As a university student who has been immersed in scientific learning for several years, I have often found myself wondering where the idea that one must choose between science and spirituality stems from. These seemingly conflicting methodologies should not have to be viewed in a mutually exclusive light.
The relationship between science and spirituality has been studied for centuries. The subject includes diverse perspectives, with some suggesting conflict while others steer towards harmony. There are also those who have concluded that there is no need for the two to overlap at all and that each can play a legitimate role in an individual’s life.
Many acclaimed scientists throughout history were public about their spiritual beliefs — including Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, Werner Heisenberg and Francis Collins to name a few.
University communities often promote the acceptance of diversity, but it is in the university setting that I have encountered the greatest amount of intolerance towards individual belief systems. With there being so many of those before us who trudged through the scientific and spiritual sludge, why is there still a need for an individual to defend their own way of living?
Many believe that any range of spirituality is considered to contradict scientific findings. This train of thought is out-dated, pressuring people to choose a singular metaphorical box from which to draw their ideas about the universe. The way in which one views the connection between these two concepts is too personal to be pre-defined as conflicting.
Even the United States’ National Academy of Sciences — whose members serve as independent and objective advisers to the U.S. government on matters involving science, engineering and medicine — loudly publicizes that the acceptance of scientific evidence, such as that for evolution, can be compatible with spirituality and even religious faith. The academy has voiced that science and spirituality are based on different aspects of the human experience and subsequently address facets of human understanding in distinct ways. Placing spirituality in opposition to science attempts to create controversy where none needs to exist.
Furthermore, encouraging an individual to access and utilize aspects of both science and spirituality can be beneficial. In settings where reason and evidence largely dominate — such as medicine — a holistic approach which incorporates the patient’s individual beliefs can aid in their treatment and healing process. This type of approach in medicine emphasizes patient-centred care, which is an important facet for many medicine students at university to understand and prioritize as they advance through their years of schooling.
As someone who has experienced the trials and tribulations of having ill family members, I have realized just how important it is to integrate one’s personal spirituality along with modern medicine. Through the use of scientifically proven treatment alongside the incorporation of my family’s faith, all aspects of treatment and healing were able to be addressed.
It is time that all members of our university community learn to demonstrate respect for all kinds belief systems. Demanding that opposition be observed between empirical evidence and ideas of faith is unnecessary and simply unacceptable.
The next time you give someone a hard time for praying before their human evolution final, stop and think. Every individual has the right to choose if and how they desire to incorporate aspects from both science and spirituality into their understanding of our world. It’s not being hypocritical, it’s a modern reality.
Graphic: Cameron Johns