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Fundamental assumptions of science

or: The Great Ontological Misunderstanding

Western civilization in a way can be thought of as an accumulated series of misunderstandings.

Terence McKenna [source]

First, the definitions:

science (n.)
1. the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

scientism (n.)
1. excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques.
2. the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measurable.

materialism (n.)
1. the doctrine that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications.
2. the doctrine that consciousness and will are wholly due to material agency.

physicalism (n.)
1. the doctrine that the real world consists simply of the physical world.

doctrine (n.)
1. a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group.
2. a body or system of teachings relating to a particular subject: the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

dogma (n.)
1. a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true [i.e. taken on faith].

assumption (n.)
1. a thing [or idea or concept] that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

What is science and scientism?

Science is a method and tool for ontological understanding — hence there is no problem with science per se. The problem lies with scientism, the established belief system that science's ontological explanatory power is supreme and sufficient. This view, or ideology, is based upon some initial assumptions that, once examined, are revealed to be baseless dogmas.

We have numerous, extremely naïve assumptions built into our thinking, and our most venerable explanatory engines, such as science, happen also to be our oldest explanatory engines, and therefore they have built into them the most naïve and unexamined assumptions.

Terence McKenna

The principal fundamental assumption is this:

  • The assumption that the material/physical world is the fundamental "thing" from which reality is made.

This assumption is shown to be bogus most eloquently by physicist Peter Russell:

Peter Russell - The Primacy of Consciousness

Physicist Peter Russell masterfully guides the viewer to the inescapable conclusion that consciousness is more fundamental than matter.

From that assumption — known as physicalism, or fundamentalist-materialism — other assumptions immediately follow (these are largely borrowed from Rupert Sheldrake and Terence McKenna):

  1. The assumption that science already understands the nature of reality, leaving only the details to be filled in
  2. The assumption that matter is unconscious, insentient, dead
  3. The assumption that the laws of nature are fixed (physical constants like the speed of light)
  4. The assumption that nature (and evolution) is purposeless, blind, random
  5. The assumption that memory must be stored somewhere, somehow, materially, in the brain
  6. The assumption that the mind exists only inside the head
  7. The assumption that anything outside the paradigm ("paranormal" phenomena) must be illusory
  8. The assumption that mechanistic (materialist) medicine is the only healing paradigm that works
  9. The assumption that time is linear and not (significantly) influenced by higher dimensions

Experimental biologist Rupert Sheldrake most eloquently summarizes these assumptions:

Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion

Is the world really a purposeless machine? Independent scientist Rupert Sheldrake challenges the orthodoxies of scientism.

In a genuine quest to conduct basic research into the nature of reality (existence), one does not begin with ontological assumptions.

Once elucidated, these unquestioned assumptions are revealed as what they are: the dogmas of modern science — the imposition of philosophical materialism/physicalism into science. This leads to some rather unexplainable mysteries, such as:

  • How does consciousness arise from unconscious matter?

This is known as the Hard Problem of consciousness or simply 'Hard Problem', but is more accurately called the Hard Problem of science — or, as Peter Russell explains, the impossible problem of science:

The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why we have qualia or phenomenal experiences—how sensations acquire characteristics, such as colors and tastes. David Chalmers, who introduced the term "hard problem" of consciousness, contrasts this with the "easy problems" of explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, etc. Easy problems are easy because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they may be, can be entirely consistent with the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomena. Chalmers claims that the problem of experience is distinct from this set, and he argues that the problem of experience will "persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained".

The existence of a "hard problem" is controversial and has been disputed by some philosophers. Providing an answer to this question could lie in understanding the roles that physical processes play in creating consciousness and the extent to which these processes create our subjective qualities of experience.

