Thursday, June 13, 2013

Between science and prejudice. Two articles on scientism.

Continuing our theme of critique of the materialistic, reductionist bias, we call our readers' attention to a recent Huffington Post piece reflecting on TED's censorship of psi researchers.  The debate has been largely framed as an international struggle against pseudo-science, but the article concludes: 
The real nexus of the TED controversy therefore lies not between "science" and "pseudoscience." It lies between skepticism and scientism; i.e., scientific fundamentalism. Skepticism is necessary and healthy for science. Fundamentalism is neither. 
- Dave Pruett, former NASA researcher; computational scientist; emeritus professor of mathematics,
James Madison University; author, Reason and Wonder
Also in our inbox, another article addressing scientism, in particular in regards to near-death experience, a type of projection of the consciousness (out-of-body experience) that has been opening more and more independent minds to consciousness beyond the brain, but has also generated much disdain from entrenched reductionists. Thanks go to G.S. of the International Association of Near-Death Studies and IAC New York for the reading suggestion from the journal Fronteirs of Human Neuroscience by Enrico Facco1,2* and Christian Agrillo3
  • 1Department of Neurosciences, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  • 2Italian Center of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Torino, Italy
  • 3Department of General Psychology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy


Science exists to refute dogmas; nevertheless, dogmas may be introduced when undemonstrated scientific axioms lead us to reject facts incompatible with them. Several studies have proposed psychobiological interpretations of near-death experiences (NDEs), claiming that NDEs are a mere byproduct of brain functions gone awry; however, relevant facts incompatible with the ruling physicalist and reductionist stance have been often neglected. The awkward transcendent look of NDEs has deep epistemological implications, which call for: (a) keeping a rigorously neutral position, neither accepting nor refusing anything a priori; and (b) distinguishing facts from speculations and fallacies. Most available psychobiological interpretations remain so far speculations to be demonstrated, while brain disorders and/or drug administration in critical patients yield a well-known delirium in intensive care and anesthesia, the phenomenology of which is different from NDEs. Facts can be only true or false, never paranormal. In this sense, they cannot be refused a priori even when they appear implausible with respect to our current knowledge: any other stance implies the risk of turning knowledge into dogma and the adopted paradigm into a sort of theology.
Keywords: body-mind problem, consciousness, NDEs, out of body experience, scientific reductionism
Complete article available at the site of the US National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health
Front Hum Neurosci. 2012; 6: 209.
Published online 2012 July 18. doi:  10.3389/fnhum.2012.00209

1 comment:

  1. he real nexus of the TED controversy therefore lies not between "science" and "pseudoscience." It lies between bingo online skepticism and scientism; i.e., scientific fundamentalism. Skepticism is necessary and healthy for science. Fundamentalism is neither.

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