“We need leaders who really know who they are”

Labour MP Michael Meacher shares his views on science, spirituality and being a politician

It’s a rare event when a politician puts his personal and professional reputation on the line but the highly regarded, lifelong Labour MP Michael Meacher is doing just that. His latest book, Destination of the Species: The Riddle of Human Existence, launches an impassioned plea to the divided worlds of science and religion to put their differences aside, join forces and engage in nothing less than an evolution in human consciousness.

Now working closely with Ed Milliband, Meacher has spent over 40 years in politics with six years as an environment minister within government. He has often been a lone voice against contentious government policies, including those of his own side. He spearheaded a personal challenge against what he believed was an unjust war in Iraq and vehemently opposed many destructive environmental policies.

Caspar Walsh: What makes you believe science and spirituality can work in partnership?

Michael Meacher: There is clearly some kind of intelligent design in how our planet began to evolve life forms and this has continued to evolve into who we are today. Science is now struggling to get its head around the sheer scale and possibility of the universe and the unlimited scope of human consciousness. Science cannot reduce consciousness to fit the models it currently has for understanding the world we live in. Spirituality and faith can help us understand. Scientists are beginning to realise the limitations of sticking to reductionist models.

The Gaia theory [that all living things on Earth form a single, self-regulating complex system] was once seen as a far-fetched concept but as a result in a shift in scientific understanding and study, it is now universally accepted and seen as fact. The evidence of intelligent design is becoming clear.

Our increased secularisation, where science is the overwhelming paradigm, is now beginning to shift towards a bridging of science and spirituality. More and more scientists are opening up to this possibility, and growth materialism is losing favour.

Where are our understandings of the world, through science and religion, leading to?

The question for us is are we humans part of the continuation of this cosmic plan or just a stage in it? Our ruthless unchecked destruction of our planet makes that debatable. Humans are not the pinnacle of evolution but simply a stage in the process. It is essential we all strive for the truth of why we’re here; but I think none of us will ever reach an ultimate truth because ultimate knowledge has no boundary or defining end.

We have achieved great things in science but the greatest individual characteristic of us, as humans, is the emergent property of our spirituality. It is not for us to transform and dominate the world through science and politics, but to transform ourselves.

Would you recommend politics to a newcomer?

I was first going to go into religion, then social work. Politics was last on the list. I wonder if it would have been better if I had stuck to one of the first two. But there is an opportunity for politics to effect real change and to be a wonderfully uplifting experience. Change is always possible.

I would say don’t do it unless you’re doing it for the right reasons. Whatever you do, don’t lose touch with your inner self, with what is driving you. Set your eyes on what’s going to help benefit your fellow citizens not just your self-satisfaction. Don’t lose touch with what needs to be done for others and for your nation.

How important do you believe personal awareness is to those in power?

The only way to deal with the issues that power brings up is personal awareness. There is a desire for some politicians to want to retain power through a simple fear of losing it. Power can be very dangerous, the more power you have, the more you want.

I am guilty of wanting glory. All of our motives are mixed and tangled. The people we need in power are those who really know who they are, and there needs to be an open public assessment of the personality of our leaders. It needs to be transparent and clear so the voting public can really know the true workings of those they are voting in to lead and govern their country.

But ultimately it is people power that will change everything.