Spiritual and Scientific

“Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars - mere globs of gas atoms. I, too, can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more?”

Richard Feynman

Once upon a time, all we had were myths and legends. Much about our universe was unexplained. Some mysteries were explained by the actions of the gods. If your ship was caught in a storm, it might be that the goddess Juno had it in for you and told Aeolus,  the god of winds, to knock you about. Gradually, some smart people found alternate explanations for what they observed. Weather could be accounted for by natural forces that obeyed certain laws of nature. If one were to observe closely and understand the laws, natural events such as the weather would be predictable. Okay, maybe the weather is a bad example

The point is that science has developed to provide rational explanations for the things and events in our world. As people  found the beauty of truth in science, some rejected the beauty and truth found in religion. Some people of religion have rejected science, because it  seemed at odds with the stories that they believed. There is a dialectic between science and religion that has lasted for centuries and is not yet resolved. Neither perspective fully explains what’s going on in us or around us.

Sometimes we close off our minds because we’ve found some element of truth and we become attached to it. The scientific method becomes our god, or the scripture that saved us emotionally is unquestioned, because to do so might prove it fallible and the whole network of our faith might fall apart.

When one is devoted to truth, however, flexibility of mind is necessary. Scientific truth may be discovered through hard experimentation, data collection and rational analysis, but sometimes it comes in a dream or a reverie. The spiritual life too can be hard mental work, but it just makes no sense to sandbag one’s beliefs against reason.

One need not reject science to be spiritual and one need not reject spirituality to live a life of reason. One might need to broaden one’s definition of spirituality, however.  Spirituality doesn’t have to be attached to dogma and ritual. Hopefully, it involves an opening of the heart and a willingness to experience awe.

Ask yourself:

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© 2009 Tom Barrett