Several questions about consciousness must be resolved in order to acquire a full understanding of it. These questions include, but are not limited to, whether being conscious could be wholly described in physical terms, such as the aggregation of neural processes in the brain. If consciousness cannot be explained exclusively by physical events, it must transcend the capabilities of physical systems and require an explanation of nonphysical means. For philosophers who assert that consciousness is nonphysical in nature, there remains a question about what outside of physical theory is required to explain consciousness.

Simply put, science has no way to explain consciousness because it is operating under these assumptions.

These assumptions were never examined when they were adopted, which effectively makes them dogmas. If science — or, rather, the ideology that controls the process of science, namely scientism — is founded on dogmas, then scientism — and by extension what people perceive as science itself — is a religion! Scientism dominates the scientific "establishment", the mainstream of Western science, which is deeply attached to these fundamental materialist dogmas.

Over the last few centuries, this has become the dominant worldview in the West, in large part due to the impressive technological advancements made possible by science (the tool).

Science is an incredibly fragile edifice, which if it weren't for its ability to hand its findings on to technologists to make pretty things, it would have to take its place somewhere to the left of... oh I don't know, homeopathy, accupressure, something like that. In other words, it is not a meta-theory, it has not got truth by the jugular; it has a bunch of fishy mathematical formulae, which it's flailing you with, but I think that serious revision of probability theory will have to take place....

Terence McKenna, The Tree of Knowledge

Eastern peoples, on the other hand, have always had a different understanding of reality. Eastern philosophies (which are not really comparable to the Abrahamic religions) describe knowledge that materialist science has no ability to even approach.


Similar to the idea of a metatheory ...

A metatheory or meta-theory is a theory whose subject matter is some theory. All fields of research share some meta-theory, regardless whether this is explicit or correct. In a more restricted and specific sense, in mathematics and mathematical logic, metatheory means a mathematical theory about another mathematical theory.

The following is an example of a meta-theoretical statement:

Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis; you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory.

Meta-theoretical investigations are generally part of philosophy of science. Also a metatheory is an object of concern to the area in which the individual theory is conceived.

... a metaparadigm refers to the underlying assumptions behind/beyond the paradigm of science. Wikipedia defines paradigm this way:

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the basic meaning of the term paradigm as "a typical example or pattern of something; a pattern or model". The historian of science Thomas Kuhn gave it its contemporary meaning when he adopted the word to refer to the set of practices that define a scientific discipline at any particular period of time. In his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Kuhn defines a scientific paradigm as: "universally recognized scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions for a community of practitioners, i.e.,

  • what is to be observed and scrutinized
  • the kind of questions that are supposed to be asked and probed for answers in relation to this subject
  • how these questions are to be structured
  • how the results of scientific investigations should be interpreted
  • how is an experiment to be conducted, and what equipment is available to conduct the experiment.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn saw the sciences as going through alternating periods of normal science, when an existing model of reality dominates a protracted period of puzzle-solving, and revolution, when the model of reality itself undergoes sudden drastic change. Paradigms have two aspects. Firstly, within normal science, the term refers to the set of exemplary experiments that are likely to be copied or emulated. Secondly, underpinning this set of exemplars are shared preconceptions, made prior to – and conditioning – the collection of evidence. These preconceptions embody both hidden assumptions and elements that he describes as quasi-metaphysical; the interpretations of the paradigm may vary among individual scientists.

Kuhn was at pains to point out that the rationale for the choice of exemplars is a specific way of viewing reality: that view and the status of "exemplar" are mutually reinforcing. For well-integrated members of a particular discipline, its paradigm is so convincing that it normally renders even the possibility of alternatives unconvincing and counter-intuitive. Such a paradigm is opaque, appearing to be a direct view of the bedrock of reality itself, and obscuring the possibility that there might be other, alternative imageries hidden behind it. The conviction that the current paradigm is reality tends to disqualify evidence that might undermine the paradigm itself; this in turn leads to a build-up of unreconciled anomalies. It is the latter that is responsible for the eventual revolutionary overthrow of the incumbent paradigm, and its replacement by a new one. Kuhn used the expression paradigm shift (see below) for this process, and likened it to the perceptual change that occurs when our interpretation of an ambiguous image "flips over" from one state to another. (The rabbit-duck illusion is an example: it is not possible to see both the rabbit and the duck simultaneously.) This is significant in relation to the issue of incommensurability.

