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Can Science & Spirituality go together?
Posted: 31 August 2007 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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I second that, advocatus.  smile

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 31 August 2007 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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When given a choice of using a word in a sentence that garners 70% intended comprehension, with an audience, or a word that will garner 40% intended comprehension with an audience; I will repeatedly choose the more effective of the known choices.  When you are surrounded by religious people and trying to express your ideas, without being exiled, I can see how the term spirituality could be the most effective term.  However, I think the term falls far from effective in the discourse of this forum.

Sometimes our vocabulary can become shallow, so I made a list of what I sense the majority of people think of when they use spirituality in a sentence.  I also offer suggested alternatives that in some circumstances could be closer to the intended meaning.  In order to save some time I limited my list of alternatives to words starting with “A”.  Why paint with one color when you have a whole spectrum to choose from?

Spirituality:  is the sum of these synonyms - asceticism, blessedness, consecration, devotion, devoutness, divineness, divinity, faith, godliness, piety, purity, religiosity, reverence, righteousness, sacredness, saintliness, sanctity, virtuousness, worship

1. of, pertaining to, or consisting of spirit; incorporeal.
2. of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature

To use spiritual for its definition, denies the theory that emotions are brain stimulus & chemical reactions.

Alternatives starting with the letter “A”:

Adoration
Ardor
Alacrity
Awe
Appreciation
Admiration
Acclaim
Adulation
Approbation
Attachment
Affection

If practicality & efficiency are not enough of a case to not use spirituality in reference to science, I can offer a moral reason.  I think we would all agree that it is immoral to buy African conflict diamonds.  The reason is that you are indirectly supporting terrorism and genocide.  Terms that are controlled by regimes that hamper the distribution of contraception, cut funding to medical research & attack science in the classroom should be boycotted.  Buying into inappropriate faith terms promotes misinterpretation and reinforces the views of people who have already made up their minds.  Be confident in your knowledge express what you mean, not what others want to hear.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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retrospy, I think you make an excellent argument there. I wonder though, if given the gradual usage of the term “spiritual” by enough people using it in the sense of a secular expression the percentage of those understanding this meaning would gradually rise in correlation. I wonder then what would be the ratio needed to make this word an effective communication of experience. Is there a hundredth monkey around?

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Posted: 31 August 2007 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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There is, ultimately, a certain pointlessness to this debate. I mean, some of us feel “spirituality” is a useful word to express feelings we have without implying allegiance to supernaturalism, others don’t. So we’ll each use or eschew the word as we please. Is the underlying feeling valid or necessary? Well, certainly some of us feel it is, others not. Again, if it doesn’t work for you, you are free not to use it. In any case, it will come to mean whatever the broad usage patterns dictate, and I don’t think any great harm in using it, though maybe I’ll occasisonally have to explain what I “really” mean by it to anyone who is confused.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 02:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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I will admit that almost every time I see a spiritual association with science on this forum I am able to classify the term as an anomaly.  While it takes longer on forums than in person, you can pick up on personality styles.  I make an assessment that most of you don’t mean spiritual in any dogmatic sense, and that spiritual is the most emotional self expressive word you can think of.  We possess the cognitive power to read through amorphous terminology. 

Einstein & Jung had to be diplomatic about their beliefs because of their profiles.  I commend them for their skills in circumventing public deride.  In a forum as open minded & accepting as this I had hoped for a little more straight forward expression.  I don’t feel the need to water down my atheism.  For those who find spirituality & science a necessary association; what good does it provide for you and/or other atheists in topics on this forum?

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Posted: 31 August 2007 03:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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Well, I wouldn’t say I find an association between science and spirtuality “necessary,” but I also don’t find it threatening. I think the word captures, as you seem to understand from the first part of your comment, a deep emotional response to an appreciation of some quality of the physical universe and my sense of my relationship to it. I am similarly comfortable with using the word “mind” to refer in general to cognitive and experiential phenomena despite the fact that I take it as given that such things arise and exist only in the material brain. It is a convenient shorthand and, in the case of “spiritual,” the word with the closest connotation or emotional flavor to what I am trying to express. Language is never as precise as mathematics, and so there are bound to be fuzzy areas, but some here seem to feel that the entire structure of a naturalist, atheist belief system must crumble if one chooses to use the vocabulary that is available to express certain feelings and experiences even though this vocabulary has origins, and common use with supernaturalists meanings. I just think it’s apt and not that big a deal to use the terminology, and I think it’s possible, though by no means certain, that the meaning will change over time with such use to be less problematic.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 06:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Enemies of Reason ,  as you may be aware is the Richard Dawkins two part television series. In several places I have noticed, it’s hard not to, how he refers to “spiritual”, and “spiritualism”. In dealing with “pseudoscience” and “alternative medicine” it is quite clear “spiritualism” is a common word. I’ve just watched the first part and am working on the second half, and I have not seen Richard use the word “spiritual” in a scientific sense once. It is always connected to “pseudoscience”. Of course, that’s what the show is about, but “spiritual” is also correlated to religious experience.

