Is Science Worth Keeping?

Facebook Twitter Reddit Email

Super tired, very late, but I want to get as much of this train of thought posted as I can manage for the moment.

In my previous post, I alluded to this question which has been kind of haunting me of late and challenging some parts of my current worldview. My train of thought on the matter has been: if the “Fall” represents the introduction of dualism, causing our Western belief that we are separate from Nature and from the Mind Inside Nature, and producing ecocidal insanity; then the basis of any sustainable, post-apocalypse, anthropocene society has to be either a return to monism, or the emergence of a new kind of monist cognition. Dualist cognition is simply unsustainable and will destroy itself and everything else along with it. Therefore whatever might go into a Third Testament needs to support a monist worldview and culture.

Science is the very epitome of a dualist worldview. There is no science without a dualist split between observer and observed. Everything science has delivered serves to further entrench the chasm between good/evil, self/other, haves/have-nots, living/dead, and so on. For example, the theory of evolution describes the way in which species separate from one another; the big bang theory describes the separation of matter and energy from each other; Kepler’s laws apply to a dead machinework.

I am all for science as a method of inquiry. In fact, I can’t imagine how some future anthropocene culture might rebuild itself without scientific inquiry into the new state of the global and local environments. But in its current state science has so much baggage I also can’t help but think it would do more harm than good. I think if science is to be preserved, it needs to be purged of its religiosity.

Referring again to Rupert Sheldrake’s talk, he describes this religiosity as: “The belief that science has already understood the nature of reality in principle, leaving only the details to be filled in.” Absolutely nothing could be farther from the truth. The nature of reality is entirely dependent upon the person (entity?) who’s reality one is talking about. Some objects and phenomena hold constant across a majority of peoples’ perceived realities, but never across everyone’s. I have learned, via much distress, that reality is rather quite pliable. And I think anyone who has any hope of surviving into the anthropocene has no choice but to reject certainty in favor of probabilities, that is to say, pliability.

Sheldrake lays out the 10 religious dogmas of science thus:

  1. The belief that nature is mechanical, or machine-like
  2. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same, except at the moment of the big bang when it all appeared from nowhere
  3. The laws of nature are fixed
  4. Matter is unconscious
  5. Nature is purposeless
  6. Biological inheritance is material
  7. Memories are stored as material traces inside the brain
  8. The mind is inside the head. Mental activity is brain activity.
  9. Psychic phenomena are illusory
  10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that works

All of this has to go in order to survive civilizational collapse and climate shift into its new homeostatic state.

I was planning to go thru these one by one describing the ways in which they are incompatible with a monist/sustainable society, but it is now 4:00 a.m. and I must sleep. Maybe I’ll make that exercise “part 2″ providing my health holds up. So stay tuned… I guess this is a good place to suggest that if you’d like to get email notifications of new posts, you can sign up for those in the right-hand column. I promise I won’t spam you. (Although to my great embarrassment I did accidentally spam everyone once when I was reorganizing my post categories, but I know now how to avoid that in the future.)

8 Responses

  1. Brandon says:

    Long ago quantum physics began to realize that the observer and observed can’t be separated. Unfortunately for the pride of science, this undermines our ability to exactly measure and understand the world. Science wanted so badly to be the one that figured it all out, but instead it has ultimately found the “unfigureoutableness” of the universe. Ie. uncertanty. The ultimate realization of this has gone largely misunderstood in the scientific community. The religiousity of science that you speak of is this clinging to the desire to know all. The fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. So the rising dogma of science is now its undermining. The pride of certain knowledge will be its death just as this knowledge lead to the death of adam and eve. The saving gace of science, the pheonix which will rise from the ashes, is the former humility it once had. When the dust has settled science will continue to set the example of how to listen to voice of the universe. You are right that the religion and the dogma of science must fail. In its place should rise the ultimate humility that made science what it is. The future of science is not the religion it has ironically become. The future of science is the humble serving of mankind as the ear constantly listening for the rebuke of God.

  2. Cozee says:

    Looking forward to your future postings.

  3. Medora says:

    Let me offer another perspective on the dilemma I think you pose in your opening paragraph. First, I don’t know that dualism is the problem. If you think about Yang and Yin, they are a dualism yet the yang/yin circle with black and white dancing and each of them containing a small circle of the other says to me, anyway, that it isn’t the dualism that’s the problem, it’s not letting the opposite things ebb, flow, ebb…in the mysterious unknowable rhythm of the Tao. Second, I want to think about dualistic cognition and monistic cognition the way Jung might. Hegel too maybe since Jung says he got it from Hegel. That is that they are two different types of cognition and they are opposed in our minds. They have strengths and weaknesses. There are times for one and times for the other. If we hold them both and refuse to choose between them, Jung would say that we are caught in the tension of the opposites. We have to hold that tension, not fall on either side, and a third thing will emerge. We have no way of knowing in advance what that third thing will be. It is a mystery. I have found that works in dilemmas I’ve had over the years. I don’t experience it exactly the way Jung describes it, but when I’m in an impossible place and I hate the tension I’m feeling if I can stay with it, it often shifts.

