It is claimed that a merging of science and spirituality is happening, and that it is a good thing. The assumption is that this will somehow move us on to a place better than where science alone has brought us. But is this even possible? Is it not a contradiction in terms?
First we must define our terms. What is science? What is spirituality? What is truth and how do we achieve certainty? Indeed is certainty even possible? Some say that it is not.
In this weeks podcast interview with Brendan D Murphy we take a journey through the quest for knowledge and understanding, and explore what we can know and how we can know it. Two views are contrasted in their approach to scientific discovery.
What is real?
It is from the basic and self evident axioms – that existence exists and that consciousness is conscious – that we build our world view. We can know that things are what they are and that they are not what they are not, with confidence. Although this sounds like mental gymnastics or some kind of tongue twister, it is fact a logical recognition of reality. A is A. A thing is itself and it cannot be not itself at the same time. In other words contradictions cannot exist in reality.
Truth is the recognition of reality, the way things are. And in our quest to understand and know reality we can be certain of things. You can be certain that contradictions do not exist. A chair cannot be a chair and not a chair at the same time. As Ayn Rand observed; existence is identity and consciousness is identification.
It is impossible to reconcile this view with the idea that consciousness creates matter, or that nothing really exists until it is subject to some kind of process from our mind. If this were true nothing would have an objective existence, reality would be completely fluid and nothing would have any fixed identity. It would be an impossible reality inconsistent with itself. Yet this is the view of existence held by those who assert that consciousness creates reality.
Science and spirituality
Brendan D Murphy is a spiritual seeker with a perspective at odds to my own. He has written a book called “The Grand Illusion” which speaks of a union of science and spirituality. This conversation is an attempt to establish a standard of truth that can be relied upon to deliver knowledge, with certainty beyond a reasonable doubt. We definitely have some common ground, but we differ on the fundamental issue of primacy of consciousness versus primacy of existence. I cannot see how there can be a concept of truth without an fixed objective reality existing independent of any consciousness whether human, divine, or both. Reality serves as the final court of appeal in any dispute between men. Without reality as the standard of truth, negotiation and persuasion would be impossible.
At the outset I was keen to establish definitions of spirituality and science. I hold that spirituality simply refers to consciousness. My spirit is my consciousness. But for Brendan it was a little harder to pin down. In essence we agreed that science is more about a method of rational and logical thinking as opposed to any particular body of claimed knowledge. We agreed that in ‘genuine science’ any and all information or claims of knowledge should remain open to re-examination, and to new questions in the light of new evidence.
By my definition of spirituality the union of science and spirituality is possible, but for Brendan’s I remain unconvinced that it is. It must be remembered that genuine science is a quest to know what is real, what happens, and why. It must follow a scrupulously logic method isolating variables and establishing causal relationships between entities. If nothing exists independent of our consciousness, and our consciousness can shape the outcome of the experiment, then we could indeed know nothing.
I am genuinely trying to understand the mental processes and the methods used (or not used) to establish truth. This has never been more important than today with advancing tyranny, using bogus claims to hoodwink people into giving up freedom for security. It is imperative that we know what truth is and how to discern it. It is imperative that we have a standard or truth and a process that is consistent and reliable. I hold that only a consistently rational approach can serve this purpose. We must be evidence based in all of our thinking and the conclusions we reach.
This necessitates the recognition that A is A. That existence exists and that consciousness is conscious. From these axioms all else proceeds. It is the acknowledgement that reality exists objectively as an absolute, and that our faculty of reason is fully able to know it. The process of gaining knowledge is volitional, challenging and requires considerable effort, but it is fully achievable.
I hold that only by engaging in this challenging process can humans achieve a greater conceptual awareness of reality and that this is the only thing that will ever lead to peace freedom and abundance.
What do you think?
Find out more from Brendan D Murphy here brendandmurphy.com
Learn why reason is our only means to knowledge here.
Listen to my previous podcast Episode 132 on mysticism versus reason.