The scope of scientific endeavor has been restrained by the dogmas of naive realism and materialism, and the study of experience could be the new way forward.
Last week Bernardo Kastrup managed to get an article on quantum mechanics, which explained that philosophical idealism provided the most parsimonious interpretations to the results of experimentation in that field, published at the Scientific American blog. This is really quite a huge deal, since scientific publications, academia and practitioners have been willfully ignoring anything outside of materialism and naive realism for a long time, and have worked almost entirely from assumptions which have never been verified in any way whatsoever.
As big of a deal as that was, it will probably change very few scientist’s minds.
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” – Max Planck
However it was a great first step. Although only a small battle, it could mark a turning point in the trajectory of human thought.
There are those who believe that without scientific materialism and naive realism, science would be meaningless. If there is no external reality, then what is there to even study? How could any results gained from experimentation be meaningful if none were absolutely true in any way shape or form?
The issue here is the expectation that science can or does provide answers that are true in any way, shape or form. This is actually antithetical to the spirit of science, in which questioning is more fundamental than answering. It also ignores the fact that a phenomena or experience need not be true in any certain terms for it to profoundly affect the lives of humans.
If we view science, not as a quest for truth, but as a way for improving the lives of humans, than we can discard of any notion of absolutes and certainties. Then it might also follow that if we wished to improve human experiences, we focus our studies on experience itself.
Currently science asks questions about objects. It assumes that objects exist independently of an experience of them, although no such thing can be reliably illustrated, since we cannot interact with an object outside of an experience with it. In the nexus of these two intersecting dogmas, the human experience is relegated to experimental side notes.
But what if we tested experience itself? What if we studied the mental contents of the participants to see if there were certain similarities that gave rise to similar experiences? Let us make an example.
Say we wish to study a falling apple. Currently that study would be carried out by assuming that the apple, and the objects it fell relative to, are external from human experience. Given that assumption, it would also be assumed that the way to test the phenomena is to take objective measurements and then decide if the falling was an intrinsic property of apples or an intrinsic force the ephemeral ‘nature’ they fell within. Since objects have no agency, intrinsic properties are generally eschewed for intrinsic forces. God for modernists.
How could we study a falling apple without making any of these assumptions, and what would it say about the phenomena?
To do so we might gather 100 people, 50 of which believed that the apple would fall if dropped from a height, and fifty that did not, or were not sure. Next we have them observe an apple being dropped. Out of the one hundred, how many experienced the apple falling?
I chose this because it seems obvious that all 100 people would experience an apple falling. There is not a belief system in the entire world in which fruit floats. The fact that fruit falls is so highly interconnected with so many other things we expect and believe, that we cannot just pick that one belief as causative. Yet say we had a reliable control group. We have 50 believers, and then 50 people who grew up in zero gravity and were never instructed in beliefs relating to gravity in any way. Would those fifty also experience the apple falling, even in a setting where others did?
We are not able to yet answers such questions, for the simple fact that we have not been trying.
An easier thing to test might be the appearance of angels. In this regard we clearly have disparate groups whose sum of beliefs tends to support or deny the experience. It is of little surprise then that the experience seems isolated to those whose beliefs and expectations support such an outcome. Historically science has just assumed they were all hallucinating or too stupid and unscientifically trained to know better. And yet many of these individuals were impacted so greatly by a visit from a miraculous entity it changed the entire course of their lives. How is that different from a ‘real’ experience?
To be honest, I only have a rough idea of how a science based on experience would work. This is not just because I am not a trained scientist, but because there are a lack of examples to work from. It is such a different way of viewing science that there are not concepts or terms available to clarify with. It would be like asking Wagner to describe how rock and roll could possibly function, before there was rock and roll. And yet Wagner’s musical influence is a direct part of the musical heritage that gave birth to rock music. I may not be able to describe in great detail the workings of a science of experience, but I hope my work suggests future adaptations and evolution.
It would be my hope that reading this might implore a few scientists to experiment in this way. However my own experiences tend to support the idea that they will instead respond with reactionary argumentation and ridicule, rather than testing. Can you tell me, is this an intrinsic property of me, of scientists, a force of nature…or am I just experiencing what I pretty much already expect and believe?