Science vs. Spirituality: The Battle of Belief Systems

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We at Intuitive Being often find ourselves straddling a fence that sometimes seems impossibly wide: the divergence between science and spirituality.  On the one hand we all absolutely love science; neuroplasticity, quantum mechanics, biological process, anything that can be observed, measured and analyzed methodically … awesome!  I Fucking Love Science is one of our favourite sites.

On the other hand, our work takes us into profoundly mysterious and unexplainable realms of “energy work”, tapping into a universal consciousness that is both innate in and accessible to every single one of us.  We often work in areas that we are reluctant to even talk about publicly, for as real and valid as they are, we know that many, out of their fear of the unknown and unexplainable, would label them as nuts.  We tend to believe that which we directly experience.  From this side of things, another of our favourite sites is Spirit Science & Metaphysics, perhaps the polar opposite of the rational skepticism held by the good folks at IFLS.  We use this realm to do work that is utterly ridiculed and completely denied by science and yet has both been intuitively known to every single human culture, to one degree or another, for thousands of years and we find to be massively powerful, resonant and effective for our clients in tackling issues that have been unresolvable through any other modality, including – often, especially – by the scientific method.

Certainly, this is not a new debate – entire tomes have been written on the duality between science and spirituality – and my intention isn’t to attempt to get my arms around the entire debate and act like any sort of expert on it.  Certainly, far greater minds than mine have tackled the issue.  But during a personal Facebook discussion recently on science vs. spirituality, a friend described our views as “religious”.  As a former – recovering? – diehard atheist and ardent rational skeptic myself, I took some offense at that label.  Personally, I pretty much abhor almost all forms of established religion as little more than manmade constructs of control and oppression and purveyors of lower-realm emotional states of guilt, shame and fear.  Religion and spirituality are different animals.  Mostly I found it unfortunate that an otherwise highly intelligent and much-loved friend couldn’t seem to see the discussion in terms other than such black and white thinking like that; that is, the basic supposition that if you believe in the reality of something that cannot be observed, measured and documented by scientific method … then you are “religious.”  The underlying assertion in such an accusation is inherently that you are promoting something that is not “reality”, that you are therefore, to some degree, “nuts.”

Can one not be a believer in what we have, to date, been able to observe, measure and document methodically, and also believe that there exists far more that we do not know, that some humans are intuitively in touch with, have observed, but has not yet been fully measured and documented in terms that are “acceptable” to the scientific method that is, in the grand the scheme of things, a relative teenager of a belief system?  (The amusing paradox in this is that much of it cannot yet be observed and measured simply because the technologies that science argues are the always-required tools of measurement and designators of “reality” are simply to-date too limited in their technical capacity; it is science that lacks the capacity to measure what it claims does not exist; but this will change over time.)

Deepak Chopra framed the issue nicely:

Anything we don’t understand, we call the supernatural.  Once you understand it, you call it science.  So lots of so-called miracles of yesterday are today’s science.  So I don’t believe there is anything that is supernatural.  On the other hand, I believe that spirit, which is synonymous with consciousness, can be a domain of awareness, where we experience our universality. In that experience, there’s love, there’s compassion, there’s understanding, there’s context, there’s meaning, there’s purpose, there’s the understanding of what it means to be intuitive, to be creative, to understand the role of intentionality.  These are aspects of spirituality that are very useful in understanding everything, from behaviour, to cognition, to moods, emotions, biology, environment, ecology.

Discovering this quote led me to a fascinating discussion between Deepak Chopra and evolutionary biologist, ardent atheist and longtime critic of spiritualism Richard Dawkins.  The context of the interview is, to me, as interesting as its content.  According to Chopra, he was duped into this interview with Dawkins, saying he was invited by Channel 4 in the UK under different auspices.  Chopra thought he was showing up for one type of interview, and instead was faced with a three hour interrogation by Dawkins about his belief system for a TV show named “Enemies of Reason.”  The body language of both men, within this context, fascinates me (more on that after the video):

