Science is the only news in the newspaper. The rest is gossip. Backbite. Sentiment. It is a repetition of moves. Weather reports. Weather isn’t called weather for nothing. Another rain shower. Another energy crisis. Another environmental disaster. Again and again a maniac who starts a war, a wave of refugees, fuss about it. And then another energy crisis, an environmental disaster and the oh-so-predictably out of control demonstration of angry men in the middle of a hot summer. All again.
Scroll down to the science pages and there you will find the real news. At least, every now and then. You will also find weather reports there. Science is often at most a fill-in exercise, and also extremely sensitive to fashion. The same idea applied to just a different topic. The same hypothesis was tested in a different population. And yet you sometimes find news there. Then someone pokes a hole in everything that was deemed certain.
There’s quite a lot that people around me seem to know for sure. At least that’s the impression I have of you, readers. Much of northwestern Europe seems convinced that the nature of reality can be more or less described and explained by current theories. Everything around us can be deduced from Newton’s laws, the standard model of particles, the theories of relativity. All it takes is an idea of how to connect all those things together, then it’s done. There are no more boundaries to be pushed, there are no more surprises. Maybe some dark spots to color in.
I used to joke in the lab when I found something new that we could sort of clean up after the coffee break and everyone could go home because all the problems had been solved and all the questions answered.
It’s that ‘we’re almost there’ mentality that dominates our corner of the earth. People confidently declare to believe in science, relying heavily on scientific certainties that are not there at all.
Thus we have no beginning of a description of the nature of our consciousness. But any doctor who dares to try something alternative on hopeless patients will inexorably be blacklisted by academic tribunals. It has been scientifically proven that physical properties of things are a result of our observation, and are not inextricably linked to those things themselves. We know that particles can be in two places at once. But any spiritual inclination, psychic experience or – woe betide – form of ‘belief’ is at most something to whisper in each other’s ear after a few drinks around the fire.
And better make sure you cover such outpourings with adequate reservations and excuses and ‘I know it sounds strange, but’ because otherwise you run too much risk of ending up permanently in the camp of the crazy, or worse: of the believers. end up.
For a while I didn’t know what to do with invitations to all those programs where people talk to guests about religion. You know them. Programs by Jacobine Geel or Tijs van den Brink, or the incredible podcast. All with good intentions, but in which faith is often reduced to something personal, just like in everyday life. Something that has to do with upbringing, background, life experience. Human interest in short, weather forecasts. In that question alone – do you believe? – the mystical is reduced to a quality of you instead of a quality of the reality in which you live. What the hell does it matter what my fickle monkey brain believes, hopes, or fears? I still don’t feel like answering.
But just maybe there’s something in that personal approach. Does God exist? The answer is a resounding yes. He exists. It has even been scientifically proven. And he doesn’t exist. He is a man. A woman. Full of love, full of revenge, full of compassion, full of justice in a thousand forms. Its properties depend on only one thing: on who is watching.
Rosanne Hertzberger is a microbiologist. Maxim February is absent this week.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of 30 July 2022