New Civilization News: Materialism as Science Dogma    
 Materialism as Science Dogma6 comments
picture 24 Mar 2004 @ 01:05, by Flemming Funch

Paul Hughes has an excellent article on FutureHi, "Defending Psychic Experience", arguing for the fundamental validity of inner experience, and discussing the difficulty in providing "objective scientific proof" for the same. Which gives rise to the various kinds of heated discussions that can happen between people who address the subject from different angles.
[S]ince objective reductionist science has served us so well, so unbelievable well, it's become an addiction we can't let go of when it fails. Rather than blame objectivity itself, we instead say that anything that cannot be objectively verified is false. Which is why it comes as no surprise that many leading thinkers in the fields of cognitive and neuro-science actually believe that the inner experience is an illusionary falsity that doesn't exist!

This is where most often any further dialog on the subject comes to a grinding screeching halt. Because now they are resting on dogma. And once dogma enters the picture, there is no way to have a reasonable disucssion going forward. The basic assumptions are so different (i.e those who say they have an inner experience, and those saying it is doesn't exist), that dialog going forward becomes almost impossible. The same as if you were to argue about if God exists or not with an fundamentalist Christian. For those of you who've tried, you will understand what I mean by this.
Yeah, I've tried arguing with various kinds of fundamentalists, and also with materialist fundamentalists, so I understand very well what he means. This is what I wrote in a comment:
It is kind of a weird situation: arguing with people who believe they don't really exist, but that they nevertheless are right. To me, practices such as science and reasoning have to be based on a firm foundation of what you irrefutably can know by personal observation. Just about the only thing I know for sure is that I exist and that I perceive and think. The rest is guesswork which always will build on those primary factors, but it might be very useful guesswork if you don't lose your way. If somebody else decides to instead start off with some abstract theory, and they end up concluding that I don't exist, then I'd say they've done a bad job of reasoning, largely by starting in some arbitrary place, with data that they can't prove.
This argument is an important one to me. I must admit that I once in a while write a long article about it, and half the time I don't post it. Because in reality I don't have the argument in person very often. I.e. an argument with a Fundamentalist Materialist Skeptic about the validity of subjective experience, particularly as it pertains to "psychic" phenomena of any kind. And it seems sort of strange to have a heated argument with somebody who isn't there. So I usually decide against posting it.

Anyway, from another comment to Paul's article comes a link to an absolutely excellent paper by Neal Grossman, Dept. of Philosophy, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago: "On Materialism as Science Dogma". He makes the arguments better than any of us could hope to do. Long and very readable article. He chooses to use NDE (Near Death Experiences) as a reference point, but as he says, it could well be about UFOs or a bunch of other "weird" subjects that happen to be extremely well documented and scientifically verified, but still generally ridiculed by both materialist and religious fundamentalists, who still, maybe for a while longer, are the ones with the most say and the most power in academics, in government, and, somewhat, in the media.
Fundamaterialism is so deeply ingrained in the academic establishment that most researchers on the NDE fall prey to it. For, after presenting case after case which would satisfy any reasonable standard of empirical evidence against materialism, even sympathetic researchers almost always deem it necessary to add the disclaimer that their research does not prove that there is life after death. But no scientific hypothesis is ever proven in this sense. Theorems in logic and mathematics can be proved. In science, hypotheses are not proved; rather, empirical evidence renders a given hypothesis more or less probable. There is no such thing as logical, or mathematical certainty in science. The fundamaterialists are correct in that the hypothesis that consciousness exists independently of the body cannot be proven with mathematical certainty. But neither can any other scientific hypothesis, because empirical science deals with evidence, not proof. Evidence never "proves" a hypothesis, it just makes it more probable. And, when evidence for a given hypothesis accumulates to a certain degree, we accept the hypothesis as true. But "true" in this scientific sense never means "proven"; it means very very probable. In science there is always the possibility that a given hypothesis may turn out to be false. The fundamaterialist will not accept the hypothesis of an afterlife until it is "proven" beyond a logical possibility of being false. That is, he is using a concept of proof which belongs in logic and mathematics, not in science. And NDE researchers are playing the fundamaterialist's game when they utter caveats that their research does not prove the hypothesis of an afterlife. What researches should say, in my opinion, is simply that they have amassed sufficient evidence to render the hypothesis of an afterlife very probable, and the hypothesis of materialism very improbable.

In the above paragraphs, I have been using the terms "science" and "scientific" in its epistemological sense. Science is a methodological process of discovering truths about reality. Insofar as science is an objective process of discovery, it is, and must be, metaphysically neutral. Insofar as science is not metaphysically neutral, but instead weds itself to a particular metaphysical theory, such as materialism, it cannot be an objective process for discovery. There is much confusion on this point, because many people equate science with materialist metaphysics, and phenomena which fall outside the scope of such metaphysics, and hence cannot be explained in physical terms, are called "unscientific". This is a most unfortunate usage of the term. For if souls and spirits are in fact a part of reality, and science is conceived epistemologically as a systematic investigation of reality, then there is no reason why science cannot devise appropriate methods to investigate souls and spirits. But if science is defined in terms of materialist metaphysics, then, if souls and spirits are real, science, thus defined, will not be able to deal with them. But this would be, not because souls and spirits are unreal, but rather because this definition of science (in terms of materialist metaphysics) has semantically excluded nonphysical realities from it scope.
So, obviously it is hard to discuss a subject matter with somebody who has the fundamental, unshakable belief that it doesn't exist at all and that it is impossible. Like my comment above about the difficulty of discussing existence and inner experience with a person who believes that they don't really exist.

