| 3 Jun 2004 @ 06:24, by ming|
From Ming the Mechanic: 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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.