General Studies Essay Paper: Science & Spirituality

Science & Spirituality

IAS Junior Mains Answer Writing June-Sep 2019 Schedule (Click Here)


Syllabus: General Studies Essay Paper


The road to science and spirituality are opposite, but we should tread both.

Science and spirituality need not be thought of as separate. They are also highly compatible. They are complementary, needing each other to make something whole, something bigger than either of them alone. Properly integrated, they permit a level of understanding that amounts to much more than their sum.

What is  meant by ‘properly integrated’? a truly deep and intimate engagement between human beings and science, both at the individual level and at the communal level of society. To illustrate, here is a quote from science writer and particle physicist, Jeff Forshaw: “I am struck by the astonishing beauty of the central equations in physics, which seem to reveal something remarkable about our universe… the natural world operates according to some beautiful rules… We are discovering something at the heart of things… It feels like a personal thing – like we are relating to something very special”.

To undertake scientific investigation, you have to start with an idea, with some intuition about what to look into and where you might begin to find answers. Science, in other words, begets creativity. Intuition may also be required to furnish explanations and further avenues of investigation. Creativity and intuition are among those mysteries of consciousness that link the everyday, analytic mind to the holistic insights of the spiritual dimension.  A good example is that of the chemist Kekulé, who had a vision of a serpent swallowing its own tail during a kind of waking trance or daydream, and knew instantly by intuition that the structure of carbon, which he had been investigating, involved six carbon atoms formed into a ring.

The year was 1945. The second world war was going on between two military alliances — the allies which included USSR, USA, Britain, etc and the axis including Germany, Japan, Italy, etc. During which, the USA detonated two nuclear bombs over Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombings killed over 200,000 people at that time and the repercussions of this horrific act are still being felt by over millions of people in Japan in terms of long-term physical disabilities.

This historical incident highlights the capability of science to develop the weapons of mass destruction and capacity to strike the place with 100% efficiency. Well, that’s the scientific achievement for the world to cherish for! But the disgraceful act of bombing to kill thousands of people is the reason for which entire humanity to be shameful. This is what happens when people lack reasoning, conscience, empathy, love, and compassion. These are the various dimensions of spirituality.

The example demonstrates that the road to science and spirituality are diverging but it is not in the interest of humanity to follow one and leave another in totality. Science is the intellectual activity of studying the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. It always a knowledge hungry. Whereas, spirituality is concerned with the human spirit as opposed to material well-being. Its all about knowing who you really are and what you want. It is the science of seeking truth and inner peace. Thus, the path to science and spirituality are the opposite.

Let’s analyze, what happens while following the two extremes — science without spirituality and spirituality without science — in the various domains of life. And also, establish as to why the coordination between the two is significant.

From a social perspective, science will help the rich and industrialists to amass huge wealth, which over the period of time leads to contrasting inequalities in society. But it is spirituality which promotes shared brotherhood, social cohesion, and equality. In contrasts, blind faith leads to superstition but it is the science which encourages people to think rationally. Hence, it is clear that the coordination of the two will definitely enhance the standards of living and well-being.

In the domain of economy, science and technology will definitely increase the production and efficient resource utilization with the help of robotics, precision engineering, etc. That would increase the GDP tremendously. But without spirituality, the economic growth fails to transform into gross human development. In contrast, blind faith won’t permit the unrestricted use and availability of natural resources because of their superstitious importance. Here, rationality and scientific attitude will help to educate the people.

Governance is an important aspect of public service. Here too, science and spirituality have significance. In this domain, science facilitates the development of technologies that enable the transfer of money to the account of a beneficiary (DBT Scheme), for example. But it is empathy and compassion, which motivates the public servant to check whether there is any exclusion of genuine beneficiary. In contrast, excessive emotional sensibility would reduce the efficiency of a public servant. Here, too, rational thinking inline with the objectives of the organization will help to overcome excessive emotions.

From the perspective of the environment, coordination of science and principle holds importance. Science and technology facilitate, mining, felling of trees, etc. But remember, Chipko Movement or Appiko Movement, which were geared by the spirituality that saved patches of trees. In contrasts, blind faith or spirituality without science comes in the way of growth and development in the modern world. This holds true in case of the Sentinelese tribes of Andaman as they still live as hunter-gatherers. Scientific temper would help them to modernize.

Also, let’s consider the domain of technology. Science led to the evolution of artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, blockchain technology, 3D printing and so on. No doubt, these technologies with further economic growth. But it is spirituality and conscience which will tell the manufacturers of a humanoid robot, per se, either to go with it at the cost of employability of poor workers or to manufacture such robots only in the case where humans can’t work. In contrast, blind faith restricts technological advancement in totality.

From the security perspectives, science enables the development of nuclear warheads, intercontinental missiles with the capability of striking from one corner of the world map to the another, and so on. But it is the ethics and spirituality which tells the nation not to brace up for the war. For instance, India’s ‘no first use’ policy of nuclear weapons is the manifestation of science driven by spiritual diplomacy, for the prosperity of humanity as a whole. This is because India’s nuclear capabilities not intended to harm anyone but made only with the purpose of self-defence against hostile neighbour.

Science without spirituality seeks to work mainly in human interests and satisfy their material needs. It gives birth to technologies of comforts and convenience as well as control and consumerism. Dispirited science follows the lead given by money, military, and materialism. It works for only those who can pay for it. It aims to satisfy once’s greed rather than need. Such science is more likely to be misused and exploited by vested interests. So, science without spirituality is not only incomplete, but it is also vulnerable and even dangerous.

Similarly, spirituality without science is also incomplete and dangerous. Unscientific spirituality gives birth to institutionalized religions infested with dogmas, blind faith, and fundamentalism. Such spirituality ignores rationality and blindly follows the lead given by gurus, priests, and missionaries. It paves the way to superstition. For instance, recently, in the remote village of Andhra Pradesh, three people were sacrificed to please the local deity. Isn’t it inhumane and shattering!

Thus, it evident that science without spirituality is lame and spirituality without science is blind. While science can offer knowledge for living and spirituality can add meaning to life. Although the road to them is the opposite, we should tread both. If we pursue both, then we create nothing but wonders in every walks of life — be it social, economic, political, environmental, technological, and so on.

In a nutshell, to meet the crisis of humanity, the coordination of science and spirituality is inevitable. Gandhiji stated that if both go hand in hand then one can create heaven on the holy earth. Gandhiji believed there is enough in this world for everyone’s need but there is not enough in this world for anybody’s greed. As we have seen from the above examples, most of the modern life challenges can be tackled well if there is proper coordination of the two. Sustainable development is the need of the hour and that is possible with the co-ordination of science and spirituality.

Science cleans the outer self and spirituality cleans the inner self both of which are essential to keep the world at peace! And more importantly, to anticipate that the catastrophe like the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki do not occur in the future!

The physicist Max Planck once wrote, “Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve”. Spiritual masters through the ages have devised methods different to those of science for investigating this great mystery by immersing themselves in it, making use of silence, stillness and solitude, the conclusion is clear. Science and spirituality belong to one another… And science alone cannot give anyone the full picture.


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