Paganism and Science

Stephanie on the Ethical Witches list asks “Are Science and Paganism mutually incompatible?” No more so than science and any other religion, which from my viewpoint is a firm “no.”

Paganism is a Nature religion, and science is humanity’s collective effort to explain and understand Nature. Most Pagans have at least a passing interest in science and a strong respect for scientific knowledge – I’ve yet to meet a Pagan who argued against evolution. But we see Nature as poetry as well as mathematics. We understand the astronomy and physics behind a lunar eclipse, but that doesn’t stop us from watching one with a sense of wonder and awe.

In most of its forms, Paganism makes claims that are beyond the realm of science. Do our gods and goddesses exist as distinct beings? Science has no evidence that they do, but many of us have experienced them. Do our ancestors return to visit with us at Samhain? Science has no evidence that they do, but many of us have experienced them. Do our spells and rituals affect anything beyond psychological programming? Science has no evidence they do, but again, many of us have experienced results we can only call magical.

Perhaps someday science will be able to identify, classify, and quantify the spiritual experiences of Pagans and practitioners of other religions. But as much as I’d like to know for sure, I think we’re better off with faith. Throughout history, too much good has come from people who either didn’t know or refused to believe that something was impossible until after they had already done it.

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