I’ve never been able to clearly articulate why it irritates me so much when people want a nice, tidy, clinical objective proof of whatever Weird Stuff is going on in their lives (I admit I’d like “real” evidence, because I think it would be awesome, and I’d like to know what’s going on in a way that physics and/or biology could explain, but I don’t feel I need it), or when people who have a strongly science-only, atheist/agnostic viewpoint refuse to accept anything as valid unless it can have that kind of proof, but I think this says it nicely.
Claiming scientific backing or proof for spiritual ideas where none exists isn’t just bad science, it’s also bad religion.
Why do we even bother with this? Why is it important that our beliefs are validated by science? Few accept the authority of the Bible or the Church or of governments – we want to see proof. We want studies and data and the incontrovertible evidence that exists more in TV crime dramas than in real laboratories. Science has become the arbiter of truth in our materialistic society and we want science to bless our religion.
At the root of this desire is the idea that the only truth worth having is the kind of truth science can validate, that the only knowledge is literal, material knowledge. This is why fundamentalists insist the Bible is literally true – if it’s not literally true then they think it’s worthless. They ignore the value of mythical and mystical truth.
When we look for science to affirm our conversations with nature spirits we devalue mystical experiences. When we look for science to affirm our communion with goddesses and gods we devalue mythical experiences. When we look for science to affirm after-death communication we devalue spiritual experiences.
I have similar “grr argh!” feelings about people who refuse to accept personal experiences or knowledge of deities/other spirits (call it UPG or whatever you want) as worthy of consideration as even potentially valid UNLESS they match up with one of the few scraps of historical “evidence” we have of what people used to believe/know about our gods. I know accepting personal experiences/knowledge as “true” is a complicated thing, and I think that’s good, I don’t think people should instantly rush to accept every bit of personal experience as universally true or useful – but I often see a similar sort of reliance on the printed word as The Only Valid Truth There Is as I see in accepting scientific evidence as The Only Valid Truth. (Because of course there’s no bias in the academy or the printing world that might affect what gets published.)
I value science, and I value historical documents and scholarly analysis of documents and historical evidence, but I do not think they are the most truest highest purest forms of truth there are when it comes to religion or faith or spirituality or interacting with spirits, etc.
(There’s probably something to be said about what this need for Science says about our culture’s generally materialistic worldview; someone has no doubt written a great study or even just a good rant about how this is related to all the other shitty things going on in the world, but that someone, alas, is not me, I’m just a cranky anti-capitalist.)