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PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:16 pm 
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I've been asked to write (but not deliver) a five-minute talk on science and spirituality [Edit: the title is actually supposed to be "The Spirituality of Science"]. I can do that just fine on my own, but I can probably do it better if I talk about it first to remind myself of my own thoughts on the subject. So I'm wondering if anyone would be up for sharing their ideas on:

-What is scientific?
-What is spiritual?
-What is spiritual about science?
-What is scientific about spirituality?
-Do you view the two as separate, non-overlapping avenues of inquiry and experience, or do they share turf?
-If the two do share turf and they disagree, who should win? How do you decide?

I will answer these things myself once I spend a little time thinking about it...


Last edited by Dave_LF on Tue Jun 20, 2017 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:56 pm 
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Aagragaah
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I wonder about the framing a bit. There's no conflict between spirituality and science. The conflict is between science and dogma.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:39 pm 
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Lán de Grás
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"Spiritual" is such a fuzzy term that I wouldn't even know how to start to answer.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:14 am 
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I'd say that science and spirituality use such completely different standards that asking what is scientific about spirituality and what is spiritual about science isn't a question that has a valid premise.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:35 am 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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If you haven't read Francis Collins' book The Language of God, I'd highly recommend it. It's the book that solidified my turning away from YEC and made me realize that I could be a Christian and believe in evolution.

I will give this some thought if I can. It's a topic that fascinates me.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:59 am 
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I would say it's not so much that science and spirituality use different standards as that they are different tools for examining the world.

I'll be back. Deadline tonight.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 12:13 pm 
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Upon further discussion, the topic is "The Spirituality of Science" rather than "Spirituality and (or vs.) Science." Which gives the thing a somewhat different flavor, though defining the terms and discussing their relationship with each other would still be in bounds.

A difficult topic to do justice in 5 minutes! :D

Here's a little teaser: science points outwards, spirituality points inward. Sure, science can tell us plenty about ourselves and the way our minds work, but always from the perspective of someone outside looking in. Our inner reactions to the information it provides; how it leads us to understand our place in the universe and our relation to it; what it *means* to us, is where something you might call "spirituality" can enter the picture.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 1:10 pm 
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Aagragaah
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That's not at all where I would take it. I don't think I can contribute, but I'm looking forward to seeing how you develop the theme.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 1:13 pm 
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Where would you take it? :)


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 8:22 pm 
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Aagragaah
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Well, for a start, I don't necessarily see spirituality as looking inward, or at least not exclusively. But maybe I am not catching what you meant?

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 4:29 am 
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Spirituality is often a communal thing and involves awareness of, and joining with, others more than a focus on self.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 1:26 pm 
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Hobbit
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Science is the process of trying to understand the rules governing the reality that God set up.
Spirituality is the process of appreciating that reality and its author.

They aren't mutually exclusive at all.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 12:54 pm 
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These are good perspectives, and worth addressing, even if they're different from my own.

The communal aspect is especially interesting since (a) it's not something I would have come up with on my own (everything I've experienced that might be called spiritual or religious has been intensely and essentially personal), and (b) it has an obvious analog in science, which could be described as a group effort of searching for truth that is bigger than humans, and sharing it with each other.

(please forgive the poor sentence construction)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:33 pm 
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I'm a lifelong church member, and my spirituality is interwoven with my religion (I know they don't always go together). But community, and communion, are important parts of it. I know that I often come away from a church potluck, or even a Church Council meeting, warmed by that sense of community, of people of good will working together to accomplish something good in the world (or even just to share some food and conversation). I feel refreshed.

I've had the same feeling working in a research lab, though it was about food a lot less often. And for that matter, although I work physically alone, the sense that I'm working to accomplish something worthwhile—to help produce high-quality books for students and scholars, or to write ripping yarns that people will enjoy—is a satisfaction that's important to me.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:50 pm 
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Ok, here's what I came up with; it takes me about five minutes to read through it aloud. The deadline's not until tonight, so I'm sure I'll be doing some more tweaking.

Do you think the Tolkien reference is too geeky for a general audience? :)
Quote:
“The Spirituality of Science” is sort of a tricky topic. “Science” is well-defined--it’s the process of learning by experiment and observation, and the body of knowledge acquired that way--but “spirituality” is harder to nail down. So to help decide what to say, I asked some of my imaginary friends on the internet what the word means to them:
Quote:
Spirituality is an awareness of something greater than yourself

Quote:
Spirituality is the process of appreciating reality and its author

Quote:
Spirituality is often a communal thing and involves awareness of, and joining with, others more than a focus on self

These are different answers, but if there’s a common thread, it’s this: spirituality is the recognition of truth that’s bigger than you are.

