Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What is the Function of Science?

"What is the function of science?" It seems like a silly question, right? But let’s try to answer it anyway…

If it was up to me, I would answer as follows: “Science is a way of understanding the world through observing, collecting evidence, and analyzing that evidence in a rational way.”

Seems reasonable, right? But unfortunately, the Scientific Establishment has abandoned that goal. Why? Because “analyzing evidence in a rational way” would destroy the philosophy of materialism.

Why has the traditional mission of science been subverted and substituted with the dogma of materialism? Well, that’s a subject for another time. But the point is…traditional science is dead…and with it the hunt for truth is over…in its place is ideology…and therefore we come back to my original question: “What is the function of science?” Just because science has devolved into materialism doesn’t answer the question. Even materialism is a multi-faceted ideology that can be used to serve many different purposes.

For example, Nietzsche was a material atheist. So was Ayn Rand. So was Sartre. So was Karl Popper. And yet they all had very different ideas about how society should work – and how the individual should live within society. So what does that have to do with 21st century science? Let me explain.

Actually, let me begin with an observation: it’s funny what we remember from high school and college. For example, I remember some of the things in my ninth grade biology textbook, but I don’t remember any of the novels we read in my ninth grade English class…one thing I remember from my college psychology class is this experiment

“In a classic paper on the issue of self-awareness, Richard Nisbett and Timothy Wilson argued that people often have little or no information about the real causes of their own behavior…In one experiment, subjects memorized word pairs and then were asked to name category members. The word pairs were such as to increase, through their associations, the naming of certain targets in the categories. The pair ‘ocean-moon’ for instance, would increase the chance that the subjects would say ‘Tide’ when asked to name a detergent. In fact, the word pairs doubled, from 10 to 20 percent, the naming of target items in the categories. In spite of the fact they remembered the word pairs they had been taught, almost no subjects cited the word pairs as cues in their thinking…They claimed, for example, that they had thought of Tide detergent because it is the best-known brand, because their mother used it, or because they liked the box.”

In my college psychology class, the Tide experiment was used to demonstrate precisely what the scientists wanted: “that people often have little or no information about the real causes of their own behavior.” In other words, reason is an illusion. Or as David Brooks recently put it: “reason is the press secretary of the emotions” – simply justifying the irrational swirl of feelings that already exist in the brain. True, objective reason does not exist.

Needless to say, this is pretty pessimistic, dehumanizing outlook on life. So if there was evidence to refute this conclusion – ANY evidence at all – we would surely hear about it, right? Right?

Of course not. Whether it’s in a college classroom or on a TV talk show, we are only provided evidence of materialism. We are only subject to evidence that negates free will; that destroys reason. We are barely aware of evidence in support of free will; in support of reason.

I know I wasn’t. And yet it exists. A lot of it can be found in The Spiritual Brain, which was published in 2007 by neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary. In one study they cite, an investigator told a group of men who were about to watch porn to suppress their sexual arousal – and surprisingly enough, while watching the porn, they were able to do so!

Now, I ask you, what is more interesting from a scientific perspective: that people who have heard word “Tide” in a “word pair game” would be more likely to say “Tide” when asked for a name of a detergent OR that a group of men – through the power of reason – would be able to suppress their sexual arousal while watching a pornographic film?

Clearly, the second one. So why is the first one a staple of college education, while the second one is almost totally unknown? Because the first experiment supports the agenda of convincing people that reason is an illusion, while the second one shows that reason exists and is quite powerful.

At the risk of sounding over-the-top…the function of science today is to de-rationalize people and thus, to dehumanize them. And we can only ask: Why? Why has science chosen this path? It didn’t have to. Even materialism itself doesn’t require destroying reason (see Rand and Popper, for example).

Or maybe it does…Rand and Popper belonged to an earlier generation… most of their philosophical work was done in the 1940s and ‘50s…it was a more an innocent time…a time when reason and materialism seemed compatible…but in recent decades, the evidence for materialism is in major decline…in fact, I’m on record as saying that materialism is dying of a terminal illnessthe chord between reason and materialism has been severed…and instead of abandoning materialism, science has chosen to abandon reason itselfand with it, the function of science has changed: from uplifting humanity to stomping on its face.

Imagine a science that actually chose to uplift humanity. It would publicize studies like the one about sexual arousal as a means to strengthen the case for reason – to show that we have a real mind (not just the firing of random neurons). And it would use those studies to help people strengthen their reason. Who knows what we would learn once we treated the mind as a real thing? The possibilities are endless. In the meantime, we are struck in a reductionist paradigm. And the consequences of that paradigm are becoming deadly

**UPDATE, DEC. 16, 2009**

According to Ms. O'Leary, the study on sexual arousal is...

M. Beauregard, J. Lévesque, and P. Bourgouin, “Neural Correlates of Conscious Self-regulation

of Emotion,” Journal of Neuroscience 21 (2001): RC165 (1–6).

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