Brian Gallagher in Nautilus:
For Julian Huxley, science was spiritual. The biologist, brother of the novelist Aldous Huxley and grandson of “Darwin’s Bulldog” Thomas Henry Huxley, thought evolutionary ideas hinted at humanity’s destiny: to safeguard the future of life on Earth and, by learning more about ourselves and the universe, expand the possibilities of humanity’s potential. Rejecting the idea of the supernatural gave him enormous “spiritual relief,” he wrote in his 1927 book Religion Without Revelation. Understanding reality scientifically was a religious endeavor. Part of what it meant to be spiritual, he wrote, was:
the contemplation of our own selves and human nature, the miracle of its existence as a product of natural evolution, the amazing fact that a man is a mere portion of the common and universal substance of the world, but so organized as to be able to know truth, will the control of nature, aspire to goodness, and experience unutterable beauty.
Scientists today are finding Huxley was on to something. In a new paper, researchers found that, for some people, scientific ideas stir spiritual feelings of wonder and connection, which, they say, can offer psychological benefits similar to religious spirituality, like an increased sense of well-being and life satisfaction. And, on top of that, when scientific ideas inform people’s sense of spirituality, they come away with a better understanding of science. “Although science and religion differ in many ways,” the researchers write, their findings across three studies indicate that those human enterprises “share a capacity for spirituality through feelings of awe, coherence, and meaning in life.”