…fear of scientific uncertainty

[The Leaven –  an investigation into the relationship between science and religion (cont)]

Despite lack of knowledge surrounding biological processes, the Bible still manages to relay the message that by changing behavioural patterns quality of life can be improved. One purpose of science and religion could therefore be to raise this awareness. Occasionally however, both science and religion can step out of line to become socially threatening. In the Bible, this kind of corrupt behaviour is compared metaphorically to the permeating effect of leaven in dough. During this era, the properties of leaven were not understood and would have been shrouded in mystery. Through an accumulation of scientific knowledge it is now known that leaven is a substance that contains microbial organisms, such as yeasts, that ferment carbohydrates in dough, producing carbon dioxide and alcohol as by-products. The process of fermentation has become realised over time through countless scientific experiments; a relentless thirst for enlightenment that led to further questions and further experiments to answer those questions. Science seeked answers not only to what caused the process of fermentation but also how it accomplished this and for what reason, furthermore, could this process be exploited for some other purpose?

Through tiny progressive steps rather than a giant leap, yeast has become a commercially important domesticated microorganism and a well-established tool in molecular research. The natural process of leavening or yeast fermentation is now well understood and can be manipulated scientifically by humans. Genetic engineering has advanced to such a level that mere mortals can now achieve processes in days that would have taken natural selection decades to accomplish. However this knowledge is not shared by all and is still feared by communities who cannot influence the outcome of scientific exploitation. It could possibly be the fear of corruptive or erroneous influences behind this scientific manipulation that currently causes social concern.

Uncannily, the philosophical message that is conveyed through leaven in the Bible, over two thousand years ago, could well apply to corruptive influences within modern scientific institutions today. Sometimes, especially through the efforts to secure material needs, other motivation besides scientific enlightenment drives research. This can lead to the controversy that reveals flaws in regulatory systems. Ironically, fear of uncertainty is still present despite the wealth of knowledge that we now have.

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