Dancing with mystery :scientific and spiritual encounters with the natural world

Greber, Lisa
Alesia Maltz, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
2004
Are science and spirituality compatible? This thesis proposed that the essential experience in both areas is the encounter with mystery. This essential experience is then overlain with practices, ideologies, and institutions that have been, but do not need to be, at odds. What might an integrated practice of science and spirituality look like? The core of this thesis, a summer 2002 program on climate change and spirituality, was one effort to develop this practice. This thesis also proposed that learning about climate change in a manner that integrates our intellectual and spiritual selves is one way to motivate concrete changes to a more sustainable lifestyle. Fourteen participants, usually in groups of 3 or 4, met 11 times over the course of summer 2002, studying, swimming, dancing, and praying. Classes covered the carbon cycle, ocean currents, and Gaia, the theory that the earth is a living organism. Because of the small number of participants, evaluating the program statistically is not possible. Qualitative measures, particularly comments from participants, their dvars (spiritual reflections), and their final course gifts, suggest that this program was successful at integrating scientific and spiritual practices. Whether or not it also instigated environmentally sound behavior changes remains an open question.

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