    Thanks for posting Sheldrakes ten scientific dogmas! I put them in a document to keep.

    • Paula says:

      hi Medora, thanks for your comment! I should really try to be more precise with my language, a lot of times I stumble in trying to express myself just simply because I don’t have the proper words.

      I don’t mean to set up a dualism between “dualism” and “monism.” By monism I mean something like the Tao itself — yin and yang to me are not a dualism so much as a complementarity, contained within the Tao, whereas a hard dualism is more like how most perceive their own shadow projections — the illusion that there is no complementarity or reconciliation at all.

      Maybe “unism” is a better word for what I mean? I don’t know.

      In any event, my opinion is that the hard distinction between “observer” and “observed” needs to be understood not as a separation between granular, distinct entities, but rather as complementary aspects of a larger whole, like the Tao, or in the language of Genesis that I use here at my blog, Elohim.

      • ulvfugl says:

        Hi Paula, others,

        May I throw in my thoughts ?

        The way I see it, those premodern people, trying to make sense of existence, discovered, via introspection, that there is a unitary condition where one merges with the all and distinctions appear to disappear, so to speak.

        This is mentioned from traditions all around the world. And called by many many names, e.g. the Chinese one, the Tao.

        So, because they had no other possible approach, they build a cosmology that arises form that initial One-ness, and assume that is the Origin, the Creator.

        They’ve discovered this by means of introspection, by meditation. But then they find that they return to the rather obvious division, between the self which has had this experience and ‘the world’, the self and the other, etc..

        What seems to happen, is that the different traditions try to resolve this somewhat mysterious problem in many different ways, and hence we get a lot of confusion, for example, Brahman and Atman, Yin and Yang, the Creator and the Creation, the Pleroma, and many more.

        I think I look upon this as ‘folk science’, as it were. The people, or some of them, were just as smart, sincere, dedicated, as any of us, and they were trying to probe fundamental reality by investigating their subjective experience, and mapping the result to make a cosmology.

        The results still stand, but now we have modern science and modern psychology and modern neuroscience and brain scanning and so on, and so it’s interesting to juxtapose these and see what we get.

        The current scientific cosmology replaces the Divine origin if the creation in the world’s mythologies, with the Big Bang. As Sheldrake/Mckenna point out ‘Give us one free miracle, then science and physics can do the rest’.

        We’ve also got the Western intellectual philosophical tradition of ontological and epistemological thought.

        For the first time ever, because of the internet, we are able to collect all these different strands together and compare and contrast them and see how the resulting picture actually looks. This is quite amazing !

      • medora says:

        I couldn’t agree more. I’m headed out to a big meeting but look forward to following your posts and others when I get back.

  4. Brutus says:

    Chiming in my worthless $0.02 fiat currency here.

    ulvfugl and I have discussed the issue of worldview and cosmology elsewhere, and your post brings yet another slant to the issue. It’s hard for me to approach this stuff in the abstract, so let me personalize it a bit. I’m probably bent more on the scientific/materialist/dogmatic side of things as you describe above with Sheldrake’s 10 religious dogmas. They’re dogma for a reason, though that doesn’t make them right, necessarily. But while my thinking is in part a product of the scientific worldview shared by so many others around us, I find it unsatisfactory to adopt with any gusto. The lack of meaning at the center and rootlessness bothers me, and itt leads to anomie and nihilism, I think. Still, I’m unable to sense any kind of luminous presence or purpose beyond my hardened ego boundaries. Others find that presence or purpose in lots of different things, but training the mind to think analytically and rationally makes it difficult to accept the intuitive and spiritual as anything other than self-delusion.

    In that respect, a fair number of us a ruined people even if we’re not actively pillaging and plundering the planet for personal gain. We can’t make the shift or leap to another worldview and retain character integrity. That development awaits whoever can make it through the bottleneck (if any) and forge some kind of new social matrix. Maybe that will be your Third Testament, which either expunges or incorporates science to some salutary degree. However, I have a hard time seeing humanity becoming suddenly wizened or self-reflective even after serious shocks to our fundamental epistemology.

  5. vera says:

    Paula, may your new year be healthier! Been missing your spunky posts. :-)

~ comments are closed ~