Several pieces of scientific information have been important to me in finding perspective and direction in my life. This information is spiritual to me, which is to say that it gives me a sense of having a meaningful place in something larger than myself.
- For 3.8 billion years, each generation of living things has created the next one. Although existence may well be a state of impermanence, and each life by itself is frail and fleeting, this chain of life evokes both my awe and a feeling of reassurance.
- All living things struggle to thrive and reproduce. This commonality is at the heart of our capacities for selfishness but also for generosity. Compassion, altruism, and love are rooted in our knowing that not only other people but all living things face the same essential tasks.
- When we are suffering, we look beyond ourselves for something larger in order to find consolation or to understand the meaning of our suffering. But all living things, both plants and animals, at some time either suffer—feel actual pain—or expend all their energy to stay alive. Suffering places us in the company of the countless organisms that are struggling for what they need.
- Religions encourage the belief that people are not isolated individuals but parts of a living whole. Science brings a similar message, at several levels: not only are we parts of the living world and the evolving cosmos, but we are also social beings to our core, our brains woven over time by and for our relationships with other people.
In today’s debates about religion, many are looking for an overlap or a compromise between science and a belief in God. But it seems to me that the picture painted by science, understood vividly and taken to heart, offers its own spiritual opportunity.