Spirituality is Not Lost in Science Education

An anti-evolution group in Kansas filed a federal lawsuit against the Kansas State Department Board of Education two weeks ago, claiming its curriculum promotes atheism and forces susceptible children into accepting evolution. While the theory of evolution may threaten these groups’ worldview, this is the point of the scientific method: to adapt one’s opinions in light of new discoveries about our living reality.

What these groups need to understand is that human spirituality is not lost in science. We’re all humans, and all of us understand what it means to feel a deep sense of wonder for the world and its beautiful conglomeration of novelty, variety, and mystery. The enthusiasm that emanates from a professor who is truly inspired by his field is the exact same enthusiasm and wonder that religious people feel toward their god or gods. Spirituality is merely an emotional state: a feeling of inspiration and purpose, the fulfillment in finding meaning in our seemingly purposeless existence. To say that science lacks spirituality is to misunderstand what spirituality means.

I was raised religious, but I can’t name one thing that religion can accomplish for me that can’t also be accomplished by actively and freely pursuing my interests. Neuroscience fascinates me. Public health is exciting, challenging and meaningful. I love to write, to play music, to travel. And the fulfillment that I feel can, too, be experienced by an artist expressing an emotional state or delivering a message, or by an engineer crafting efficient solutions to real-world problems. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I had been denied the chance to learn the scientific principles that led to the theory of evolution. This is the function of education: to teach what we know and lay an exciting foundation for further exploration, whatever the subject may be.

That said, religion shouldn’t be eradicated in the global system with hatred and haughty over-generalizations. Take r/atheism on Reddit, for example. The people on that website bash religion just as ignorantly and persistently as some religious groups challenge scientific theories. It’s important to understand that religion does — and will — have a place in global culture. But the point is this: Spirituality is meant to be an individual choice, a personal decision. If people are allowed to pursue what they please, they will find that deep sense of personal fulfillment and purpose.

In a postmodern society, we have access to community and shared purpose based on mutual values and ideas that don’t have to be associated with faith in a deity. Society is built upon methods that transcend religious conviction because religion is personal, not universal. This is why we have laws, a judicial system and a constitution delineating our unalienable rights. We need to teach kids the scientific method, because it is how we go about discovering facts and making appropriate decisions based on these findings. Science and the theory of evolution are a product of those methods, and are our best attempt at making sense of our observations about the world.

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