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Rupert Sheldrake – Science Set Free

January 7, 2019

Materialism is the doctrine that only matter is real. Hence minds are in brains, and mental activity is nothing but brain activity.

I am currently reading this book by Rupert Sheldrake. It asks a lot of the same questions I have always considered in relation to the mainstream view of science. He talks about the metaphysical dogmas that underlie this view and queries them. This one in particular, regarding the notion that that mind is reducible to brain activity, is a common one that sets the whole orientation and agenda for paid research in science, even though the proof of it seemingly remains forever out of reach.

For me, ever since reading Berkeley, and having a moment of insight, I have been free of this particular metaphysical dogma. Because the more you look into it, the more you realise that this view is not something you hold on any proof, it is something you have been trained to accept. As Sheldrake says:

This assumption conflicts with our own experience. When we look at a blackbird, we see a blackbird; we do not experience complex electrical changes in our brains. But most of us accepted the mind-within-the-brain theory before we ever had a chance to question it. We took it for granted as children because it seemed to be supported by all the authority of science and the educational system.

To be is to be perceived is the fundamental insight of the view that I hold on this. Anyone who postulates an unperceivable being is for me setting up a castle in the sky.

Of course it does then raise the question, where is consciousness if it is not merely contained in, or reducible to the brain?

It is more difficult when we get into ontological questions like this, and we must make many speculations without much support. I suppose this is why many prefer the comfort and safety of the ontology that science provides for people. But I think it is better to see the brain more as a filter or transmitter of information, rather than as a source of it.

Scientific method insists on the starting assumption of randomness. We then do experiments to find patterns and order and causal connections. If information is everywhere, this would undermine this background assumption of randomness. Thus, it seems we are stuck with a science that is unable to see mind as anything other than a strange and curious emanation of a brain.

I don’t have any problem with it as a methodological device, the problem is when it becomes an ontological belief. For many now, it has become this latter unfortunately. They really believe that “the brain”, itself a conceptual formation we have formed through use of our minds, is the creator of that mind itself. It’s really a ludicrous position where we are letting our model of reality dictate our reality. It would be like disbelieving the existence of a lake in some location where you are reading from a map that says there is no lake there. You cannot hide in your map and ignore reality. Similarly you cannot hide in conceptual maps of the brain and ignore the reality of your own awareness.

We must never lose trust of our intuition for reality. If others want to, then let them. But don’t let them dictate the terms by which you make judgements yourself in life.

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