Religions and philosophies through the ages did us a great evolutionary service by presenting collective narratives that, for many, provided both meaning for existence and a place for individual lives “to matter” relative to both culture and to the observed world. On the other hand, they did us a great disservice when they masked our vulnerability, when they placed us above and in control of nature, or when their dogmas were used to dominate or to define “the other” as objects of exclusion or violence. This bipolar interplay between the outcomes of “service” and “disservice” peaked with German philosophy in the mid-nineteenth century, causing philosophy to ultimately break with religion and court its new handmaiden, science. Science, however, was the Trojan Horse in this relationship, disconnecting itself from both philosophy, especially metaphysics, and from religion, especially institutional dogmas. The close relationship between science and nature is now often called “progress.”
But nature remains superior to science. Just as nature mocks religious predictions of the end of time; just as nature scoffs and quickly displaces those philosophies announcing the “zeitgeist of the age”; so nature will humiliate, or at least significantly limit, the impact and reach of the mathematical tenets and paradigms of science. For religion, defrocked as it may be, still realizes humanity’s vulnerability before nature without a narrative, without a mythology; and philosophy, ignored as it may be, still believes there are abstract phenomena and processes, perhaps unknowable except through the imagination, that drive the material world; and therefore science, glorified as it may be today, still lies relatively helpless to provide a meaningful narrative for our existence or to overcome the logical, fundamental constraints of both mathematics and of language in understanding all of nature and its driving processes.
Nature and Philosophy can coexist, therefore, but this coexistence can only be temporarily sampled by the informed and unleashed imagination, one that spiritually creates meaning, one that physically is consistent with observed life experience, and one that may be only partially explained by logic and language.