Balance has become a desideratum. Ours is an age of extremism. Black and white instead of shades of gray. One of the unnecessary polarizations is that between science and religion. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is the labels we insist on using. Science is shorthand for evidence-based research—it is a way of understanding the physical world. It doesn’t necessarily discount a spiritual world but its methods can’t engage that world, if it exists. Religion is a poorly defined word, often one of those “you know it when you see it” kinds of phenomena. Often it is characterized by blind adherence, but that isn’t necessarily what religion is either. To me, balance between the two is an authentic way to engage the world and other human beings.
Take plants, for instance. And take consciousness. While consciousness isn’t always associated with religion, it is one of those things that falls out of the ability of science to measure or quantify. We don’t really know what it is, but we know we have it. We know some animals have it, but rather arrogantly assert it is only the “higher” animals, as if we comprehend the hierarchy of nature in its entirety. We dismiss the idea of plant consciousness. For many years I’ve been pondering intent. Without it no life would be possible from sperm germinating egg to heliotropes following the sun. There’s some kind of intent there. Will. Recently The Guardian ran an article about scientifically measured intent in bean plants. Although many have been left scratching their heads, or pods, over it, to me it makes perfect sense.
I planted an apple seed a few months back. It finally sprouted in late December. I carefully watered it, and put it by a south window to get sunlight. It grew quickly for a few days and then began to wilt. I watched helplessly as it gave up the will to live. I’m no botanist, but I suspected it was the coldness of being set on a windowsill. (Ours isn’t the best insulated house.) December had been mild, and it sprouted. January took a sudden shift to chill, and I realized that new plants outdoors wouldn’t sprout in winter. The seed had germinated, but the plant had no will to survive in temperatures chillier than its genes told it that might be safe. I’m not a scientist, but I observed this scenario carefully. Is it possible that french bean plants show intent? I think it would be more difficult to explain if they did not.