Inspiration: It’s place in the halls of science

Ah-ha moments often signal sudden insight into a perplexing problem.  For my sister years ago it was the discovery that pickles come from cucumbers. The look on her face was precious.

from my moustache

Inspiration has played a significant role in more important scientific breakthroughs throughout the ages.  It’s a wonder why the debate over the compatibility between science and faith rages on considering the inspiration involved in both.

“Science and faith don’t mix!” That axiom just doesn’t hold up in light of recent studies that show nearly 50% of scientists identify with a specific faith tradition and an even greater number (66% of natural scientists and 69% of behavioral scientists) show interest in spirituality.

It’s just possible that the narrow definition of science as solely a rational-based empirical process misses the mark. Sure, real science incorporates sound reasoning coupled with accurate assessment through experimentation and observation.

 But what about inspiration?  Does it have a place in scientific research?

“Given that some prominent scientists over the years have opined that God must be kept out of science – or that science will no longer be science, it is an important finding that many theistic scientists believe that God’s inspiration and blessing have been integral to their own scholarly efforts,” according to a qualitative research study recently published in Explore Journal . 

In The Role of Inspiration in Scientific Scholarship and Discovery: Views of Theistic Scientists, Kari A. O’Grady, PhD and P. Scott Richards, PhD survey a wide variety of scientists and scholars with a diverse mix of religious affiliations. 

Respondents in the study shared their experiences with inspiration. 

Some reported receiving insights, feeling guided, and feeling a sense of calling.  Others experienced inspiration as serendipity, going beyond their natural abilities, physical or emotional sensations, spiritual manifestations, and as a constant presence.

Much of what the participants shared matches my own ideas when it comes to the means through which to experience God’s influence.   These include prayer, reading spiritual literature, meditation, altruism, and submitting to God’s will.

An intriguing component of the research included suggestions from the contributors how other scientists might prepare to benefit from inspiration.  Some of the themes included:

*be open to the possibility of God’s inspiration

Steve Salt

*seek for and/or pray for inspiration

*be humble

*have gratitude or a sense of awe

*live a virtuous life

*have a relationship with God

*have altruistic motives

*read spiritual literature or sacred texts


*focus on the heart/soul


Austrian mathematician and philosopher, Kurt Godel, once suggested that there should be as much confidence in intuition as in sensory perception.  Does science dare go there?

Theoretical physicist, Paul Davies, likens inspirational experiences to a “type of shortcut to truth.”  It is Davies who in an Op Ed in The New York Times a few years back wrote that science’s claim to be free of faith is “manifestly bogus.”  

The report on inspiration concludes, “It is also of interest to note that many of the theistic scientists in our study encouraged the scientific community to be willing to look beyond the traditional constraints of naturalistic science and allow for divine influences to guide the process.” 

“Possession of knowledge” is the first definition of “science” in my dictionary. 

And in the Book of Proverbs it is written, “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding.”  Think of the potential growth of knowledge as scientists and researchers embrace an unrestricted paradigm that benefits from inspiration.    

Here’s to more EUREKA moments!

S Salt


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