Seven years ago, the Swedenborg Center of Concord opened its online portal with a post entitled Integrating Science and Spirituality – Why is This Important? At that time, my assessment of the situation was that:
“Pre-eminent scientists… have felt compelled to attack all religion as irrational superstition. Many religious adherents have raised strident voices supporting biblical literalism and demeaning scientists’ claim to truth.” Gantz (2011)
In the years since, the public acrimony has, in my opinion, softened. I do not claim that this website and its 147 subscribers can take any credit for that, but we can take heart that progress has been made in healing the divisiveness and in recognizing the possibilities for integrating our scientific and spiritual understanding of the world and life. This post outlines some of the signs of progress.
Three Bridges West, a San Francisco film company, recently interviewed Gorge Gantz for a movie they are producing on the topic of Consciousness. This week they released a short video featuring his thoughts on the question “What is God?”
Science has been losing its mojo. Two generations ago, scientists were revered as truth tellers and bringers of progress. Today, science is often viewed as fallible, obscure and, in some cases, untrustworthy. Many factors are blamed for the falling star of science including failures in science education, religious superstition and broader social changes. Yet much of the problem rests with science itself.
“We have met the enemy and he is us” – Walt Kelly 1970
As the recent flap over the remarks of Presidential aspirant Ben Carson demonstrates, the controversy between science and religion is alive and well. As usual, it is focused on the theory of evolution, which postulates that the world, and man, is the result of evolution by Darwinian natural selection and not the ordination of God. While many, myself included, affirm both perspectives as true — evolution is simply the natural unfolding of divine order — there are those in both religious and scientific communities that reject one or the other. These opposing polarized views continue to dominate the controversy. However, there are other aspects of the God vs. evolution dialogue that are worthy of discussion. There may even be room for common ground. (more…)
Of all the questions dividing science and religion, the question of whether there is life after death is one of the most important, as the answer defines our ultimate and eternal state. The physical death of our body has always been fundamental and unavoidable. What comes next, if anything, for our conscious mind or soul, is a compelling mystery; one that humanity has grappled with since culture began. (more…)
On March 13, 2015, the AAAS held a national conference in Washington D.D. on “Perceptions: Science and Religious Communities”. The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) is one of the largest member organizations in the world (some 10 million scientists) with a weekly readership for Science Magazine of more than 1 million.
Investigating perceptions to build understanding between scientific and religious communities.
On February 4, 2014, there was a televised debate between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Ken Ham, President of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. While some interesting information was provided by the presenters, the quality of the debate was disappointing due to its focus on one of the weakest of tenets of Christian religious beliefs – that the world was literally created in seven days some few thousand years ago. (more…)
This troublesome question sits at the heart of the theist / atheist divide. For atheists, the lack of scientific proof of the interventions of an omnipotent God relegates all religious claims to the category of ignorance and superstition. For theists, the mysteries of transcendent experiences that cannot be explained open the doors to faith in the divine God. Why is this simple question so difficult? To that question there is an answer. (more…)
Two great scientific minds spoke at the plenary session of the Templeton Foundation’s 2012 Science and Religion Dialogue (science-religion-dialogue) at Heidelberg University on October 25, 2012: Martin Nowak and John Polkinghorne. Both offered a hopeful and encouraging view of the cooperative possibilities between science and theology. (more…)
I heard an interesting interview on the podcast “EconTalk” recently. Russ Robert’s guest was David Rose, author of a new book on The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior. Both are self-described skeptics of religion. Dr. Rose’s key finding is that efficient and effective markets require specific foundational moral principles that promote and reinforce trust, without which markets will fail. His principles, which he claims to have derived from research and insights on the functioning of markets, sound remarkably similar to the Ten Commandments.
How to Talk to an Atheist
Kathy, in corresponding with me about ISAS, has shared some of her experiences in talking with atheists. She offers a succinct explanation of the causal argument for the existence of God, and I add some additional comments on the challenge of building a dialogue between those who believe in God and those who reject such beliefs. (more…)
The following is a comment posted April 24, 2011, (on scientificamerican.com) in reply to a Commentary titled “Trust Me, I’m a Scientist”, in the May 2011 issue of Scientific American by Daniel T. Willingham. (more…)
I was recently explaining the Concept of ISAS to someone who said, “oh, like God of the Gaps.” I later took a quick scan of the postings that showed up on a web-search and confirmed that this is another buzz-word mine-field, treating science and spirituality like battlefield competitors. In contrast, ISAS is based on the concept that science and spirituality belong together – complementary rather than antagonistic. (more…)
The materialistic worldview espoused by some scientists excludes the possibility of a spiritual reality. Most theologians, on the other hand, believe natural and spiritual realities coexist. This may explain the hostility some scientific writers express towards religious beliefs – it may also affect their science….
Over the past four hundred years, the scientific mode of understanding the world has achieved remarkable success. The technologies that have grown from scientific inquiry have propelled the human race into a prosperity and superfluity that would have been unimaginable to anyone living in a pre-industrial society. The resulting credibility gave science an authoritative claim to being the truth about the world.
One might wonder why any alternative claim to truth, such as through religious experience or revelation, could survive. Yet religion has survived, and in many ways has flourished. One reason is that science has generally not claimed to be able to answer all questions about human life – including the questions of where the world came from and why we are here. Another reason is that science has been inadequate in dealing with our conscious, emotional and creative experience. However, religious ideas have, with few exceptions, ceded considerable territory to scientific ones in these four centuries.
In the past few decades, the uneasy truce between science and religion, if there was one, seems to have broken. Pre-eminent scientists such as E.O. Wilson, Stephen Hawking and others, have felt compelled to attack all religion as irrational superstition. Many religious adherents have raised strident voices supporting biblical literalism and demeaning scientists’ claim to truth – enough of them serve on local school boards to significantly influence the teaching of science in public schools.
The stridency and bitterness of these exchanges are of significant concern and undermine critically needed civil discourse on the ideas and changes that are shaping our lives. In contrast to the public squabbling, the common sense view of most people is that scientific and spiritual modes of understanding the world are both valid and do not contradict each other. And fortunately, this topic has been getting increasing attention by writers, thinkers, scientists, theologians and the media in recent years. In fact, the literature on efforts to understand and explore the interface of science and spirituality has been exploding.
As someone who is steeped in mathematics, science and philosophy, I do believe that science is valid and that the scientific endeavor has brought incredible benefits to human life and transformed our understanding of and relationship to the natural world. However, the history of science also shows that scientific knowledge evolves over time. Time and again, scientists over-reach the actual results they have observed – and their conclusions are reversed or amended by the next generation using better tools and more refined theories.
At the same time, my experience in life has reinforced my belief that there are spiritual truths that transcend the limitations of the natural world. This spiritual knowledge is critical to our choices about how to live and how, ultimately, to be happy. We engage in the process of understanding spiritual truth in very different ways than we do scientific truth. This does not mean that either mode of knowing is invalid.
So how do we integrate our scientific and spiritual understanding of the world and our life in the world? Are they dealing in totally separate realms of knowledge and, as a result, they do not and should not intersect? Or are there possibilities for integrating the two modes of understanding – can they be complementary? And if so, what can we gain in our spiritual inquiry from an understanding of science – and, correspondingly, what can we learn about science from our understanding of spiritual truth?
That is the purpose of the ISAS Forum. I invite you to help me find answers to these questions. Please post your thoughts and reactions to what I and others have to offer. Together, perhaps, we can hope to influence the course of the ongoing debates and make a positive contribution to human understanding.
Thank you for your interest. George Gantz