FAITH VS. SCIENCE?
There are a number of questions people ask about the issue of spirituality and the practice of psychiatry. As therapists, do our worldviews unconsciously dictate the judgments we make about people and where we lead conversations in therapy? Are we as therapists ever neutral? What worldview do most professors of psychiatry hold, and how does that view affect the results of their research and teaching? Is it possible to challenge patients on the source of their core beliefs without having to proselytize our own? Is spiritual counseling another option in treatment like any other referral, drug, vitamin, lab test, or procedure? If a patient’s own religion has failed them in their recovery, is it right to suggest a different faith, or unlike medication, are all religions the same? How often do we as psychiatrists self-analyze our own views about spirituality? Are they grounded in sound evidence and personal research? Or do we simply believe what our parents, our church, our culture or even our professors and fellow colleagues tell us?
I recently had a conversation with a medical student and close friend who made this statement, “Science and religion cannot be mixed because they play by different rules. One requires complete faith in the face of contrary evidence, and the other requires hard evidence before any conclusions can be drawn.” This is a false assertion for much of scientific theory is accepted on faith in order to make it practical and applicable to our daily lives. Likewise, much of faith is based on solid scientific, historical, and logical evidence. The truth is that faith and scientific evidence go hand in hand. Let us always be prepared to provide the evidence necessary to support the hope and faith that is within us, but in doing so, let us not forget that faith does not need all the answers in order to work miracles in our lives.
David Livingstone Henderson, M.D.