Science, Religion and Development
Throughout the world, a growing number of people – among them representatives of organizations of civil society, governmental agencies, educational institutions, and social movements – are expressing their frustration at the failure of the global endeavor known as development to extend its fruits equitably to all sectors of society. Increasingly, this failure is being attributed to materialistic assumptions underlying approaches to social and economic development.
The Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity seeks to foster individual and institutional capacity to introduce into development discourse a stream of thought that acknowledges the
coherence between both the spiritual and material dimensions of life.
The discourse on science, religion and development is being actively promoted by collaborating individuals and organizations in a growing number of countries, including India, Malaysia, China, Uganda, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Australia. Insights gained from the initial experiences in India, Uganda and Brazil have now been documented in the first of a series of occasional papers on insight and practice, titled Science, Religion, and Development: Promoting a Discourse in India, Brazil, and Uganda.
Among the diverse agencies involved in the field of development, nongovernmental organizations play a crucial role in designing and carrying out projects at the grassroots, close to the people upon whom any significant process of change will depend. The Institute supports processes of action and reflection undertaken by such organizations, specifically by those that use science and religion as sources of knowledge for their projects.
In order to improve their own practice and to gradually influence policy, organizations begin their collaboration with the Institute by making explicit their assumptions about the nature of the human being and society, and about the role that knowledge plays in understanding the world and transforming it. After having articulated their own reading of social reality, they state their priorities, the goals they have set for themselves, and the approaches and methods they have adopted for translating their vision into action. Some organizations then document, through action and reflection, a few of their own experiences, and thus contribute to the advancement of the discourse on development that takes into consideration scientific knowledge and spiritual insights.
Within these broad outlines, the Institute has designed a specific action-research project that calls for the analysis of a set of statements by participating organizations. The statements, articulated by the Institute, address some of the fundamental challenges that development organizations face as they strive to apply spiritual principles and scientific methods to their plans and programs. Organizations are asked to reflect on these statements in the light of their own experience and to describe how they have attempted, or might attempt, to address these challenges in their day-to-day operations. In addition to increasing the effectiveness of their own action, such reflection, it is hoped, will enhance their commitment to development processes that are inspired by spiritual principles and informed by scientific methods. The first of these efforts that has been documented involved an organization in India known as Seva Mandir. The title of this document is May Knowledge Grow in our Hearts: Applying Spiritual Principles to Development Practice. Based on insights gained from this initial experience the Institute plans to undertake similar projects with other organizations in order to further advance knowledge and practice in this area.