The Synthesis Method

Nash Popovic profile image

Written by Dr. Nash Popovic

All the above approaches contribute in their unique ways to the understanding of reality, but none of them is likely to provide a full picture. Not only are they incomplete and insufficient on their own, but they also seem to be stuck in ostensibly irresolvable conflicts with each other.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and René Descartes (1596-1650), who are considered the founders of opposing factions in philosophy, viz. empiricism and rationalism, agreed on one point: to separate religion from the study of the natural world. They may have been right to do so at the time when the Church was all-powerful, but this does not mean that scientific and spiritual approaches are inherently in conflict. They appear so only because of ideological prejudices in both camps. Many scholars seem to be arriving at the same conclusion. For example, Schrödinger, who formulated the fundamental equation of quantum mechanics, espoused in his book Mind and Matter (1958) a spiritual view that he identified with the ‘perennial philosophy’ of Aldous Huxley, and expressed his sympathy for the Upanishads and Eastern spiritual thoughts. Seeing reality as meaningful does not need to conflict with empirical facts. Polanyi and Prosch make the point stating that ‘… we can claim all this with an open and clear scientific conscience. The religious hypothesis, if it does indeed hold that the world is meaningful rather than absurd, is therefore a viable hypothesis for us. There is no scientific reason why we cannot believe it.’ (1975, p.179).

This is not only of theoretical significance. Our very survival may depend on an ability to transcend the superfluous and synthesise what is important in these approaches. Human society cannot long afford to live in a world in which philosophy is disparaged, religion contradicts science, and science contradicts common, everyday experience and social practice (e.g. democracy assumes choice, and our legal system personal responsibility – both are based on the notion of free will that is not upheld by science[1]). Such antagonisms must be reconciled in order to produce a more adequate and complete interpretation. This does not require the abandonment of the current methods – they have contributed to knowledge and continue to do so – only a recognition that they have limited value in isolation and that, in some cases, it would be beneficial to combine them. It has been recognised that “objections to novelty and to alternatives come from particular groups with vested interests, not from science as a whole. It is therefore possible to gain understanding and to solve problems by combining bits and pieces of ‘science’ with prima facie ‘unscientific’ opinions and procedures” (Honderich, 1995, p.809).

This post is for members only. To keep the site free from ads, we ask for a one-off payment which will give you access to all the Synthesis materials.

Already have an account? Sign in