Can Science provide a "religious experience"?

SinatraAfterDark (@mikecappuccio) 8 years, 10 months ago

I think I personally heard this first put forth by Neil DeGrasse Tyson in a speech. He focused strongly towards the end on how when he looks up at the night sky, he does not feel small and insignificant as many people do. Rather, with the knowledge and understanding that science has given him, he comprehends that it is not just that we are in the universe, but the universe is within us and he feels truly connected and significant. If you’ve never heard him discuss this, I suggest youtubing the video “The Most Amazing Fact”. And he seems inclined to say that its possible science can provide people with the same sensation many would say is reserved for the spheres of the religious and mystical. I’m just looking to hear other people’s perspectives. Do you think that through the study of science, one can feel a “religious experience”?

January 24, 2013 at 12:41 pm
Anonymous (37) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

This is probably my favorite topic I’ve ever seen on HE.

I’m very interested in astrophysics and am studying it currently. I have never felt closer to God than I do when I’m learning about the universe. I know that science and religion are usually very segregated, but to me, they’ve always answered different questions. Science answers how something happens, and religion looks for purpose. I know they do come into conflict when examining some time-sensitive perspectives (creationism, etc.), but science can be very spiritual and religious within certain mindsets. I remember having an epiphany one day when looking at the stars. I said to myself that if a god did exist, then science would just be God playing by his own rules.

Here’s a favorite quote that you will probably enjoy as well:

“Just as we, and all life on earth, stand on this tiny speck, adrift in infinite space, so life in the universe will only exist for a fleeting, bright instant in time. Because life, just like the stars and the planets and the galaxies, is just a temporary structure on the long road from order to disorder. But that doesn’t make us insignificant, because we are the cosmos made conscious. Life is the means by which the universe understands itself. And for me, our true significance lies in our ability, and our desire, to understand and explore this beautiful universe.”
— Brian Cox in Wonders of the Universe: Destiny

That, to me, is the most powerful idea I’ve ever known. We are the means by which the universe understands itself. I don’t know anything more beautiful than that.

Mike M (13) (@mikem) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

I always remember that the original purpose of science was to “Understand the mind of God.”

SinatraAfterDark (11) (@mikecappuccio) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@rachclam, I’m pleasantly surprised you found this to be one of your favorite topics as this is the first discussion question I’ve posted. I too have found a passion for astrophysics, though I can’t say I’m really studying it. Mostly leafing through stargazing guides.
But I’m thrilled to hear you share a vary similar perspective to my own. I was raised Catholic by my mother but my father is agnostic. I grew up with the sense that they were opposite ends of a spectrum and address entirely different issues. But as I’ve grown older and explored religion and science with gusto I’ve come to think that the overlapping portion between science and religion is greater than we give credit. When I look up at the sky, or simply sit still and admire nature, and I feel completely one with the whole of it. I can feel the present moment flowing naturally.
I first started to feel these sensations while exploring eastern philosophies of Zen and Taoism. I found these philosophies to be the proper tool to help free my mind. But, from many years of passionately enjoying science, I only come to find my comprehension of how the world and universe work to make the whole picture of existence even more beautiful.

Anonymous (37) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@mikecappuccio, It is incredibly refreshing to hear you talk about your ideas because they’re so similar to mine, and something I’ve always hoped to discuss with someone. You’ve inspired me to look a bit more into Taoism, as well. It’s a great topic and I hope you post more on here! I’ll bet you have some great ideas. :)


Totally! I love that people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson are starting to get really popular. Scientific literacy is undervalued in American culture.

josephm (772) (@josephm) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

Chemistry, a branch of physical science, is the study of the composition, properties and behavior of matter.


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