Beside that, Richard offers something rather interesting. He speaks briefly about the word “mundane”. Saying it is viewed as a negative when it should not, he advocates this word it seems, but in it’s original meaning (here was the real surprise for me). I’ll just copy-paste from Online Etymology, it’s the same, but provides more info.—-

“1475, from M.Fr. mondain (12c.), from L. mundanus “belonging to the world” (as distinct from the Church), from mundus “universe, world,” lit. “clean, elegant”; used as a transl. of Gk. khosmos (see cosmos) in its Pythagorean sense of “the physical universe” (the original sense of the Gk. word was “orderly arrangement”). L. mundus also was used of a woman’s “ornaments, dress,” and is related to the adj. mundus “clean, elegant” (used of women’s dress, etc.).”

It is a very much a positive word in the scientific sense I suppose. I am hereby one with the mundane. As Richard states: “The world is anything but dull”.

Something else mentioned thus far in Richard’s series caught my attention, and I think further discussion would be good (another thread perhaps). But, I’ve written down a quote of his I would like to share, mainly because I think we can see the problem, now I wonder how to combat it.

Richard Dawkins - From: Enemies of Reason
Impersonal algorithms of internet search engines do not weed out robust evidence from unsourced, uncorroborated, assertion. Wikipedia world presents both great opportunity and great danger.

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Posted: 01 September 2007 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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Ex Lege Libertas - 31 August 2007 07:23 AM

In order for this to be true we have to accept that there is some “truth” to spirituality to begin with. “Living the truth” is a nice platitude, but what’ exactly are you living?

Hi,
So, now I have time to elaborate a little bit more on my ‘living in truth’. Of course, this is a nice platitude, and the only reason I used it was that it sounds so nice’ spiritual’. What I really mean is life cannot be very spiritual when we have all kinds of preoccupations about the world that cannot stand scientific inquiry: ideas about the world that are plainly untrue, or ideas that cannot be empirically tested at all. We have to live with it: we know what we really know, and we must be honest about what we do not (yet) know, or cannot know at all. When a scientifically established fact is a thread to an idea considered to be spiritual, then it was not a spiritual idea after all. (But maybe there are no spiritual ideas, there might only be a spiritual life.)
So what could be spiritual? I cannot define this, but a few aspects seem important to me. To name a few: care for other people and animals, take responsibility, honesty, fairness, openness, flexibility, not thinking you are the most important entity in the world, nor your group, race, species or planet. 
So I would really turn the question into its opposite: can spirituality exist without science, and the other way round, can science exist without spirituality?
The first answer is, ‘yes’, of course. Spiritual people have always existed, so obviously it is possible to do without science. But my idea is: science can help being spiritual. Thinking we are the souls in a dangerous material world that threatens us, is clearly opposed to the idea that our minds are completely dependent on this material world. In my opinion, we are threatening ourselves environmentally, because we do not care for our material world. We do not see how our habit of thinking that souls are more important then the material world is leading to the destruction of our souls. But science can help us to show what entities we really are in this universe (radically contingent, as Stephen Gould said. So shouldn’t we take a little bit more care?).
With that I already partially answered the second question: ‘yes’ science can exist without spirituality, but it is a dangerous project, if we do not continuously care for the world. 
To paraphrase a well known phrase: spirituality without science is blind, science without spirituality is dangerous.
So the two do not necessarily belong together, but I plead, that they be, so we can live on in a more pleasant world.
GdB

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“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

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Posted: 01 September 2007 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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Even Dawkins says he is a very spiritual man, even though he is not religious.  I’m not sure what the problem is or why the narrow view of the word.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 01 September 2007 09:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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Mriana - 01 September 2007 12:28 PM

Even Dawkins says he is a very spiritual man, even though he is not religious.  I’m not sure what the problem is or why the narrow view of the word.

