Student Chapters

Embracing Mystery in the Search for Truth

Natalie Pax

The evolution of the human brain over the course of history has permitted the mind to achieve consciousness—an awareness of ourselves and the universe that prompts humanity to question the mystery of our own experiences. The complex nature of the brain, according to author Diane Ackerman is “to liken and learn, never resist a mystery, and question everything, even itself” (Ackerman, 2004). All forms of knowledge and discovery are ultimately based on unverifiable presuppositions, and an element of uncertainty is present whether it be in the field of scientific research, theological beliefs, or artistic expression. Perhaps then, just as multiple instruments and notes are woven together to form a complete sonata, multiple disciplines, perspectives, and ideas can provide a more holistic understanding of the world. There are certain mysterious qualities of the human experience that cannot be reduced to a single concrete understanding of truth. However, this does not imply that truth and morality are purely relative. One can appreciate multiple lenses when understanding the phenomena of our own existence, yet still recognize that truth and understanding are not purely subjective and some ideas hold more merit than others. There is beauty in the never-ending journey towards understanding ourselves and the world we live in—after all, the very process of science induces new discoveries and understandings that then lead to even bigger questions and mysteries…

…Just as religion and myth can be a search for truth and guidance in human existence, so too can science and experimentation. In his presidential address to the Royal Society of South Africa, A.W. Sloan (1979) stated that science is a “search for truth” and that science depends on certain pre-suppositions, including a belief in order and harmony even though science itself is never static and constantly undergoing transformation (Livingstone, 2013). In an essay titled “Religion and Science” that was written for the New York Times Magazine in 1930, Einstein described a ‘cosmic religious feeling’ as a phenomenon when the “individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order that reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison, and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole.” Einstein believed that there was an order to the universe, which he experienced in a sense of awe and veneration before nature. He held a strong conviction that there is a cosmic order, which he felt was essential to the scientific outlook (Gamwell, 2002). There may be a certain natural harmony to the world and human experience, but it is the mystery in this harmony that prompts us toward inquiry and discovery…


Find the rest of this chapter in Emerging Perspectives on Religion and Environmental Values in America HERE.