Our growth as individuals and as a society involves a Lamarckian exchange of our interpretations of experience. In much of our everyday interaction, and particularly in transmitting understanding across cultures and generations, we rely upon language to accomplish that exchange.
The paradigms of science, philosophy and spirituality that I explore in what follows are concerned with the development of languages.
Science develops languages that accurately model objective reality.
Spirituality is the negotiation of the boundaries between “I” and “we”. In interpreting our spirituality, then, our concern is with languages that accurately model subjective reality.
Philosophy is properly concerned with clarification of terms, attempting to ensure that we have a rational and consistent basis for communicating meaning.
In coarse-grained terms: Science builds understanding. Spirituality illuminates meaning. Philosophy organizes our understanding of the boundaries between the two.
The alert reader may anticipate my assertion that science and spirituality exist as two endpoints on a spectrum. The endpoints are defined by scales of complexity and fragility.
Science is not a workable basis for negotiating social issues.
Social conflict is an unavoidable consequence of our competitive interdependence. In a physical sense, it is predicated by the evaluation functions that distinguish entities that effectively manage energy from those that do not.
Achieving an evolved capacity to manage energy, however, is a process: the universe did not leap from disorder into maturity. The only way to distinguish between mature and immature forms of matter is some sort of competitive destruction. Ideally, at some point in our future, a natural death will be the endpoint of life. At earlier eras in the development of consciousness, however, when Darwinian experimentation was dominant, more immediate driving functions, such as predation and brute competition for reproductive opportunity, were necessary to hurry the process along.
In any competitive process, the dominant party is the party with the stronger will. The will to live is manifested most directly as muscles, bones and sinew. The will to create is manifested in the power of the mind.
We exist – happily, I would assert – in the era of the mind. Science is the tool that we use to predict the outcomes of our creative practice. However, within the limits of the possible and the boundaries of the probable elucidated by science, there is enormous variability of choice. The competition of wills determines which of the realities available to us is manifested.
That competition is a spiritual affair. The negotiation of the boundaries between “I” and “we” includes our personal relationships, government and the arts.
Many of those activities involve exchanges of value that overwhelm the resources we can bring to bear to monitor and analyze causes and effects. For that reason, science alone will never be enough. We need coarser concepts and a basis for analysis that transcends the narrow focus of science. Spirituality addresses that need.
Fortunately, my apprehension is that reality has provided us with mechanisms that enable us to negotiate our futures with surprising efficiency. They have escaped our understanding, in recent history, because they have not fit the framework of established science.