Science, too, is concerned with truths that are bigger than humans, and science too is done in the company of a multitude of others, scattered across time and space. And it is absolutely possible to experience a “spiritual” sense of awe when you participate in this ancient, communal search for truth. While scientists as a whole tend to be a prosy lot, more than a few have waxed eloquent on this subject. For example, in his famous essay Religion and Science, Albert Einstein described what he called “cosmic religious feeling” like so:
Quote:
The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole.

And Carl Sagan had this to say in his excellent (and highly recommended) book, The Demon-Haunted World:
Quote:
In its encounter with Nature, science invariably elicits a sense of reverence and awe. The very act of understanding is a celebration of joining, merging, even if on a very modest scale, with the magnificence of the Cosmos.

Clearly, “sciencing” can be a spiritual experience.

But if that’s true, then why are science and spirituality so often perceived to be in tension with each other? Part of this is because spirituality gets tied up with religion, and science and religion do indeed engage each other in turf wars from time to time. The problem is that both are, to some extent, different ways of doing the same thing; namely, finding truth. This opens the door to competition and, in fact, science and religion don’t always agree. A pastor preaches the Earth is 6,000 years old, radiometric dating says it’s 4.5 billion. A prophet says that humans have immortal souls, a biologist says they’re just bags of chemicals. These contradictory claims can’t all be true, so something’s gotta give. But what?

In many ways, the situation resembles what happens in nature when two species compete for the same resource. Ecological competition has only two possible outcomes. One is extinction. Species A is the fundamentally superior competitor, so sooner or later, species B dies out or is driven off. And I’m sure we could all come up with examples of times science and religion have tried to make each other extinct. But there’s another way to resolve competition: evolution. The competitors can change their anatomy or, more to the point, their behavior, in ways that prevent conflict. You eat the fruit that falls to the ground, I’ll eat what’s still in the trees. You hunt at night, I’ll hunt during the day. You grow in sandy soil, I’ll stick to the loamy stuff.

This was the sort of solution the late, great Stephen Jay Gould advocated in his book Rock of Ages. Gould’s argument was that science and religion occupy what he called “non-overlapping magisteria.” To his way of thinking, science is concerned with what the universe is made of and how it works, while religion and spirituality are concerned with ethics and values, including questions of ultimate meaning. Science provides the raw material for spiritual thinking, while spirituality can guide scientific inquiry and our decisions about what to do with the things we learn. Einstein had the same demarcations in mind when he made his famous statement that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." And while Gould’s idea has its detractors, particularly in the details, it’s hard to argue with his overall concept. Indeed, the modern world demands some sort of synthesis if a person is to avoid nihilistic paralysis on the one hand, and blinkered barbarity on the other.

But to achieve this sort of harmony, extremists on both sides have to give up some of their entrenched positions. Spiritual leaders need to come to grips with the plain reality that their holy books are flawed, and are not always literal truth. Hard empiricists need to appreciate the limits of their mode of inquiry, and admit that subjective human experience can be meaningful--perhaps ultimately meaningful--despite and independent of whatever physical processes may underlie it. And so forth.

Done properly, science and spirituality operate in different domains and perform complementary functions. Science anchors you in reality, while spirituality allows you to transcend it. Each informs the other, and each makes up a crucial part of the human experience of life. Chop either off, and what’s left behind is both less than human and less than alive; like one of Tolkien’s wraiths. But unite them, and the door is open to becoming a full person who fully lives.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:29 pm 
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not something I would recommend
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Quote:
To his way of thinking, science is concerned with what the universe is made of and how it works, while religion and spirituality are concerned with ethics and values, including questions of ultimate meaning.


But what are ethics and values made of and how do they work? ;)

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2017 2:50 pm 
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A prophet says that humans have immortal souls, a biologist says they’re just bags of chemicals.


Can't one be a bag of chemicals controlled by a soul? :scratch:


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2017 4:27 pm 
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Aagragaah
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"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."

Attributed to but never said by CS Lewis and possibly traced to George MacDonald.

Although I like another quote better. "You are a ghost driving a meat-coated skeleton made from stardust, what do you have to be scared of?" I was not able to trace its origins with any more precision than "someone on the Internet."

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2017 4:31 pm 
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Maria wrote:
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Can't one be a bag of chemicals controlled by a soul? :scratch:

Hence the word "just." :)


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