Worldview Foundations of Spirituality and Ethics
There has been an increase of interest in the role of spirituality in health care, as well as in the workplace and other fields in general. This interest has been met with a variety of responses, including an uneasiness that has historical roots. There is generally a perceived tension between science and religion/spirituality. This estrangement between the worlds of science and religion is in some ways not truly reflective of some inherent incompatibility between science and religion per se, but rather a reflection of underlying worldview tensions. The rediscovery of spirituality and its implications for health care provides recognition that the estrangement between the two worlds has not served patients’ best interests. If this is the case, then part of the task of serving patients well will require some basic worldview training in order to not only understand patients’ own backgrounds more clearly, but to also promote the fruitful interaction of science and religion in the health care setting more generally.
Spirituality and Worldview
The theoretical and practical foundations of any discipline or field take place within the wider framework of what is known as a worldview. A “worldview” is a term that describes a complete way of viewing the world around you. For example, consider religion and/or culture. For many people, their religion or culture colors the way in which they view their entire reality; nothing is untouched by it and everything is within its scope. Yet one need not be religious to have a worldview; atheism or agnosticism are also worldviews. Thus, all of one’s fundamental beliefs, practices, and relationships are seen through the lens of a worldview. The foundations of medicine and health care in general bring with it a myriad of assumptions about the very sorts of questions answered in a person’s worldview. Consider carefully the seven questions in the Called to Care textbook in order to begin grasping more clearly the concept of a worldview.
A Challenging Ethos
A fundamental thesis of this course is that two sorts of underlying philosophies or beliefs about the nature of knowledge, namely, scientism and relativism, are at the heart of this perceived tension between science and religion. Moreover, scientism and relativism help explain to some degree why this tension has not served the best interests of patients, and is even at odds with the fundamental goals of medicine and care.
Scientism is the belief that the best or only way to have any knowledge of reality is by means of the sciences (Moreland and Craig, 2003, pp. 346-350). At first glance this might sound like a noncontroversial or even commonsensical claim. However, think about this carefully. One way to state this is to say that if something is not known scientifically then it is not known at all. In other words, the only way to hold true beliefs about anything is to know them scientifically. Relativism on the other hand is the view that there is no such thing as truth in the commonsensical sense of that concept. Every claim about the nature of reality is simply relative to either an individual or a society/culture. Thus, according to this way of thinking, it might be true here in the United States that equality is a good thing, but in some Middle Eastern countries it is simply not a concern. Yet there is no ultimate truth of the matter, it is simply a matter of individual or popular opinion. In some way, truth is just what an individual or a culture decides that it is, and therefore not truly discovered, but