Prejudice or Science & Spirituality

Holding a prejudice can give a sense of certainty, whereas science is about acknowledging uncertainty and trying to build a picture of the world that is always imperfect because there is always the possibility that it can be improved. The scientific method only allows theories to be disproved, given the data available at the time a test is carried out. For some people this is disquieting and they would rather cling to their personal explanation of events, even when the evidence for their beliefs can be tested and shown to be false or capable of alternative explanations.

Statistics is a tool of the scientific method and the reason why I enjoy the subject is because of the excitement of exploration, which makes it possible to build a picture of the unknown. But before you can apply any statistical technique you have got to decide what data you will collect and, very importantly, what can be measured. In the paper ‘Planning Research’, I have set out a series of steps that I would recommend to help develop a programme to find and distribute information based on my own experience and a personal process of trial and error.

I also have personal experience of the process of spiritual enquiry. This is not, as some believe, something that is in opposition to scientific study. In both cases you have to start by acknowledging that there is knowledge that you do not already know. Spiritual enquiry looks inside, rather than using external observation. However, this process of internal questioning can be the starting point for understanding that is enhanced by scientific research. It has also been the source of some of the most illuminating ideas in philosophy and the basis for religious discourse.

Both science and spirituality can be pleasurable but spirituality can take you into a different dimension of experience. The writings that can be found in the Sustain and Eternal menus, above, derive from these two schools of understanding.

Unfortunately, ideas taken out of context or misunderstood can be the basis of prejudice and it is for this reason that some of the worst behaviour humanity has perpetrated has been justified with reference to either scientific or spiritual writings.

As I write these words, at the end of November, with the coldness of winter already in evidence it is hard to remember that we are only four weeks away from what is always considered a joyful celebration of light and joy to all mankind. This because it feels as if the western hemisphere is slipping into a state where tolerance and liberal thinking is mistrusted and rejected in favour of authoritarian and simplistic solutions. Even to suggest that we could be making a mistake or that we may cause harm to ourselves in the future because of our actions can bring down criticism rather than provoke reasoned discussion. The task of pursuing sustainability within the limits of our current knowledge looks as if it could become a casualty of the current mood in politics. All I can hope is that the saying ‘it always seems darkest before the dawn’ can prove right and that you, my reader, will enjoy the festive season.

Paul Newman

About Paul Newman

Paul Newman BSc (Sociology), DMS, MA (Sustainable Development) worked for the Government for thirty years mostly on projects seeking to develop the UK Economy and has also been employed as a part-time lecturer, invigilator, events organiser and as a consultant on sustainable development projects. He became a member of the voluntary group Sustainable Staffordshire in 1997 and subsequently served as first a Vice-Chair then Chair for a four year term, during this time he also became a volunteer and then a trustee of the Community Council of Staffordshire, which he continues to support as a member of its Board of Directors. He has also served three terms as a Councillor for Swynnterton Parish, been a trustee of Hanchurch Village Hall and member of Trentham PCC.
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