Where science meets spirituality

Marigolds

Aim of article
– To explore the science system and what needs to be challenged – the lack of diversity – the lack of diverse perspectives on what science is and means.

I’ve been immersed in the Tree Sisters ‘Courage to Shine’ course which is helping me to think about the connections between nature and spirituality. One of the speakers recommended by Clare Dubois who founded Tree Sisters and is hosting the course is Pat McCabe. Pat whose indigenous name is the glorious ‘Woman Stands Shining’ is guided by the inner voices from her indigenous culture, and in one part of the interview suggested her next life challenge is to think about modern-day science (43 mins 20 secs in):

“Our detour or abandoning of ourselves to the scientific methods, to the material science view point of this world.” (Pat McCabe).

Her words captured the essence of what I’m interested in for this blog – to question the nature of science and to think about how we can open it up to encompass whole system thinking. As a scientist I’ve been taught to use validated methodologies to take incremental steps forward, whereas instinct and intuition are frowned upon. The following account of the discovery of quinine by the Andean community is described as “luck” whereas this knowledge would have grown from their strong spiritual connections with nature, evident by their viewing plants and animals as family members (Elizabeth Huaman 2017).

I’m not arguing that modern day science is ineffective – of course it isn’t. But I think there is more of a balance and a blend to be had, and recognizing our diversity and different approaches, would create better science and as Elizabeth Huaman states, to understand principles that “have sustained life for millennia”.

We also need to consider the elephant in the room – the structure that science operates in today. The last Research Excellence Framework (REF) which evaluates the impact of university research in the UK cost £250 million according to the Times Higher, with inequalities still “baked in” to the university system as a whole that disadvantages women, black and other ethnic groups. Those involved in the last REF in 2014 described attempts to treat all staff equitably as “cumbersome”, and the fact that additional time and cost had to be invested to attempt to gain a diverse submission shows how much the system is twisted and buckled (LSE Admin Blogpost 2015). The system supports the career scientist and advancing one’s own recognition seems to take precedent over advancing knowledge.

So there are three things that need challenging:
The science machine and economy

The chronic lack of diversity within science
The lack and loss of diverse perspectives on what science is and means

References

Huaman, E. S. (2017). Indigenous Rights Education (IRE): Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Transformative Human Rights in the Peruvian Andes. International Journal of Human Rights Education1(1), 5. https://repository.usfca.edu/ijhre/vol1/iss1/5/

LSE Admin Blogpost (2015). Why did REF 2014 cost three times as much as the RAE? https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2015/08/03/why-did-the-2014-ref-cost-three-times-as-much-as-the-2008-rae-hint-its-not-just-because-of-impact/