Toward a contemplative mind, or moving beyond the facts

Wow (that’s wow twice in one week on two reblogs!). This post summarises what I have long wanted to say to both staunch atheists and certain devout Christians. I love facts and figures and information – but my faith comes from a different kind of Truth. I’ve never known how to express it without sounding wishy-washy. This post has just achieved it! 😀

pub theologian

Guest post by Harvey Edser, originally posted at The Evangelical Liberal

This is a follow-up to my previous post about moving on from old models of reality, in which I critiqued ‘evangelical modernism’ and suggested that our old paradigms need revising both in science and in faith. This time I’d like to expand on that by critiquing our obsession with facts and factuality as the epitome of truth. It’s an obsession which I believe has tended to impoverish our spirituality.

Facts are of course central to the modernist paradigm. The modernist ideal of truth is verifiable scientific fact, something which can be shown to be observably, provably, objectively true and real. Such facts or data can be accurately observed, measured, quantified and analysed.

Then by means of logic and reason, these facts can further be fitted into overarching structures of theory that usefully hold together sets of data in…

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2 thoughts on “Toward a contemplative mind, or moving beyond the facts

  1. There is a common argument that the spiritual and the scientific method are opposed. It is said that one starts with a conclusion then seeks evidence; whereas the other starts out with evidence and takes it to a conclusion. They are therefore irreconcilable.

    But are they really?

    Two points:

    1. Science doesn’t always work exactly in this order. For example, the current search for the Higgs Boson particle is the other way round. It is hypothetical and predicted to exist. The experimentation is secondary.

    2. There is no actual reason to not hold a spiritual or religious point of view as a hypothesis and seek evidence with an open mind. Most atheists in this forum are trying to actively disprove religion. This is rather different to holding up a hypothesis, then impartially seeking evidence. On this subject, I’d like to quote you Sam Harris (a neuroscientist and professed atheist):


    “There are several neuroscience labs now studying the effects of meditation on the brain. While I am not personally engaged in this research, I know many of the scientists who are. This is now a fertile area of sober inquiry, purposed toward understanding the possibilities of human well-being better than we do at present.”


    “There is simply no question that people have transformative experiences as a result of engaging contemplative disciplines like meditation, and there is no question that these experiences shed some light on the nature of the human mind (any experience does, for that matter).”


    “My position on the paranormal is this: While there have been many frauds in the history of parapsychology, I believe that this field of study has been unfairly stigmatized. If some experimental psychologists want to spend their days studying telepathy, or the effects of prayer, I will be interested to know what they find out. And if it is true that toddlers occasionally start speaking in ancient languages (as Ian Stevenson alleges), I would like to know about it. However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. The fact that I have not spent any time on this should suggest how worthy of my time I think such a project would be. Still, I found these books interesting, and I cannot categorically dismiss their contents in the way that I can dismiss the claims of religious dogmatists.”…


    i.e, even Sam Harris admits that these less than mainstream areas of science may be subject to fair and impartial analysis. To reject such things in advance is not scientific. It is prejudice. It is also, ironically, more fundamentalist than exploratory.

    If you’ve read this far, thank you very much for your time & I look forward to your considerate reply.

    • That’s very interesting. I have long held an interest in neuroscience. Oliver Sacks was my hero as a teenager. It is a fascinating area of study. As the mother of a child with autism, I am presented daily with a brain that is ‘wired differently’; I have a daily confrontation with how we as human beings interpret reality. It’s not as simple or straightforward as some would like to make it appear. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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