Yes, indeed he does, as in this exchange, where he takes the opportunity to point out the difference with religious spirituality. These quotes are from an interview by Brian Leher of Evolution Space.

Brian Leher
Do you consider yourself spiritual? Because you privilege the rational mind, yet at the same time you are clearly moved, I know from your writings, by arts and poetry; you use alot of metaphor in your own writing… er, you know, it is a not the work of a dry, analytical mind. Does the word “spiritual” mean something to you?

Richard Dawkins
In that sense I am very spiritual. In one of my earlier books Unweaving the Rainbow is all about that. My view is that human spirituality in the sense of poetry and wonder, is far better served, by science and by rationality, than it is by religion, which is poky and parochial, and small-minded by comparison.

Also, Sam Harris is very spiritual as well. He wrote an article in Free Inquiry entitled, Rational Mysticism, where he takes the criticism of Tom Flynn to task for what Tom saw as Sam’s confusing language. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen little in the secular community about the claims made by Sam in his book about meditation and it’s potentiality. Didn’t see much on people checking the actual science that he claims backs his claims. Well, that aside, heeeeeere’s Sam:

Sam Harris
Needless to say, what happens (or fails to happen) along any path of “spiritual” practice has to be interpreted in light of some conceptual scheme, and everything must remain open to rational discussion. How this discussion proceeds will ultimately be decided by contemplative scientists. As I said in my book, if we ever develop a mature science of the mind, most of our religious texts will be no more useful to mystics than they now are to astronomers.

What words should we use to acknowledge the fact that the happiest person on this earth at this moment might have spent the last twenty years living alone in a cave? Any experienced meditator knows that this is a serious possibility. (Indeed, I consider it not only possible, but likely.) What can we say about the fact that the conventional sources of human happiness—association with family and friends, positive engagement with society, diverse experiences of physical pleasure, etc.—might be neither necessary nor sufficient to produce happiness in its most profound forms? This is not New Age mumbo jumbo. What secularists like Flynn tend not to realize is that there are genuine, introspective insights that can be terribly difficult to acquire ....

Flynn condemns my book simply because I have found no better words than spiritual or mystical to denote this rarefied terrain.[3] As Flynn concedes, I took great pains to distance myself from the unfortunate associations these terms carry in our culture, deluded as it is by absurd religious certainties. Still, Flynn felt that my caveats were insufficient, and he would have had me employ words like “meditative” or “attentional” to describe the experience of human consciousness shorn of the illusion of the human ego. The problem, however, is that there is a kernel of truth in the grandiosity and otherworldly language of religion. It really is possible to have one’s moment-to-moment perception of the world radically transfigured by “attentional” discipline. Such a transfiguration, being both rare and profoundly positive, may occasionally merit a little poetry.

In both cases, and in many others, I notice that people using the term “spiritual” often must explain their usage(people, I mean secularist). It’s almost like apologetics in the way that Sam and Richard defend their position, then in turn disparage the “religion” (didn’t say the actual people, as in religious individuals) that also use the terms. In Sam’s case, he comes close to claiming special knowledge, but qualifies his claims by claiming what rationality will bear out. hmm

[ Edited: 01 September 2007 09:49 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 04 September 2007 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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retrospy - 31 August 2007 11:51 AM

Sometimes our vocabulary can become shallow, so I made a list of what I sense the majority of people think of when they use spirituality in a sentence.

What you sense “the majority of people” mean by spirit?  What makes your “senses” so much better than ours?  wink

I’m not trying to attack you, I’m just trying to point out your own bias against the word.  You are correct that practicality is a motivating factor, here.  I just read an article in the newspaper, reporting a poll which showed that “spiritual” people are happier than “non-spiritual” people (80% vs 60%).  Of course, the usual sources of bias are also here—how do you define “happy” for example—but it shows me that people are using “spiritual” in an emotional sense, not in a religious one.  I don’t for one second deny that emotions are the results of material changes within the material brain.  I’m just using “spiritual” to describe a certain subset of feelings.

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Posted: 04 September 2007 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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So what is the problem with being spiritual and an atheist or spiritual and a Humanist?  I don’t get it.

A list of what people think?  How do you know what people think, retrospy?  When I hear the word, I think of a special feeling, or rather feelings, almost and including the feeling of transendence.  Transendence isn’t always present when one feels spiritual (or at least with me), but it does occur sometimes.  Spirituality is numinous (definition #3 in Webster) and something that just cannot be put into words.  So, how can you make a list of what people think?  Have you read their minds?  I bet I just gave you two more words, but they are not the sum total of spirituality for me.  I think of a lot of things when I hear the word spiritual, but there is no exact word for it because it is numinous, transending, and undescribable.  Religion and god are not included in my thoughts though, unless I know the person is religious.

