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On Science

The allegory of the cave, attributed to Socrates by Plato in The Republic (375 BCE), depicts human knowledge as emerging from a struggle between our senses and our reason. In this story, prisoners are chained inside a cave so that they are only able to see one wall. A fire behind them projects shadows onto the wall, and all the prisoners’ knowledge derives from those shadows, known through their senses.

On Science (November 2022)

On Science

Nov / Dec 2022

Meditation, Worship, Science

In 1969 in Seattle, getting help from the American Friends Service Committee on my application for conscientious objector status, I went upstairs to see what the Quakers were about. That Sunday meeting was my first experience of mindful meditation. “We sit in silence and listen for thoughts from God,” they told me. I liked the silence, and I liked that there was no dogma, but I didn’t believe in God. Even so, what people said in Quaker meeting made more sense than anything I was hearing anywhere else. I remember sitting in meeting the first few times, checking each thought that entered my mind: Is this one from God? It was pretty clear that hardly any were candidates for consideration.

On Secrets (July 2020)

A Science of Quaker Practice

I have explored a lot of Quaker writings, and I also enjoy participating in Quaker practices such as silent worship, worship sharing, and business meetings (yes, those too). At the same time, as a person with a science background, I often find myself exploring books on neuroscience, evolution, and related topics, and I try to sort out how our Quaker ways relate to current findings by scientists in such fields. I see at least four human abilities under scientific research that relate to our Quaker practices:

On Flesh (November 2016)

Quaker Culture: Science and Discovery

Science starts from wonder and the unceasing questioning of the free human spirit. The study of it enriches the mind through the fascinating and ever-widening picture of the universe that it provides . . . The power of the human mind when used methodically in the pursuit of truth . . . must not lead us to mistake the means for the end and to forget that in its practice we are engaged in discovering the truths of God’s creation . . .

On Expansion (May 2018)

Please Do Not “Believe in” Science

Cautious confidence in the scientific process is, I believe, the best perspective. Science is akin to continuing revelation and undermined by groupthink. However, modern science is fundamentally materialistic, and we do not live by bread alone.

On Science (November 2022)

Toward a Science of Nonviolent Action

[The original version of this article, with footnotes and more detail, is published online at: westernfriend.org/media/toward-science-nonviolent-action-unabridged]

On Science (November 2022)