Science plays a critically important role in our lives. It not only influences the technology we use, it also affects our politics (global warming being but one example), our religion (“Is God just a fantasy?”), our philosophies (“Live today for tomorrow you may die”), even how we think of ourselves both as individuals and as components of the community of all existing things.
Science has done arguably a better job selling itself as a kind of humanistic religion than most religions have done selling themselves in recent decades. In the process, western society has transformed itself into materialistic cultures of doubters, naysayers and acquisitors. We believe nothing is credible unless it can be proven and nothing is of value unless it can be related somehow to money, its acquisition and its spending. While science has not taught this directly, the belief results from the prevailing beliefs and structures of science and their pervasive influence on our lives.
The whole phenomenon of science influencing our lives in ways never intended may harken to our understanding of the human brain. We have two words, brain and mind, which science treats as equivalents. Science can deal with the brain because it’s a sensible part of our physiology, the organ that controls all other organs and the mechanics of our bodies.
Science has no way to comprehend or to deal with the concept of mind. That which it doesn’t understand, science treats as false or non-existent. By treating “mind” and “brain” as equivalents, science remains within its comfort zone. This comfort zone I think of as a box which science has created for itself and defined its own parameters. To science, if it can be explained or studied (preferably proved or potentially proved in the case of theories), a concept is within its comfort zone, thus may be accepted as “real.”
The brain accepts input from the five senses, information that travels along nerves which have specialized for their respective purposes. From this input, according to science, the brain devises its concept of the world around it, even of itself. What we believe we “are” results from the input we receive from others. Thus if others think of us and treat us as stupid or talented, we believe we are stupid or talented. In effect, life and everything in it remains within our brain. We are who we believe we are in our brain and the world is what it is according to what our brain has created as a concept of “what is.”
Moreover, science positions itself as the ultimate authority on “what is,” as it dictates that what science can understand and define should be all that we believe is correct and real. Science, through multiple sources, inputs that message of “provable equals real” into our brains to the point where many believe that only those things which we can detect using our senses are real. Wealth becomes the proof of our success because with it we can demonstrate that our net worth and our possessions show our superiority. Or, in the case of those incapable of or unwilling to accumulate wealth, their level of inferiority or failure.
This way of thinking, in itself, has made us into less important beings. It denies that thought means anything. It completely ignores consciousness because consciousness requires us to deal with what is outside of our brain. It insists that what we cannot sense or prove (hypothesis has little value until there is sufficient evidence to make it into at least a theory) either does not exist (a fantasy) or is of little value (a pastime).
This flies in the face of our experience. Almost every moment of every day we deal with things outside of our brain. Whereas science has us living our whole lives within our brain, our experience tells us that we must deal with things beyond the scope of our body and our brain in order to function. Science says nothing about that because it can’t explain consciousness or anything else that cannot be proved or at least theorized.
Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of the double helix of DNA, Francis Crick, called it the Astonishing Hypothesis. “‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules….This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people alive today that it can truly be called astonishing.” In other words, everything we know and understand is a construct of our brain, remaining within our brain, with who we are as individuals confined to our brain. Science teaches this–indirectly if not directly–and we tend to believe it, for the most part.
Mind you, our senses are anything but perfect. A planetarium can reproduce a night sky pattern so similar to what we could see with our eyes at night that we might be tempted to believe (as some ancients did) that the atmosphere is nothing but a screen onto which a projection of stars, planets and the moon has been sent. On the other hand, many people have experienced phenomenon that science calls paranormal (and considers itself generous at that). Despite the fact that many respected individuals have seen UFOs, for example, that cannot be explained by any understood natural or man made phenomenon, science still dubs these as deceptions of the brain.
Because science can reproduce sensations in the brain similar to those experienced by people who have been clinically dead (including seeing a bright light, sparkles and having a feeling of inner peace), then revived, it claims that near death experiences or experiences of having been to heaven then returned are nothing but hallucinations of the brain.
In his book The Sense of Being Stared At and Other Unexplained Powers of the Human Mind, Rupert Sheldrake cites several case studies of people who have sensed that they are being stared at by someone other than those in front of them, then turned around to find someone doing just that, meeting them eye to eye before turning away. Most of us have had such experiences, though science calls them coincidences. For some, that kind of coincidence would be like winning a lottery three times in the same week.
We imagine, science says, false explanations for events that are nothing more than coincidences or events that could be explained otherwise by scientific study. It calls everything that people experience but that science can’t explain paranormal, with their stories being anecdotes, until enough scientists (or “amateur wannabes”) do more extensive research and publish their results, in which situation they become case studies. Even case studies, science maintains, are not the same as proof.
Science has, inadvertently, turned us into beings of the here and now, believing nothing that cannot be explained by what science knows or theorizes today. Science, meanwhile, has told itself that its own theories are fact so often that it accepts its favourite theories as soon-to-be-proven or all-but-proven truths. Theories that go against widely accepted scientific theories receive little attention and much derision when they get some. Theories about gravity, evolution, even Einstein’s relativity have doubters, but they receive little acknowledgement. Yet even Einstein had doubts about some of his work.
The “discovery” of cold fusion by Fleishman and Pons and its subsequent media attention resulted in their careers being trashed, though several scientists support their results today and efforts are being carried out in the US and France to build plants that will produce electricity through fusion at near room temperatures. Science changes its tune (and soon forgets its errors) when evidence proves the preachings of the science establishment to be clearly wrong.We, as societies, have accepted that nothing that cannot be proven or at least supported by our senses can be true. Thus we accept what our brain tells us is fact, but ignore or deny what our mind tells us exists even though it cannot be explained.
Our brain takes in input from the senses, then processes it. However, what we “see” is not within our brain, as science suggests. Our mind projects the results of our thought out beyond our eyes so that what we see is not within our brain but a diorama that is outside of ourself, scenery through which we can negotiate and in which we conduct our lives.
If science cannot cope with what we know are realities, what our experiences tells us are real, we must accept that these are failings and inadequacies of science. It’s not the role of science to make the realities of our lives trivial or inconsequential, but to explain what it can with the limited tools it has developed for itself to work with.
Science is not the arbiter of reality in our lives, merely a tool we can use to explain some parts of our experience. We don’t use a hammer to drive a screw, nor do we deny the screw exists or claim it’s a figment of someone’s imagination because we don’t have a screwdriver. What science can’t do is its own problem, not one to be adopted by all of society.
Science should not determine what we believe is real, only explain what it can about why we understand something as being real. We should not accept the labels science applies to what it cannot explain, words such as paranormal and supernatural, even hallucination, as if science is the sole judge of what is normal, what is natural, what is reality and what is truth.
If science cannot understand the concepts of God, of nature on a global or universal scale, of unusual perceptions of the human brain or of concepts for which it has little or no evidence, that should not give it the right to claim these things don’t exist.
We should not give science that power over us and our lives. We have the potential to be much greater than science would allow is possible. Succumbing to the dictates of science makes us followers, as much as the followers of a false religion or an unmanageable political ideology.
There are some things about life, truths and realities, that we don’t understand. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It simply means that we can’t explain them.
And that’s just fine. We must not allow science to bully us into believing that they don’t exist or that they are figments of our imagination.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about easy solutions to apparently intractable problems. Those problems can be solved, but not if we keep looking at them in the same old unworkable ways. Those old ways cost us lots of money and cause us much emotional harm.
Learn more at http://billallin.com Resources:
Sheldrake, R., The Sense of Being Stared At And Other Unexplained Powers of the Human Mind, Crown Publishers, 2003
Crick, F., The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, Simon and Schuster, 1994