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Science's "Big Problem": Mind, Matter and Humanity

If you've been following us for any length of time, you're probably familiar with our critiques of the Newtonian materialist worldview and its impact on the practice of science. Science has, for good and for evil, given us the ability to understand and control our environment in astounding ways.

But that very enterprise of control, of rationalization, springs from a moment in our history when we anointed the rational mind in place of an increasingly-distant God, and when, as a legacy of Western theology, we looked upon nature as a field of resources for our exploitation. Controlling our world became a means of trying to fill our inner emptiness in the post-religious age.

As a result, when science leads us into realms that frustrate the narrative of the rational mind exercising dominion over a mechanistic and reducible universe, there is always resistance.

Science and the "Touchy-Feely Stuff"

Science has a hard time assimilating the idea that the psychological, spiritual and social realms actually impact the hard empirical realm it prefers to deal with. Why else would the placebo effect, the mind's ability to heal the body for seemingly no other reason than belief, have been treated as a statistical artifact to be controlled for rather than a miraculous ability to be harnessed? The same attitude retards our ability to treat the psychological dimension of disease in a way that improves the physical outcome.

The same problem occurs whenever scientific investigation finds any significant results for what Western science considers paranormal phenomena. Take this article, for example: 'Daryl Bem Proved ESP Is Real Which means science is broken'. Actually, it's not broken. It's just that the concerted effort of science to ignore the implications of its own findings for the materialist worldview is breaking down.

The Hard Question

In a talk so provocative that TEDx censored it, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake lays out the hidden ideological assumptions of the Newtonian materialist worldview which contaminate the objectivity of science in dealing with any sphere of inquiry that intersects with what even science calls the “Hard Question” – consciousness.

An interview discussing the ban on this talk and the ideological dogmatism that led to it can be found here.  More from Rupert on the same topic here.


The Western scientific paradigm, unlike its antecedents in other parts of the world, is inherently reductionist. It looks at the micro scale first - finding a chemical that will reduce the symptoms of an illness, for example, rather than looking at how the illness changes the global functioning of the organism.

The philosophical idea of oneness is thus inherently strange to our science, but also seems to be gaining some traction within it. At the same time, science tends to resist applications of scientific knowledge that directly impact human well-being through non-mechanistic means.

This article covers a study that delves into the psychological and social impact of a belief in oneness, with the suggestion that such belief enhances not only personal well-being, but society in general.

For more on this issue, have a look at the Youtube channel Science and Nonduality. This vast archive documents an interdisciplinary attempt to get the conversation between science and philosophy/spirituality going. You'll notice, however, in many of the videos and comment sections, that a good proportion of the scientists are still on the other side of a mindset barrier.

The Scientific Society

Science's mindset problem with regard to its own evidence should make us wary of another popular idea: making public policy according to scientific 'objectivity'.

Amidst today's social strife, it's easy to embrace 'scientism', the utopian belief in a world run according to scientific evidence.

Except, as history has shown us through Social Darwinism, Eugenics, Phrenology, Scientific Racism etc. which contributed hugely to bad public policy in democracies, not to mention fascist states, and to say nothing of the scientific veneer of Soviet communism, there is no such thing as 'evidence alone'.

The scientific community interpreting it always brings in its own biases. And incidentally, many of those strains of once-accepted bad science have living descendants in today's scientific theories.

There is no such thing as 'acting empirically'. The data cannot determine our personal values, belief structures, imperatives, because the data inherently is devoid of these qualities which only consciousness possesses.

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