Sunday, September 28, 2008


Well here goes. After a letter sent to the Phoenix members of IT, some discussion with dinner and wine on Saturday night, and such, what follows is offered as an opening to an active blog. SO, I hope to see comments coming back.

At our gathering last night a most important question was raised. Thanks Jeanette. I think it is directly related to my questions about a definition of spirituality that I have submitted in an email. How do we know something? How many ways are there of knowing? The irony of the moment when that question was raised was that the discussion was interrupted by the Stones’ song “I can’t get no, Satisfaction.” Irony because satisfying the “longing” was a theme in my email that I submitted to the group that raised this question and because after we all enjoyed a sing along of wonderful proportions, we did not get back to this question.

I would like to ask for reflection on this: How do we come to know something is true? In my past studies, we called it the epistemological question. I think this is at the root of my on-going discussions with my friend about what if anything, is spirituality

In our time, it seems, THE method of gaining knowledge that is considered by some to be the only way to gain knowledge, especially if it is to have “truth value,” is the method of scientific investigation. I hear from many different people the demand that whatever claims are being made about almost anything, must be able to get through the sieve of scientific investigation. So I would ask in this blog, can we define “scientific investigation” and is such activity required for all knowledge? Interesting twist, from trying to define “spiritual” to trying to define “scientific investigation,” but one that may beg ‘investigation.’ One question related, is scientific method synonymous with scientific investigation?

Here is my personal connection of spirituality and scientific investigation: My experiences that I call spiritual do not stand up to the methods of scientific investigation. The prophets and priests of our time, the scientists, would not consider such experiences to have much “truth-value.” (There is another term begging definition.) I, at this moment, find that attempts to defend my perspective to that system of “knowing,” appear to be exercises in futility. I find that I have become more and more skeptical of that way of knowing, even as my very employment depends on it. I recall one amongst us, a scientist no less, questioning the “sacredness” of that way of “knowing” as demonstrated by Joseph Campbell.

So how do we know something to be true? Does everything left inside of the sieve of scientific investigation fail to be true? (The image I am using is the sieves used in separating dirt from rocks or flour from husks. That which stays on in the sieve is not used, that which falls through is used.)

And, I return to an old theme of mine: Does functionality have any say about what is true?
I ask you all to speak up. Having this conversation with myself is like clapping with one hand.



Phil said...

Science rocks, dude! Mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, linguistics, sociology, cultural anthropology, astronomy, cosmology, aesthetics, philosphy, even theology, are wonderful!

Science is just stepping back, "abstracting" from our immediate experience of life, and trying to understand certain aspects of it. It's an articulated and shared understanding of what's around us, including us.

Lots of ideas get proclaimed as being "scientific", like Creation Science and Intelligent Design, but in the end they just don't hold water, or don't make it through "the sieve of scientific investigation". And that's a good thing.

Jeannette said...

Yah, I don't know if we can so narrowly define the way we "know" something by our 5 senses. I think we're more complex than that. Maybe we "know" something but we don't yet know why we know. Some people seem to have an intuition that goes beyond anything proveable. Some people seem to be able to see colors or auras around people. While some day there may be a 'scientific' explantion for it, right now we don't know why they know.

Further if there are more than 3 dimensions plus time as string theory seems to suggest, maybe we know in multi-dimensions but we don't even know that we know. Or we may call that spirituality or we may discount it because it's not in our 4 dimensions measurable by our 5 senses.

So tho I'm trained in classic science (Chem major) I'm not so quick to discount other ways of knowing that may be less quantifiable. And if there is a God, I do hope God is bigger, deeper, broader than my puny senses.

Chuck F. said...

OK, In line with our I.T. theme, here are more Irreverent Thoughts from yours truly.

I was wondering, can Science rock and suck at the same time? Maybe it can suck a rock. Who knows. For me, sometimes, it is a “modern” worldview invention that has the ability to suck joy out of reality. It (the royal “It”) often seems to attempt to tell us that all that exists is physical and can be sensed only with our 5 senses. I pray that in post-modernity, it will be put in its place, on the shelf of tools needed for curiosity, life, and survival with large holes in the sieve letting things slip through that today wouldn’t.

Having said that, we could not be post-modern without our scientific foundations. Having said that, I have been totally dis-enchanted with foundationalism. Having said that, lets live on the web of life. It is movable, inclusive, non-provable, and made by a spider the likes of which I don't want to encounter. I hate spiders.

SO is Jesus the original spider man? Oh my, that is a thought and a half.

On the last paragraph of Phil, considering some who claim things to be scientific (creationists I wonder if the claim of something being "scientific" is due to the claimant's unconscious knowledge that the claim is weak and needs validation. In the old days, it was “the bible told me so.” Before that it was “the pope told me so.” And before that it was the burning bush told me so. And before that, maybe it was DNA climbing out of the bog of chaos, trying to impose order. May it all comes down to a voracious need for validation to gain victory over feelings of being the victims. I sense some irony here, someplace, where did I put it, has anyone seen it? (the irony, not the ironing board!) Maybe it’s just sick humor, no ironing board.

Which brings me back to what I blogged. Maybe science is great. It does not rock for me but it can be great. Is it the only way to validate truth? I hope not. Like Jeanette, I don't know what I don't know YET. I will when I get to know it but not now.