Do spirituality and science have to be opposed to each other? Unfortunately, just defining either concept seems almost hopeless at times. On the other hand, describing them is much easier, so let’s start there.
Science isn’t system, but an approach to knowledge, a method. Scientists will argue forever about the definition of science, but still agree it is the most useful or productive method of understanding the world. What are its essential characteristics? They are objective observation, the deriving of principles and “laws”, and predictions based on these. (When it produces things, it is also technology.)
Science can be easily differentiated from religion by the fact that all of the knowledge it produces might be proven wrong. Religious “knowledge” is typically sacred, and untouchable, while scientific knowledge is always being overthrown or refined by further application of science. While faith is the cornerstone of religion, evidence is for science.
This explains why “creationist” science is not actually science. A creationist “scientist” will not allow his religiously based beliefs to be challenged by new evidence. He will openly tell you that his “faith” is more important to him than the evidence. He only uses the pretense of science to support his preconceived notions. Many scientists, on the other hand, have overturned even their own theories, because the essence of science is to go where the evidence leads you.
Spirituality And Science Combined
It seems that spirituality and science contradict one another, but this would only be true if all spirituality was based on religious beliefs. Spirituality, though, can be seeking higher levels of experience, asking the deepest questions, and seeking the true “self,” which in no way makes it contrary to science. In fact, since science is such a productive method of discovering new truths, it can be used for spiritual exploration and discovery.
I a belief in God contrary to science? Not so long as it is based on experience rather than faith, and it is open to change. Spiritual systems of beliefs can be a convenient way of organizing and using our knowledge and experience, like many other scientific theories or paradigms. To be scientific, though, they must be open to change.
If prayer brings you peace of mind, why not pray? When the evidence shows it to be a phenomenon involving brain chemicals, why not accept that too? It is scientific spirituality, by the way, that has lead to the technology of brain wave entrainment. Now you can buy CDs that give you the same spiritual experiences as religious meditators.
Being spiritual then, can mean forever seeking higher levels of experience, and looking for the answers to the deepest questions. Science help in this quest. Since every answer raises even deeper questions, there is no extinguishment of spirituality by way of science. If spirituality is the quest, then science may be the most effective means of continuing it.