This post is the third in a series which explores how to integrate spirituality and science. The series begins by drawing on the fourfold Wesleyan approach to the quest for truth. This Wesleyan quadrilateral, as it is known, consists of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. These four ways of knowing invite us to integrate spirituality and scientific inquiry. In this post we investigate the third part of the quadrilateral: Reason.
For previous posts go to:
Why The Bible Is Not A Magic Book.
Why Ancient Traditions Are Right Up To Date
There are a few books that have completely changed my perception of the world and my place in it. These authors are my best mentors and spiritual teachers, even though many of them have not been ‘spiritual’ writers at all. Two decades ago, when I read Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History Of Time (affiliate link), I learned to see the cosmos in ways that I had never before imagined. Hawking’s sense of awe and wonder at the complexity and magnificence of our universe profoundly moved and inspired me. It was not a spiritual book. But reading it was, for me, a deeply spiritual experience.
SCIENTIFIC REASONING IS NOT OPINION
A quick look on any social media platform would seem to indicate that many people fail to understand how the scientific method works. When the insights of science are reduced to mere opinions and placed on the same level as preferences, feelings, or the uninformed prattle of religious and political leaders, then we have a significant problem in our society.
Science is based on very clear principles and protocols. Observation leads to curiosity and questioning. Experiments are designed to understand the questions better and to seek possible answers. New discoveries are published in papers that are subject to review by peers qualified for the task. Other scientists seek to repeat the experiment and replicate the results. In all of these ways, findings are scrutinised and put to the test. Only if a claim remains intact it is accepted as truth.
THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
The scientific method is rooted in the conscious, ethical, responsible, and verifiable use of human reason to uncover truth and apply it to the problems of human existence. It has brought tremendous goodness, life, healing, and valuable progress to humanity and to our world. It has also been responsible for some immense tragedies and has caused much human suffering. However, the trajectory of scientific discovery points toward greater justice, well-being, and understanding for increasing proportions of our planet and the species that live on it.
When I look back on my faith journey, I grieve for my younger self who was taught to distrust his intellect, reject science, and view all human reasoning with suspicion. If we seek to become insightful, clear, and critical thinkers who can more effectively discern truth, we must allow the sciences to inform and shape both how we think and what we think about. Reason—our personal and collective capacity to question, explore, examine, discover, and understand—is a valid and important source of truth.
REASON AS A VALUABLE SOURCE OF TRUTH
When we embrace the insights and discoveries of science, we are changed. We are able to make meaning in deeper and more positive ways. We come to a deeper understanding of, and connection with, our universe and all the life forms that exist within it. And this impacts our sense of ourselves, our purpose, and what it means to live a good human life. While science may not be inherently spiritual, learning from science is (or should be) a deeply spiritual experience.
In the same way, science needs a spiritual perspective to guide it in order to remain true to its ethical and truth-seeking ideals. Increasingly, we will need a complex and dynamic dialectic between scientific possibility and spiritual benefit as we navigate realities like human cloning, genetic manipulation, and bio-engineering.
Humanity is at a point where we deeply need to bring the scientific method into the heart of our spiritual understanding and experience. And we need to bring spiritual sensibilities and responsibilities into our scientific quests for knowledge. When we do this, we can truly find reason to be a priceless gift in our unending quest for truth.
- How much do you trust your own capacity to reason and find truth?
- Do you trust the sciences to guide and inform your own reasoning?
- What stories can you share of your spirituality being informed or deepened by the insights of science?
Let’s help each other use our reasoning abilities even better by sharing in the comments. Over to you!
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