A currently accepted paradigm would be the standard model of physics. The scientific method would allow for orthodox scientific investigations into phenomena which might contradict or disprove the standard model; however grant funding would be proportionately more difficult to obtain for such experiments, depending on the degree of deviation from the accepted standard model theory which the experiment would be expected to test for. To illustrate the point, an experiment to test for the mass of neutrinos or the decay of protons (small departures from the model) would be more likely to receive money than experiments to look for the violation of the conservation of momentum, or ways to engineer reverse time travel.

Put most simply by Kuhn, a paradigm is "a set of scientific and metaphysical beliefs that make up a theoretical framework within which scientific theories can be tested, evaluated and if necessary revised."

Scientific revolutions

About The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Wikipedia says:

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a 1962 book about the history of science by Thomas S. Kuhn. Its publication was a landmark event in the history, philosophy, and sociology of scientific knowledge and triggered an ongoing worldwide assessment and reaction in—and beyond—those scholarly communities. Kuhn challenged the then prevailing view of progress in "normal science." Normal scientific progress was viewed as "development-by-accumulation" of accepted facts and theories. Kuhn argued for an episodic model in which periods of such conceptual continuity in normal science were interrupted by periods of revolutionary science. The discovery of "anomalies" during revolutions in science leads to new paradigms. New paradigms then ask new questions of old data, move beyond the mere "puzzle-solving" of the previous paradigm, change the rules of the game and the "map" directing new research.

For example, Kuhn's analysis of the Copernican Revolution emphasized that, in its beginning, it did not offer more accurate predictions of celestial events, such as planetary positions, than the Ptolemaic system, but instead appealed to some practitioners based on a promise of better, simpler, solutions that might be developed at some point in the future. Kuhn called the core concepts of an ascendant revolution its "paradigms" and thereby launched this word into widespread analogical use in the second half of the 20th century. Kuhn's insistence that a paradigm shift was a mélange of sociology, enthusiasm and scientific promise, but not a logically determinate procedure, caused an uproar in reaction to his work. Kuhn addressed concerns in the 1969 postscript to the second edition. For some commentators it introduced a realistic humanism into the core of science while for others the nobility of science was tarnished by Kuhn's introduction of an irrational element into the heart of its greatest achievements.

The methodological skeptic and psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna sums up Kuhn's clarification on the actual "irrational" origin of our major "intellectual rational revolutions" that we presume underlie our science:

Terence McKenna ~ Science Was Founded by an Angel

Terence McKenna gives a surprise tidbit about Descartes Inspiration in 1619 for the foundation of modern science and the internal gnostic voices of Socrates and Plato...

Paradigm shifts and paradigm paralysis

Wikipedia explains further:

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn wrote that "Successive transition from one paradigm to another via revolution is the usual developmental pattern of mature science." (p. 12)

Paradigm shifts tend to be most dramatic in sciences that appear to be stable and mature, as in physics at the end of the 19th century. At that time, a statement generally attributed to physicist Lord Kelvin famously claimed, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." Five years later, Albert Einstein published his paper on special relativity, which challenged the very simple set of rules laid down by Newtonian mechanics, which had been used to describe force and motion for over two hundred years. In this case, the new paradigm reduces the old to a special case in the sense that Newtonian mechanics is still a good model for approximation for speeds that are slow compared to the speed of light. Philosophers and historians of science, including Kuhn himself, ultimately accepted a modified version of Kuhn's model, which synthesizes his original view with the gradualist model that preceded it. Kuhn's original model is now generally seen as too limited.

