Scientific spirituality may sometimes sound like an oxymoron. Many would argue that the spiritual cannot be the scientific. However, don’t science and spirituality go hand in hand? You may call it the science of spirituality or even the spirituality of science. At the end of the day, scientific spirituality seeks to explain how this works. While the latter is less popular, the former actually depends on it.
Scientific Spirituality: Is There A Logical Explanation?
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This has been the standard take on science and spirituality (the pan-religious belief in something greater than ourselves) since the Enlightenment. Yet, is this science and spirituality difference actually true? Can we really explain away the spiritual? If we “knew” every fact there was to know in the Universe, would we discover that there was nothing left but cold, rational logic?
New (and not so new) thinkers are casting doubt on this assumption. Many believe that science and spirit can blend. In fact, they are bold enough to say that they can explain exactly what spirituality is.
The Soul: Agent of Change?
At present, no one study conclusively claims that the spirit is real. However, even high-profile publications are starting to recognize the power of the soul. Consider a 2011 article in Psychology Today, in which medical doctor Robert Lanza applies the famous double-slit experiment in a new way. If you’re not familiar with it, the double-slit experiment is a quantum physics test. It demonstrates light as both a wave and a particle.
A beam of light is sent toward a plate in which two slits are hewn and behind which stands a screen. If the particle is not measured, a wave pattern forms on the screen – indicating that the light is a wave and is passing through both slits. On the other hand, if sensors are installed to track the beam of light, they find that particles pass only through one of the two slits, and no wave pattern forms.
If you think about it, this is crazy. It means the knowledge of the experimenter watching the test is actually affecting how light behaves.
The Unknowability of the Universe
Here we go; cheers to a well-spent Saturday night. ·· “If we do discover a complete theory [of the universe], it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we ans the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.” // #stephenhawking #knowledge #universe #ilovethisstuff #quantum #physics #science #instageek #scientificspirituality
The Enlightenment brought about another common idea: that if we can just shrink the world to its smallest particles, we can know it. Obviously, as the double-slit experiment demonstrates, this is not true. The duality of light proves that there is no knowing light, not in a real sense. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle, or the idea that at no point can you really know the exact position and speed of an object, but only one or the other, further illustrates this. The Universe is made up of permanent unknowns.
How does this relate to spirituality? Because it discredits one of the primary tenets of science as it is today: that we can know everything if only we develop the right tools. But that’s not so, which means that discounting the spiritual is impossible. You can’t prove a negative, and moreover, there are uncertainties that will never be explained away. The Universe works in ways we may never understand, but have to take on faith, and what is that but spirituality?
The Spirituality of Life Systems
On the other hand, systems can shed much more light on the material and the spiritual. In a fascinating interview for Uplift, Austrian physicist Fritjof Capra opines that systems govern the interactions of everything in the world. The human body is not simply as a sum of parts. Capra argues that each cell in the human body is a cognitive system.
Living systems, much like human beings, are also “sentient”. Living systems evolve, yes, but they don’t do so blindly. Rather, a form of intelligence guides them. What this intelligence is exactly is difficult to explain even by “hard” realities. The interview further points out that “Latin word anima, the Greek psyche, and the Sanskrit atman” all mean “breath” but are words for the spirit. In other words, breathing is the basis of spirit, and living systems do breathe, placing the spirit squarely in the material realm. The world is a world of spirit.
Even Capra admits these are still baby steps toward the understanding of science and spirituality together. However, it is a huge leap in illuminating who we are in essence.
What is your opinion on scientific spirituality? Please let us know in the comments section below.