Religion & Science

The relationship between religion and science is a topic that comes up in the media now and then, most recently around the intelligent design vs. evolution debate.

Through the filter of Spiral Dynamics, a quick glance at it may look something like this…

One expression of blue is fundamentalism, and one expression of fundamentalism is to see the holy teachings as the literal truth in all respects. From this view, the holy book trumps science, and science should either align with the holy teachings or focus on areas where there is little or no competition between the two (medicine, industry and so on). This is where we want intelligent design in schools, ideally to the exclusion of evolution.

Another possibility at blue may be a separation of ethics and science, following the letter of the ethical guidelines while accepting science in other areas of life.

At blue, we see our own religion as the only true religion. We may or may not have tolerance for others following other religions, and in either case tend to see them as seriously deluded and/or doomed.

After a while, we may question the literal interpretation of the teachings. It doesn’t all make sense if taken literally, parts are even mutually contradicting, and it has obviously been filtered throughout history in many ways.

And we may also begin to feel uncomfortable with the view of only one path to salvation. How can I know that is true? And we may also feel uncomfortable with our intolerance towards others of different religions. This intolerance seem contradictory to the message of compassion and love at the center of our religion, as well as theirs.

At orange, we try to solve some of these questions and contradictions. We typically allow religion and science to part ways.

Religion is seen as true when it comes to ethical guidelines and the relationship between humans and God, while science takes care of all the rest. They each have their domains, and never shall the twain meet. The only exception is when we use science to study religion in terms of its history, sociology, myth, psychology, art and so on. This is OK as none of these touch the core of spirituality.

At orange, tolerance is important. We allow others to practice their religion, while still seeing our own religion as true or more true.

After a while, we further question the absolute truth of our own religion and the absolute falsity of all the other religions. How can I know that this religion is absolutely true, and all other are absolutely false? Why would God allow there to be only one true religion? Why wouldn’t he/she allow some truth in each, for people of different inclinations or living in different regions of the earth? Isn’t that more aligned with a compassionate and wise Spirit?

At green, we allow a wide range of religious and spiritual views and approaches and see them as a tapestry, each segment valuable and useful to different people. We may even create our own religion or spiritual practice from a mix of what is out there.

At some point, we may wonder how all these spiritual approaches and views fit together? And if science and spirituality both address the same whole, shouldn’t they be more aligned and intimate somehow? We have a fragmented tapestry of equal approaches and views, and begin looking for a more coherent and big picture view.

At second tier, we come into a more coherent view. We explore deeper structures, processes and patterns in the rich tapestry of what is out there in the areas of religion, spirituality and science. We allow for the diversity of surface features, and look for deeper shared patterns.

The currently most clear and comprehensive example of a second tier approach to science and spirituality is – most likely – that of Ken Wilber.

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