Kuhn's idea was itself revolutionary in its time, as it caused a major change in the way that academics talk about science. Thus, it may be that it caused or was itself part of a "paradigm shift" in the history and sociology of science. However, Kuhn would not recognize such a paradigm shift. Being in the social sciences, people can still use earlier ideas to discuss the history of science.

Perhaps the greatest barrier to a paradigm shift, in some cases, is the reality of paradigm paralysis: the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking. This is similar to what psychologists term Confirmation bias. Examples include rejection of Galileo's theory of a heliocentric universe, the discovery of electrostatic photography, xerography and the quartz clock.[citation needed]

A metaparadigm, as explained in the above presentation by Peter Russell, is the underlying paradigm of the scientific paradigms — the paradigm of paradigms — or, put another way, the fundamental assumptions underlying the paradigms.

The fundamentalist-materialist metaparadigm can be seen as a subset of a larger metaparadigm (what could be called a meta-metaparadigm, but that would be redundant): the objective reality metaparadigm, which emerges from the illusion of separation.

Is there an alternative?

We in the West are not exposed to alternative ideas, so we live our lives believing that we are little beings in an unfathomably large Universe that has no capacity to care for our well-being.

The French philosopher René Descartes came to the conclusion that he could doubt everything, except the fact that he exists. He summed up the idea with his famous phrase cogito ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am", or better "I am thinking, therefore I exist"). As he explained, "we cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt". All knowledge can be doubted, but existence cannot, hence ontology preceeds epistemology. This, the application of methodological skepticism (Cartesian doubt), can thus be seen as the only genuine ontological starting point. It is in fact the starting point of the subjective reality metaparadigm.

As physicist Tom Campbell — who has created the first scientific model of the subjective reality metaparadigm (and by extension first serious/consequential Theory Of Everything, or Big TOE) — observes, science (the scientific method) is based on the assumption of an objective reality. For the scientific enterprise to maintain its façade as an arbiter of truth, an assumption of some kind of an objective reality must be held onto: the assumption that reality exists objectively on its own, to some degree, on some level, without consciousness to experience it.

The alternative to the scientific (scientistic) metaparadigm is what is being said in Eastern (and ancient Western) philosophies, by mystics, by the experience of nondual awareness, and by (apparently) extraterrestrial and extradimensional beings communicating with Humanity in more subtle ways than (the preachers of) science (empirical reductionism) would have us believe is possible. All one has to do is encounter the information and focus attention to it. The problem (or challenge) is that we are constantly saturated with extremely high amounts of extraneous information. The Internet, while exponentially increasing the amount of extraneous information, is at the same time changing this, as sites like YouTube allow one to learn more about these ideas in a few months than one could in a lifetime only a decade ago.

Alternative assumption worth considering

  • Experientially shared reality elements are co-creations rather than objective independent elements. Reality exists within consciousness.

Thus there is an ontological duality of objective reality metaparadigm vs. subjective reality metaparadigm. They are about the same age, with the latter model existing/surviving in the form of the Vedas of the Hindu culture (and similar Eastern ontological lenses), and the former metaparadigm existing in the West for some thousands of years.

Physics and metaphysics

Quoting Wikipedia:

Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as natural philosophy. Originally, the term "science" (Latin scientia) simply meant "knowledge". The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy. By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called "science" to distinguish it from philosophy. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence. Some philosophers of science, such as the neo-positivists, say that natural science rejects the study of metaphysics, while other philosophers of science strongly disagree.

The scientific method is the holy grail of scientism. In this exclusionist religion, nothing outside of the scope of the scientific method is considered real — including one's experience, which has been reduced to the notion of "qualia".

Mechanical/biochemical medicine

The epidemic of chronic diseases in the West is no surprise at all. Not only is Western medicine entirely fundamentalist-materialist, it failed to incorporate its big brother's (physics) discoveries into its paradigm. Western medicine, while filled with mostly caring individuals, is an industry of sickness and death, run for the profit of industry — particularly the pharmaceutical industry.