Sadly, none of the words you have come up with, retrospy fit my idea of spirituality and if I did use any of your examples I would have to use many of them in a row and it still would not cover what I mean, because spirituality is intangable.

[ Edited: 04 September 2007 10:54 AM by Mriana ]
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Posted: 04 September 2007 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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advocatus - 04 September 2007 10:04 AM
retrospy - 31 August 2007 11:51 AM

Sometimes our vocabulary can become shallow, so I made a list of what I sense the majority of people think of when they use spirituality in a sentence.

Spirituality: is the sum of these synonyms - asceticism, blessedness, consecration, devotion, devoutness, divineness, divinity, faith, godliness, piety, purity, religiosity, reverence, righteousness, sacredness, saintliness, sanctity, virtuousness, worship

1. of, pertaining to, or consisting of spirit; incorporeal.
2. of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature

To use spiritual for its definition, denies the theory that emotions are brain stimulus & chemical reactions.

What you sense “the majority of people” mean by spirit?  What makes your “senses” so much better than ours?  wink

I’m not trying to attack you, I’m just trying to point out your own bias against the word.  You are correct that practicality is a motivating factor, here.  I just read an article in the newspaper, reporting a poll which showed that “spiritual” people are happier than “non-spiritual” people (80% vs 60%).  Of course, the usual sources of bias are also here—how do you define “happy” for example—but it shows me that people are using “spiritual” in an emotional sense, not in a religious one.  I don’t for one second deny that emotions are the results of material changes within the material brain.  I’m just using “spiritual” to describe a certain subset of feelings.

My interpretation of the universal understanding of spiritual was actually a copy from the dictionary & thesaurus.  If your understanding is different then your argument becomes a semantic & subjective argument?  I didn’t think I was being smarter than everyone, I was trying to remain as universal as possible.  I did this intending to steer the focus away from endless semantic arguments and towards practical application.

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Posted: 04 September 2007 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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I do not see any religiousity in definition #1 of Webster’s 11th Ed. of spiritual, which says

of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit: incorporpeal.

Spirit: definition #1.  an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms.  #3. temper or disposition of mind or outlook.  #4. the immaterial intellectual or sentient part of a person.  The list of secular definitions continue in the 11th edition.

Spirituality definition #4. the quality or state of being spiritual

Back to Spiritual to define incorporeal:  not corporeal, having no body or form.  This takes us to feelings of transcendence: the quality or state of being transcendent.  Transcendent: 1a. Exceding the usual limits: surpassing 1b. extending or lying beyond the usual limits of ordinary experience. 2. Being beyond comprehension

Now, what in any of those definitions is exclusive to religion?  Where is the semantics and subjectiveness there is such an experience is beyond words/comprehension?  I would also like to know what dictionary you are using too.  To me, the birth of my first son was very spiritual.  I could put no words to my feelings as I held him for the first time and we both looked into each others eyes.  That was a transcendent experience for me (which I include as spiritual) as well as numinous.  There are and were no words for the surreal feelings I had at the time.  It had nothing to do with religion, but for the experience of new life coming into the world and I helped to do that.  I say helped because after all he wasn’t a pagan virgin birth deal.  He has a father.  LOL  Anyway, it was beyond awesom, beyond any of the words retrospy mentioned.  In fact, I would place it right up there with, if not even higher than, Carl Sagan’s feelings about the universe.

You never really grasp the incomprehensible, dare I say miraculous, splitting and dividing of atoms, cells, and alike that form life, until you create it (nurturing it for 8 or 9 months within you) and hold it in your arms for the first time and even then the transcendent and numinous feelings you have are far beyond words in the human language.

Granted, I have heard of at least one first time fathers who understands exactly what I am talking about, so fathers are not exempt from these uncomprehensible and indescribable feelings when it comes to a birth of a child.  There are no words strong enough to describe such feelings IMHO.  Awe and wonder doesn’t cut it.

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Posted: 04 September 2007 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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true story…

one time I caught spirituality passing a folded note to science and when I confiscated the note, opened it and read what the note said:

Science,

I think you are cute. Would you go with me? Check yes or no.

Love,
Spirituality

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