Science and the ‘S’ word

Science and spirituality?

All schools in England are required to show how well their pupils develop in SMSC – Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural aspects. I can easily see how moral, social and cultural aspects are an integral part of science education, but ‘spiritual’?

I recently had my science action plan returned to me, annotated by the head with the suggestion that I mention how it will encompass SMSC requirements.

In OFSTED’s terms the spiritual aspect is defined as follows:

Pupils’ spiritual development is shown by their:

  • ability to be reflective about their own beliefs, religious or otherwise, that inform their perspective on life and their interest in and respect for different people’s faiths, feelings and values
  • sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning about themselves, others and the world around them
  • use of imagination and creativity in their learning
  • willingness to reflect on their experiences.

http://www.doingsmsc.org.uk/

I have two problems with this. Firstly, only the first of those seems to relate to what would normally be considered ‘spiritual’, and secondly, I’m at odds already with the idea of anything ‘spiritual’ in science, as science is about critical thinking and evidenced-based practice. ‘Spiritual’ refers to a ‘spirit’, I presume. Something which is not based on evidence of any kind. What role has the spiritual to play in science education? Are we not undermining the nature of science even by including it as an aspect, however woolly the definitions above?

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