In the East, in contrast, the very idea of "chronic disease" is pretty much unknown outside of poverty and malnutrition, because they don't have a reductionist fundamentalist-materialist mindset and thus understand more effective methods of healing:

From the time of Dionysius to the time of Plato, the cultures of the Mediterranean consented to the doctrine that claimed the existence of an order of ultimate reality which lies beyond apparent reality.

This "paranormal" reality was accessible to the consciousness only when the "normal" routines of mental data processing were dislocated. It was Plato's pupil Aristotle who changed his teacher's game, separating physics from metaphysics. The philosophical temper of our present civilization, being scientifically and technically oriented, is basically Aristotelian.

No such rational figure as Aristotle arose in the Orient to a position of equal eminence. Because of this and other reasons, Indian anatomists and zoologists, who where no doubt just as curious as the Greeks about the origins of life, and as skilled in dissection, did not feel compelled to set their disciplines up in opposition to metaphysics. Physical and metaphysical philosophy remained joined like Siamese twins.

As a result, the discipline which became medicine in the West evolved into a system known as Kundalini Yoga in the Hindu culture.

In Western terms, Kundalini Yoga can be best understood as a biological statement contained within the language of the poetic metaphor. The system makes the attempt of joining the seeming disparate entities of body and mind.

Richard Alan Miller, The Biological Function of the Third Eye

Plato and Aristotle physics/metaphysics divideAristotle gestures to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge through empirical observation, while Plato gestures to the heavens, representing his belief in the Forms.

So Aristotle reduced the parameters of ontological enquiry in Western thought.

A further ontological reduction happened with Newtonian mechanics. As Bruce Lipton points out, it started with Newton determining the motions of the planets; this, and the discoveries that followed, convinced the founders of (the anti-conventional-religion religion of) science that no "spiritual" (non-material) ideas are needed to explain reality. But around 1925, the idea upon which that reasoning was based (Newtonian mechanics), was shown to be only a subset of a much larger kind of physics: quantum physics.

How come our leading cosmologists can't figure this out?

Mainstream-paradigmatic (i.e. fundamentalist-materialist, i.e. dogmatic) "leading edge" scientists, such as Michio Kaku, often ask: "How can the universe be so complex?"

Good question, but why bother asking it if you are not willing to "dig deep enough" — or, rather, reverse the direction of the digging after considering the possibility of a dead end?

If you know that the universe is unbelievably complex, and you are (presumably) engaging in an endeavour to figure out how it works, does it not make sense to act like a true scientist and step all the way back to the beginning of the endeavour, and reconsider everything — epistemologically, ontologically, and philosophically — from the starting point?

It is incumbent on them to step all the way back to the initial assumptions of the tool/method they are using (the scientific method), and to examine the assumptions they started out with, especially now that they have been pointed out by their colleagues, such as (formerly-mainstream) biologist Rupert Sheldrake or NASA physicist Tom Campbell.

Make no mistake about it: the overturning of a scientific paradigm is a political act, and it has to do with reputations, and tenure, and publication, and people who have built their lives defending something they now see under severe attack.

Terence McKenna

Unfortunately, in the West, careerism trumps truth. The ego identifies itself with the time/effort/money "spent" in the dead ends of mainstream science (scientism), making the otherwise highly capable scientist ignore the logic that "threatens" the ego's sense of self-validation and position in "the world".

I still believe the universe has a beginning in real time, at the big bang. But there's another kind of time, imaginary time, at right angles to real time, in which the universe has no beginning or end. This would mean that the way the universe began would be determined by the laws of physics. One wouldn't have to say that God chose to set the universe going in some arbitrary way that we couldn't understand. It says nothing about whether or not God exists - just that He isn't arbitrary.

Stephen Hawking

Hawking seems to have realized that imagination is the receiving of information that exists at right angles to the dimension of time. Good luck devising any kind of experiment to "objectively verify" that idea, though.

