'The Science of Spirituality' Summit Keynotes

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

Danjoo Koorliny Walking Together Co-Director Dr Noel Nannup and the Chief Scientist of Western Australia Professor Peter Klinken presented keynotes on day one of the 2021 Danjoo Koorliny Social Impact Summit on the theme ‘The Science of Spirituality’.

Noel spoke about his personal experiences and reflections, as well as the importance of the Noongar governance model, social order, six-season cycle and totemic system.

“For us as Aboriginal people, the spirit is in everything,” Noel said. “And when you go out there, if you know how to access that spirit, then of course the one within you can then relate to that.

“And then you accumulate all this experience. And as you accumulate that experience, then you can articulate it to others. So I also spent many times lecturing at universities so that I could understand the science of things and bring that into the equation as well. And then we can reach those people who might not necessarily want to hear some Aboriginal person talking about spirituality,” he said.

“What is our spiritual gift? What is our purpose?...[I] heard my dad say, ‘son, we have to embrace our culture as Aboriginal people. We also have to embrace the new cultures' belief too, because they’re bringing us a message’. “And when we talk about atoms...those electrons that are wrapped around the atom, holding onto it...a proton and a neutron can sit anywhere, where there's seemingly nothing physical. And they'll gather this energy. Where it comes from? Scientists don't even know - if they do, they certainly haven't let us know. Klinks, maybe you've got something in store for us. And that energy builds and builds and builds. And then suddenly that atom will leap like that. It's called the quantum leap. So we're talking about quantum physics here. Our mob had that nailed down, but didn't understand it the way science talks about it now. And that gene that is containing that atom in that person, that tree, that whatever, has an energy in it. When it dies, that energy goes back to the soil.”

“So that leaves us now thinking, well, what can we do in Danjoo Koorliny? Where can this take us? This can take us to where it needs to take us so that we can start to realise that we are all in this together. The world is screaming at us at the moment. This planet is in trouble. And as it's screaming at us, the only ones that can help it are you and I. But what we have to first accept and acknowledge is there is a group of people in this land that have unfinished business with the new model. We need to tell the truth. We need to get that out of the way. And then as we get that out of the way, we need to journey into a possible solution for the problem we have. We're all part of the problem. And as I say that to you, we are all part of the solution. And I see this model now gaining more momentum, gaining people who think deeply and are looking for a way to work together, make change, and change the system,” Noel said. Professor Peter Klinken was then invited to the lectern. “So I'm the Chief Scientist of WA, right? I'm also the chair of Lotterywest, by the way. And there's a few people from Lotterywest here today. And I can tell you that this probably is one of the most important projects that Lotterywest is supporting now and into the future. So I want everyone in Danjoo Koorliny and everyone in this room to know how much we value what you're doing and how we have this wonderful new opportunity to create a new society,” he said.

Peter then spoke about his reflections on the theme, including distinguishing between spirituality and religion.

“I'm supposed to be talking about science and spirituality. I can do the science stuff any day - I get up: no notes. I have to write stuff down today because I'm talking about stuff that I firmly believe, but I've never ever had to articulate publicly. We'll have a crack at it, all right, see how we go. So I'm a scientist, but I describe myself as a spiritual man. I'm an emotional man, but I'm not a religious man,” he said.

Peter spoke about a recent study regarding the brain circuitry of spirituality, as well as Einstein, what Einstein said when he was asked about God, and the definition of God provided by the Dutch philosopher Spinoza. “So I went back and thought about Einstein, and Einstein had come up with just the most beautiful, simple equation. Anyone here know what it is, the most beautiful, simple equation? E=MC², right? Energy equals matter times the speed of light times the speed of light. How he ever came up with it, I don't know. But the important bit is energy equals matter. The two essentially are interchangeable. That for me then became an enlightening moment because everything has got energy. I've got energy, you've got energy, plants have got energy. The river's got energy. Rocks have got energy, got atoms in them. For me now I could actually come to a place where I could see a spirit in everything because everything's got energy. And for me that was a simple scientific explanation for where the spirit exists in everything. I've got to tell you, it gave me a lot of, ‘Oh geez, that's good to know’.” Peter closed by talking about his experiences connecting to and looking after country. More from the keynotes with Noel and Peter will be shared as part of our upcoming online induction course - stay tuned for more information about this in the time ahead.

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