The Spirit of Science

(This post started as a Facebook post that someone asked me to recreate as a blog entry.  You may notice the tone is different from my other blogs, and that is the reason.  For a great resource along the lines of this topic I recommend Rupert Sheldrake’s book Science Set Free.)

There’s an article in Newsweek by a neurologist who went through seven days of coma in which his cortex, all the “higher” centers of the brain, the parts that we would attribute to our mental awareness and cognitive and sensory functions, were shut down.  During that time he was still conscious and experienced the expanded sense of reality that people like mystics, meditators, and those with spiritual practices have experienced and described over the centuries. He now believes that the brain does not create consciousness and he is courageously taking on the dogma of reductionistic materialism that is currently the accepted position in the scientific community.

While one person’s experience is not “proof” of anything, especially not in the world of science, it brings up one of my long-term soap boxes about how this kind of phenomena are treated which is often with prejudice and derision.  In my view, science is about exploration, it is about being curious about the world. It isn’t about forming dogmatic opinions and being closed to other possibilities. Our current understanding of the world is a fluid theory that will change as our technology changes and as new territories of exploration open up.  Those new territories are not often readily accepted. For example when germ theory was first proposed it was treated with derision, now germs are a fact of life we take for granted.  This particular way of responding to the frontier of discovery has happened many times-first it is mocked and fought, then over time it is considered established fact.  Just because science can’t explain something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That kind of reasoning is complete fallacy. Gravity existed before the theory of gravity, germs existed before germ theory, etc.

Expanded, non-local states of consciousness are experienced.  Science is moving towards theories that can account for that phenomenon, mostly from quantum theory and morphic field theory, but there is currently a lot of experiential evidence with little in the way of scientifically acceptable experimentation. That doesn’t mean that non-local states of consciousness do not exist and that that kind of phenomena can’t lead to viable theories we can at least be curious about.  Science is not meant to be the judge and jury about what is real. It is a tool for exploring life, it gives us valuable information, and it is also limited. It was also never meant to deny experiential evidence on the basis that it can’t currently be measured in a laboratory. Experiential evidence is the fodder for curiosity and points us in the direction of new frontiers. Science follows life, life doesn’t follow science.

I have a lot of respect for people like Dr. Alexander (Newsweek Nov. 26) who are willing to step out of the realm of scientific dogma and take a stand for a largely unaccepted and derided position.