Just as we envision all of space as really being out there, as really existing, we should also envision all of time as really being out there, as really existing, too. Past, present and future certainly appear to be distinct entities. But, as Einstein once said, “For we convinced physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistent.“ The only thing that’s real is the whole of spacetime.

Brian Greene

If they simply accepted the notion of free will, their understanding would probably vastly expand. Rob Bryanton has been pointing out for years that Hawking's (and Everett's) "at right angles to real time" is the 5th dimension (the plane of timelines, or probability space), itself a subset of a 6th-dimensional phase space. As Bashar explains, "time" is a side effect of one's free-willed consciousness shifting from one parallel reality frame to the next, billions of times per second. It is unlikely that any career cosmologist will figure this out, however, because they rely on the fundamental assumption of an objective reality (and physicalism on top of that assumption) and give far too much credence to "authorities", thus artificially limiting their exposure to information sources.

String theory & infinity

The small TOEs in the objective reality metaparadigm, such as supersymmetric string theory and M-theory, have constructed models from the bottom up (smallest to largest), rather than from top-down (largest to smallest). In addition to the ontological axiomatic assumption of an objective reality, this appears to have much to do with infinity-phobia of the finite ego.

When string theorists (and black hole theorists) find infinities in their equations, they automatically assume it can't be correct, that they must be missing something, so new postulates have to be introduced to explain the anomaly within the current paradigm. String theorist Michio Kaku speaks of "the collapse of physics as we know it", saying: "to a mathematician, infinity is simply a number without limit; to a physicist, it's a monstrosity! ... In the real world, there's no such thing as infinity [giggling]."

In the subjective reality metaparadigm, in which there is only now — the experience of time being (conceptually, not mechanically) a 6th-dimensional experience (while appearing to be 4th-dimensionally causal) created within All That Is within existenceinfinity becomes conceptually tangible and can seemingly be explained by the concept of the Prime Radiant.

Bashar on infinity

Bashar - Self Awareness - Part 1

[Uploaded on Sep 19, 2010] Bashar comes to us from the past, the present and the future to discuss, Orca, Astrology and the rays, and choosing preferences among many other topics in this spontaneous setting we all used to enjoy in LA. This video was created on January 7, 1988. There are 14 parts.

If it were not infinite, once again, it would be a closed framework, and in a closed framework, there cannot be self-reflection.



Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

Richard Feynman, 1966

The thinking that has led us to this point will not lead beyond.

Albert Einstein

All of science is uncertain and subject to revision. The glory of science is to imagine more than we can prove.

Freeman Dyson, theoretical physicist & mathematician

The great tragedy of science ... the slaying of a beautiful theory by an ugly fact.

T. H. Huxley

The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.

William Lawrence Bragg (Nobel Price for Physics 1915)

The human mind treats a new idea the way the body treats a strange protein — it rejects it.

Peter Medawar (the "father of transplantation")

We know how large objects will act, but things on a small scale just do not act that way. So we have to learn about them in a sort of abstract or imaginative fashion and not by connection with our direct experience...We would like to emphasize a very important difference between classical and quantum mechanics. We have been talking about the probability that an electron will arrive in a given circumstance. We have implied that in our experimental arrangement (or even in the best possible one) it would be impossible to predict exactly what would happen. We can only predict the odds! This would mean, if it were true, that physics has given up on the problem of trying to predict exactly what will happen in a definite circumstance. Yes! physics has given up. We do not know how to predict what would happen in a given circumstance, and we believe now that it is impossible - that the only thing that can be predicted is the probability of different events. It must be recognized that this is a retrenchment in our earlier ideal of understanding nature. It may be a backward step, but no one has seen a way to avoid it... So at the present time we must limit ourselves to computing probabilities. We say "at the present time," but we suspect very strongly that it is something that will be with us forever - that it is impossible to beat that puzzle - that this is the way nature really is.

Richard Feynman, Robert Leighton, and Matthew Sands [source]