TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

What research has been done to inspect whether there are connections between the spiritual and the physical?

Starting from the belief that spiritual does in fact exist, has there been any research done to discover what sort of provable effects and connections exist between the physical and/or mental aspects of human life? If so, what do they present? Are their any TED talks directed towards this?

I assume those interested would be those who study and are interested in the overlap of various studies such has cultural, medical, religious, and psychological, and their practical relationships. Potential experts this question is geared to are those in the field such as neuroscientists, psychologists, endocrinologist, physicians, religious workers, etc...

There of course is a starting bias that the spiritual does in fact exist, and in definition is different that the psychological, emotional, and physical.

Also related, what experiences have you had that proof or disprove the overlap of the spiritual with human life?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jan 10 2013: Hi, Tom. If you mean research in the sense in which the term is used technically, your question is challenging to research online, because you will need to plough through lots and lots of pseudoscience first.

    If you are using the word research in the sense, rather, of what people have inquired about for themselves and come to conclusions about to their individual satisfaction, this will be a much simpler project. Many people believe their own evidence or other people's (non-scientific) evidence of the spiritual but much more importanty are happy with the positive impact spiritual belief and practice have on their own lives- health and psychological wellbeing and all their physical manifestations.

    The TED talks about happiness (like Seligman's) will include elements that might be considered spiritual, depending what you include in that term. Both Amy Tan's talk and Elizabeth Gilbert's have a spiritual element to them, though not a scientific one.
    There has certainly been scientific research into the health and emotional benefits of meditation, yoga, religious belief and alternative medicine. A useful, easily searchable source for the science-interested layperson is Science Daily, available free online. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (scholarly) has an institute in this area and I notice includes, as an example, research investigating a relationship between a particular gene and whether a person would be considered spiritually inclined.

    If you are interested in your question from a scholarly rather than a popular angle, I would search on sites that screen out pseudoscience for you!. A site like the National Academy of Science is reputable also, and will typically label something as entertainment of it may look to the layperson like science but is not actually science. Good luck in your inquiry.
    • Jan 11 2013: Yes, unfortunately there is a lot of pseudoscience out there. I was hoping that posting this would help me in avoiding the necessity to wade through a lot of it on this particular issue. I meant research in the scientific sense, not based only on individual satisfaction. However, tangentially, I do find it interesting that we try to define such hard lines between scientific and non-scientific based on methodology, intent, and opinions. The language we have created doesn't quite match our modern day meanings. Often times what we really mean when we say "scientific" is that "this study has been standardized and is protected against the misleadings of only one person's observations and conclusions. This (whatever the conclusion or proof may be) can be generally accepted, or not accepted as truth and what will happen the majority of repeated occurrences undergone in similar situations."

      Thank you for your references, I'll look into them in the hopes that they will be helpful.

      I am aware and have read a few articles regarding the benefits of spiritual practices on a human beings life and well-being. Those sorts of articles could prove supportive evidence, but I don't think can be the foundational basis for my particular question. It is starting to appear that people have not targeted this sort of research from the angles I have proposed. It also appears that most people don't think it is feasible or conclusive to approach it from that angle.
      • thumb
        Jan 11 2013: Your best bet on a question related to scientific evidence and the limits of science is a science venue. The integrity and credibility of science depends on not over-reaching in the sense of making false claims of what they have found or can find.

        There are errors, of course, but it is almost always non-scientists who do the "spinning" of what science has shown.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.