Twenty years ago, early in my retirement, I wrote an essay on ‘Science and Spirituality: Complementary or Contradictory?’ as a submission for a Resurgence Magazine Essay Competition. It expressed my understanding of the dominant thinking of the time, and its limitations, through the lens of science and spirituality. It didn’t win the prize and the essay was just filed away on the computer.
Recently, I came across it, and thought that it would be interesting to reflect on my views as expressed all those years ago. Has anything changed? Am I any wiser than I was then? Are we collectively any wiser than we were then? Did anything change, or am I/we just stuck in my/our thinking? To attempt to answer these questions, I am serialising that essay over a number of blog posts, with any commentary that seems appropriate, in italics. You are welcome to join me on the journey.
Science and spirituality are part of our collective experience. That they could be contradictory now seems strange to me, and yet once they seemed so. This series of posts draws parallels between my own personal experience of growth and the corresponding growth of humanity; reconciliation of a complementary science and spirituality is a fundamental part of this process.
Education of a materialist
My school years centred around the 1950s in Lincoln, England. Science was king. I well remember the reverence accorded to white-coated boffins on the television (when we eventually got one in 1953). What they said was treated as gospel. The pressure from teachers was for the sciences. This was the future, what the country needed. Humanities were second best, for those with no aptitude for science.
When we were kids, religion was singing in morning assembly, and being sent to the Methodist chapel on Sundays. The minister told bible stories and warned us of the dangers of alcohol, while parents kept away and did the gardening. Yet we loved the occasional lay preacher who came with song and speeches that stirred our soul with their passion. Except we had no concept of soul.
Spirituality was something we secretly found out about through reading library books. It seemed to be all to do with séances, ouija ouija boards and magic. It was not talked about in polite society, and definitely not recognised as valid by science.
So I emerged from the education system with an essentially materialistic scientific viewpoint, deeply sceptical of religion, and uncomprehending of spirituality. After studying mathematics, I took up what was then called computer science, and soon became information systems engineering. I joined the everyday world of industry, married and eventually we started a family.
That was the preamble, still valid today. To be continued in Stuck? 2 Early doubts.
Featured image of Lego city by Lamiot,
CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0,
via Wikimedia Commons