October 7, 2009

A plea to include the spiritual reality as a field of science

There are many definitions of what science is. Here I want to plea for the installment of a science of the spiritual reality. I do believe that it is possible to gain knowledge of the spiritual world in a scientific way, but first we need to think about what science exactly means, or has come to mean.

According to the Wikipedia article with the title "science," in its broadest sense science refers to "any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a prediction or predictable type of outcome."

Common sense, at least my common sense, tells me that science is the methodical quest for knowledge about the reality. As such it doesn't deal with matters of mere belief, but it does study all phenomena that show up in our reality, such as art, music, history, the natural world, etc. In a very general sense, science then means the methodical search for knowledge about the world that we are living in.

We wish to understand the world in that we live. We wish to understand the principles and laws behind the reality that we experience. In a more specific sense, science has come to be associated with the scientific method, which involves a few steps. The first step is to gather data that are observable and measurable. Usually good science requires the method of experimentation under strictly controlled conditions in order to gain new data in an empirical process. One current defition of 'empirical' is: 'derived from or guided by experience or experiment.' The second step is to apply principles of reasoning to these data that lead to testable hypotheses. These hypotheses can be formulated as predictions, which are then tested in new experiments or through new observations. When these hypotheses are confirmed again and again, that what is called a 'scientific theory' is formulated, which generally is regarded as truth so long until a better theory comes up that falsifies or annuls the former one.

The bottomline of all this is that we want to know the truth. We wish to have correct knowledge about the world around us.

Generally speaking, knowledge about the spiritual reality has always been seen as belonging to what is called 'metaphysics.' There are many definitions of what metaphysical means, but the following is one that I think most scientists would agree with: 'A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.'

But is it indeed impossible for us to gain exact knowledge about the spiritual world? Are spiritual phenomena really not scientifically observable? Could we really not analyze data from the spiritual realms? Is it impossible to conduct spiritual experiments?

It seems that most of the problems are constituted by the fact that all spiritual phenomena can only be observed by humans and not by scientific instruments. But is the difference that big? Who is reading the data that a simple thermometer gives us? Is it not always people whose observations eventually are needed in order to acquire scientific data? As such, I would say that because it needs humans to gather data that alone could not be the decisive factor to conclude that spiritual data are not reliable.

I think that we need a change of thinking. Many people know the spiritual world to be a reality just as substantial be it not as easily observable as the physical world. Psychology is considered to be science yet it deals with the human mind, which may actually be more invisible than the spiritual world. The science of psychology conducts experiments not by observing the mind directly, but by letting people tell about what goes on in their mind, or by looking at people's behavior. The observations made in psychological experiments usually are based on indirect observations, just the same as we could need to conduct experiments to detail the observations of what certain people can tell us about the spiritual world.

Not each person would be able to make clear observations of the spiritual world. But how many people are capable of giving adequate descriptions of what goes on in their mind?

I cannot see any principled reason why there could not be developed a science of the spiritual reality. It may be difficult to do so and certain people may need to be trained to get more experienced in observing the spiritual reality. Also in physical science, observors often need much training before they can read the instruments well.

Of course, it won't be easy to convince the 'scientific' community of what I wrote above. Many of them have a materialistic leaning and a strong faith that God and the spiritual world would not exist. But why bother too much about them? The main reason that they don't believe in a spiritual reality is either because they have been misinformed or because their spiritual senses, their instruments to detect the spiritual reality, don't work very well. These people should not be our guiding teachers but they should rather be seen as those in need of more education. I am sure that this last line will anger many 'scientists' if they read it, but so be it.


No comments:

Post a Comment