Now about that body language and each person’s mannerisms …

Even though Chopra was caught off base, as it were, thinking he was showing up for one type of interview only to discover he was going to be assailed with borderline derisory opinionating by Dawkins, he remained composed, calm, centered, and focused.  Initially he displays some degree of discomfort, but that seemed to pass as he simply accepted the conditions of the intellectual assault and decided to lean into the storm.  Under a barrage of skeptical questioning that barely managed to hide the interviewers gleeful opportunity to kick holes in spirituality with such a prominent proponent of it, Chopra seemed to embody the principles of non-reactivity that he often espouses.  And although the video is edited to show only 22 minutes of Chopra’s responses – apparently, what the “Enemies of Reason” team thought were the most damning responses of Chopra’s, the most revelatory that Chopra is a crackpot – he apparently chose to stay and answer Dawkins’ questions for three hours, explaining his views on medicine, healthcare, spirituality and consciousness with lucidity and articulateness that, under the circumstances, seemed remarkable to me.

When you compare this to Dawkins’ body language and manner of speech, it seems to me to epitomize the nature of the dialogue between both sides of the science vs. spirituality debate.  Right off the bat, it’s abundantly clear that Dawkins is completely failing one of the basic premises of a meaningful dialogue between two people: active listening.  (If you’re not aware of what that is, here’s a good article explaining active listening.)  Dawkins’ was often barely even listening to Chopra’s responses, simply waiting for him to shut up so he can fire his next round of pre-prepared hole kicking at him.  Often you can hear him interjecting, “Right …” while Chopra is still answering his question, drawing in breaths in preparation for his volleying the next point that he’s been busily thinking about while Chopra was still speaking.

There’s a derisory tone that runs throughout his questions.  The very first question: “Could you explain your revolutionary ideas on quantum healing?”  A concept Dawkins then goes on to question and belittle, showing his clear mocking intent behind labelling them as “revolutionary.”   It’s a petty play, right out of the gate. ”Oh, so it’s a metaphor!  Nothing to do with quantum theory, as in physics.”  More mockery.  There’s a slight upturn in his smile, a sign of derision.  We’ve seen this one before, most classically on Dick Cheney’s face:

There’s a breathless impatience in Dawkins’ body language; he seems to sway back and forth between a back-leaning stance that energetically separates himself from the dialogue while Chopra is speaking and a grasping forward-leaning, like a predator going in for the pounce.  By comparison, Chopra – who apparently hasn’t been offered a seat by the interview team, which was an interesting tone-setter – stands straight, unmoved, clearly having adopted an in-it-to-win-it attitude, despite the less than integrous circumstances for his finding himself in this interview.

Dawkins’ constant blinking implies a nervousness, and is it just me, or is he sweating?  What is he nervous about, if he believes himself to be so right?

I may be reading more into Dawkins’ body language than is actually there, I’m not sure.  Sometimes it’s difficult to separate the energy of a dynamic between two people from the physical manifestation of that energy.   In this particular debate, though, it struck me that the voice of science came across as somehow desperate, as mocking, as refusing to listen, and little bit like a little boy trying to pull the wings off a fly.  Whereas the voice of spirituality appeared to be relaxed, confident, not only unshaken by critical thinking and questioning, but distinctly comfortable with it.

I don’t think we in the “energy work” field all feel the same level of comfort under fire as Deepak Chopra appeared to in this interview.  He’s an incredibly intelligent, experienced and well-researched man (infinitely more than myself), and possesses a remarkable ability to articulately explain his beliefs on the fly.  But I do believe that humans – particularly humans that choose to open their minds beyond the narrow confines of skepticism and intellectual arrogance – will always intuitively know things that science currently lacks the technological capability to observe, measure and document.  I believe that scientific technologies will evolve to the point of being able to, at which stage “spirit” – or “supernaturalism” or “superstition” or whatever label those in the science column might mockingly employ to deny that which it lacks the capability to measure – will simply become another construct of the scientific paradigm and, for scientists, become “reality”.

In the meantime, the rest of us already embrace it as a reality, enjoy and employ the documented evidence that current scientific technology provides us, and look forward to a time when our scientific capacity catches up with our innate “spiritual” capacity to know, intuit and connect.

A few related links:

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