by Paul Harrison

This commentary is not part of the belief statement but is one interpretation of certain elements of it. In particular, it deals with those words that I feel may be in need of further clarification.


Why “scientific” pantheists?

Scientific pantheism is called scientific not because it claims to be a science, but because it adopts a scientific approach to reality to complement its religious and aesthetic approach:

1. It accepts the results of science, while being fully aware that science is not static, and that facts and theories change.
2. It respects empirical evidence and is based on evidence rather than faith in improbabilities and impossibilities.
3. It is based on investigation of reality rather than on revelation in ancient books.
4. It has a basically materialist paradigm, which is also the basis of science. (But see below for the definition of matter).
5. It respects Occam’s razor by not multiplying unnecessary entities. Where two theories have equal predictive power, it would prefer the simpler theory.
6. It remains in principle revisable in the light of new evidence and theory.

However, scientific pantheism is not blindly uncritical of science:

6. You do not have to be a scientist, or even to know anything about science to be a scientific pantheist. All you need is a reverential attitude to nature and the universe.
7. While we rely on science and the senses for a proper understanding of the world around us, we attach great importance to spiritual aspects of life such as emotions, religious, mystical and aesthetic feelings and experiences.
8. Scientific pantheism does not believe that science will necessarily be able to explain everything in the universe. Above all, the fundamental mystery of the sheer existence of matter/energy is likely to remain impenetrable.
9. Scientific pantheism condemns the pursuit of scientific knowledge by unethical means, including cruelty to animals and experiments on humans without fully informed consent.
10. Scientific pantheism does not unthinkingly endorse the products of modern technology – in particular, it wishes to see all technology that damages the environment replaced by non-damaging technology that is sustainable indefinitely.

“Universe”

“Universe” written with a capital U means the totality of existence past, present and future. It includes the universe known to us, but also includes parts of the universe not accessible to us at present, and any parallel universes that may be shown to exist.

“Matter”

The word “matter” here is used in its philosophical sense. Matter is defined to include all physical objects, forces and fields that have been or may in the future be detected by the senses or extensions of the senses, or that may reasonably be deduced as existing by established scientific methods, procedures, and evidence.

Use of the word is not restricted to forms of matter or energy known only at the present time. And implies all the discoveries about matter of quantum mechanics. In other words, matter is not dead, matter is not mechanistic, matter is not made of hard little Newtonian balls. Matter is unpredictable, restless, vibrant, creative, mysterious.

“Matter/energy”

Matter/energy indicates that these two aspects are completely interchangeable. Matter can be seen as frozen energy, energy as liberated matter.


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