Bob Hardian: Beyond Scientific

HUMANITY has fundamentally and unintentionally influenced shifts in nature. But the scientists who best understand this shift usually only use the language of science and reasoning using data and models to explain it. 

Sometimes an overreliance on science and reasoning makes it difficult to communicate with the general public. It also blinds us to the full range of problems we face today, which can only be fully understood through an emotional, cultural, ethical and spiritual perspective on the world. 

Leaving Room for the Mysterious and Unexplained 

The famous theoretical physicist Albert Einstein once said, “Logic will take you from A to Z; imagination will take you everywhere.” Indeed, mysteries give us the opportunity to imagine unrealistic or ridiculous things in our everyday lives. Often, children like to hear imaginative stories and play pretend in order to exercise their imagination. 

Humans and nature are things that contain many mysteries that cannot all be discussed scientifically. Many things are difficult to explain in science and textbooks. Scientific reasoning relies on data and analysis, but there are many things in this world that cannot be measured. 

For example, one cannot provide data proving the extent of love for other human beings, a spiritual connection with nature, a sense of calling or presence of God. However, a great many people believe or even know that it exists. 

Often discussions from spiritual and supernatural perspectives seem to conflict with scientific and textbook views. People often carry out discussions in the realm of mystery using technical terms or terms that have been understood in science before. 

The use of these technical terms is often ambiguous which seems as if trying to redefine terms that are already well defined. Often the use of the term is only limited to an analogy in explaining spiritual and supernatural contexts. Sometimes it is difficult to find a technical equivalent in the spiritual and supernatural space. The spiritual and supernatural discussion space often seems disconnected from the science discussion space. 

Scientific reasoning tries to explain all phenomena through words and numbers. But there are many experiences that defy articulation, for example, classical pianists or professional athletes often have great difficulty expressing the essence of their experience while perfecting their craft.

So while science can move forward in exploring what is rational in humans and nature, by analyzing natural systems through “big data” models using feedback loops, and the non-linearities that operate within them, it must also leave room for things mysterious and unexplained. We also practice humility towards those who do not and may never know the full complexity of it all. 

Just as we cannot say with certainty that smoking will cause a person to develop cancer given the complexity of the human body, so is our ability to predict the impact of such actions on humans and the natural environment. 

A surgeon’s report in 1964 actually stated that “statistical methods cannot establish evidence of a causal relationship in association (between smoking and lung cancer). The causal significance of an association is a matter of judgment that goes beyond any statistical probability statement.” Protection of humans and nature must also be a matter of consideration, both based on faith and reason. 

However, scientific reason has a limited capacity for extra-rational reasoning, and this reduces the influence of science by distancing its conclusions from the general public. 

To many, scientists were seen as a class of people who “preferred the rational over the intuitive or spiritual, separated facts from values and emotions, and acted contrary to religious beliefs about a ‘natural’ order,” as historian Richard Hofstadter wrote in his award-winning book Pulitzer Prize in 1964. 

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