“The debate between science and spirituality is framed as a knock down fight for truth with winner take all. But does it have to be that way?” 1
Might science and spirituality have more in common than is generally believed? Both explore the unknown and both require open mindedness. It’s when dogma replaces wonder that both become dysfunctional.
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Is there a fundamental difference between science and spirituality? Here’s one viewpoint: “Since the 17th century, science has focused on observing and measuring the external world in ways that can be quantified and replicated. Underlying this is a mechanistic philosophy and a tendency to equate science with scientism without examining the presuppositions associated with this outlook. Mysticism, on the other hand, takes consciousness as its starting point and reports finding the ground of being in the depths of experience.” 2
The two primary presuppositions in the traditional scientific outlook relate to perception and scope. The first assumption maintains that what is being observed is the way it is when it is not being observed, that is, that observing doesn’t change anything. We know from the observer effect that this is simply not true. In order to see, we look. Our looking exerts an influence so that what we see is only the way it is when we are looking. The second assumption maintains that what is being observed exists in a closed system, and that there are no distant and unperceived forces acting upon it. We know that this is also not provable.
So, ironically, it turns out that the standard scientific perspective is fraught with superstition!
The debate has raged for over 300 years. “…the yelling really got started when Illinois State English professor Curtis White published a book called The Science Delusion earlier this year. The book is a polemic about how science has drained beauty and meaning from the world. White suggested that science had no answer to the idea of “spirit” or "soul" proposed by art and philosophy. To view the world from a scientific perspective, White wrote, meant losing our way. Later, in an interview, White told science journalist Maggie Koerth-Baker that the whole book was just intended as exaggerated satire. Unfortunately, nobody got the joke.” 3
There are those that believe life is the real joke. And, that we’re not getting it. If it is a joke it’s an awkward one, considering all the suffering we endure. Then again, why do we suffer? So much of human suffering is easily traced to beliefs. Scarcity, for instance. One wouldn’t routinely brand the elite as poverty stricken but why else would a billionaire hoard his riches offshore? Surely, if you have 4 billion dollars you don’t need to hide 15 billion more, “just in case.” Especially when surrounded by urgent needs that those funds could address.
It’s politically incorrect to recommend “wealth distribution” but what else can solve our problems? Humanity at present is like the monkey who gets trapped when he reaches inside a cage to grab a banana and then can’t remove his arm… unless he releases his prize. He can’t. He won’t. He’d rather be captured than let go of the banana.
Science and spirituality both have their bananas, beliefs that many of those involved refuse to relinquish, beliefs that separate them. Meanwhile, we all live in a world crying out for common sense, to join together and address the crises that threaten human survival. Perhaps, under pressure, the advocates of spirituality and the torch bearers of science can come together and think in new ways to prove the existence of the real God: imagination beyond beliefs.
Imagination is behind it all, driving scientists and saints alike, everyone wanting to know the truth of things. The scientist wants to know how it all works. The mystic wants to fully experience what’s working. For science, knowledge comes first. Spiritual seekers trust faith and inner knowing.
Einstein maintained that imagination was more important than knowledge for good reason. The imaginative person can use knowledge to explore. The knowledge-laden person often defends their knowledge against opposing viewpoints.
Both sides can benefit from a well developed sense of humor! Life is not a term of duty; it’s an exploration. Since none of us get out of here alive, why not use the years we’ve got to explore everything we can? Our imagination is unlimited, what about us? We can be scientists, we can be mystics, we can explore the content of each moment both inside and out, using imagination and knowledge to bridge the great divide in our own experience. Life includes everything.
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