I believe it will all turn around, and before very long. And that will change our lives and our societies immensely. We might indeed find that we can very well understand a large chunk of life, the universe and everything - material as well as non-material - inner as well as outer, and we can understand all of that in a rather unified and very rational way. And we might realize that we had been lead astray from time to time by high priests who made us believe they had a direct line in with universal truth, when really they were just listening to their own voices in their own heads. Which will all be quite forgivable at that time. It is a noble and formidable goal to try to understand how existence works, and not hard to get stuck in a blind alley along the way.


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6 comments

24 Mar 2004 @ 02:24 by Julian Gall @81.128.161.192 : Further limitation of science
It seems to me there is another class of events that are excluded from the scope of science. These are events that happen only once. Scientific method requires experimental repeatability. This means science is either blind to one-off events (a reasonable limit on the applicability of science) or has to say they don't happen (dogma).

This could also apply to events which, in the universe as a whole, might be scientifically understood but which are so rare and particular, they are impossible to study in our world.

Maybe the inclusion of soul or spirit makes every event like a NDE a one-off. You can never reproduce spiritual conditions exactly.  



24 Mar 2004 @ 06:45 by Emile @61.55.134.196 : Defending science (Well, sorta)
I probably fully qualify as a fundamentalist materialist skeptic (You can also add in "unimaginative", "dogmatic" or "narrow minded if you feel it is implied), but I wouldn't claim that spirits, say, don't exist, because I don't think there's a consensus on what it means to "exist". Does light exist ? Do I exist ? Does Napoleon exist ? How about the theory of relativity ? Or Dorian Gray ? Or this website ? Or the united states ? Or trust ? Or free will ? I tend to toss away the concept of "to exist" as to vague - at least when it comes to abstractions and metaphisics. It's not the same as saying I do not exist.

I don't feel materialism is close-minded dogmatism because if you look at it closely, it's not just about matter. Originally it was, but it incorporated different things, especially electromagnetics, that are pretty hard to define as material - and let's not talk about relativity and quantum physics ? To me those indicate that if other "non-material" (= supernatural ?) forms were not let in the club, it's not because scientists were dogmatic and unimaginative and refused to even consider something else than materialism, but rather because they didn't pass the criteria.  



24 Mar 2004 @ 13:21 by ming : Materialism
Well, see, we pretty much agree on what you say. So it isn't really somebody like you we're talking about. Or that I'm ranting about. Words can get in the way. Ultimately I think everything can be explained in sensible ways, and the various "super-natural" phenomena can probably all be sensibly explained as stuff going on in the quantum soup, or within whatever kind of more-useful model we end up with.

What I'm having a problem with is rather people who've stayed with the physics of Aristotle and Newton in their view of the world, but who still present themselves as being scientific and modern and inquiring. I.e even though they might be able to have some kind of detailed discussion about quantum physics or string theory or self-organizing systems, none of it transfers to their own mental/emotional/kinesthetic world view. Even though those theories open up for fantastic and amazing possibilities for what is possible, and even though those theories might very well be able to explain lots of weird stuff like time travel and knowledge beyond the normal senses - there are lots of people who immediately will deny them categorically. Not based on quantum physics, but based on whichever suitable older theory fits the purpose. Or, more often, because they're "nonsense".

Really, none of us have all the answers, and it is kind of unclear what exactly existence is. Pretty much anything is possible. But only some theories are useful. If we agree on that kind of things, we can get far. But I still insist on starting with what I personally can verify any time, rather than with a theory.  



25 Mar 2004 @ 00:36 by Peter Rosen @64.203.23.58 : Making Contact after such a long time
Hey Flemming, found you in a round about way through the Youth Media Exchange and Marc Cantors links. Check out the social work space: http://www.socialtext.net/youth-media-exchange/index.cgi?action=weblog_display. Please keep in contact with me: peter@creativity.net.  


25 Mar 2004 @ 02:41 by jstarrs : In the buddhist system of logic...
...first definitions are learned, and categories.
One of the first is defining what 'exists' and what doesn't.
For something to exist it must appear to the mind of a 'valid cognizer' (since every experience is experienced through the mind.)
Then things can be categorized into 'existants' and non-existants'.
For instance, the horns on a rabbit's head are, obviously, non-existants, but the mental image of the horns on a rabbits head is an existant.
(added) This from Bruno :
"l'incommunicabilité de l'expérience n'est que l'envers de sa singularité irremplaçable, singularité qu'il appartient à chacun de reconquérir pour soi-même, dans la patience et le travail"

Roughly ttranslated : The incommunability of experience is merely the other side of it's irreplacable singularity that is up to each of us to regain for him/herself, in patience and work.  



18 Aug 2016 @ 07:46 by National drink of Pakistan @182.186.141.16 : Malik
All the tragedy for Pakistan is constantly on the worsen like relief offers and benefit fall far besides what is. More benefit is frantically needed for the potential for enormous fatalities should begin to loom.  


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