In “Faith, logic can co-exist, UBC study contends” religion writer Douglas Todd, (Times-Colonist May 19, 2012) comments on a recent study purported by some to show that “analytical thinking can be harmful to religious faith”:
A common misunderstanding about religion comes from the way people define the word “rational.”
However, it’s incorrect to assume anything that is not “rational” is therefore nonsensical, illogical, absurd and ridiculous. Instead, there is an entire realm of human, animal and ecological experience that is best described as “non-rational.”
Such “non-rational” realities – including intuitions, emotions, the unconscious and creativity itself – are just as real, if not more so, than many things understood through rationality alone.
Many great thinkers have been aware of this distinction. Albert Einstein was one of them.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” Einstein said. “For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
It is doubtful that Einstein could have achieved the insights he did if he lacked imagination. Everyone “knew” that Newton’s laws and time measurement applied everywhere and at all times. It took imagination to see that there could be other laws in force in the universe as well, laws that would provide more accurate models.
Interestingly, Tennyson’s poem, Ulysses, deals with this very subject. Ulysses was a commander in the Trojan War, comes home and finds that his restless spirit, which Tennyson considered more favourable to science, is stifled by the dull round of daily administration. He leaves that to his unimaginative – but virtuous and capable – son Telemachus and sets out on a final voyage of discovery, saying,
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
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