“There is nothing that will cure the senses but the soul, and nothing that will cure the soul but the senses” –– OSCAR WILDE
NEW JERSEY — From Willis Harman’s Global Mind Change, the promise of the 21st century, we learned that there is a set of 10 premises, which, if encountered in a textbook a few decades ago, would hardly have aroused a question. It is humbling to the educated Westerner to realize that to an indeterminable extent, science, like the traditional belief systems of “primitive” cultures, describes a world that is shaped by its built-in assumptions, observes Harman.
The rational set of premises for a scientific age, according to Harman, are the following:
1. The only conceivable ways in which we can acquire knowledge are through our physical senses, and perhaps by some sort of information transmission through the genes. The sole way in which we extend our understanding of the nature of the universe is through empirical science–that is, the exploration of the measurable world through instrumentation that augments our physical senses.
2. All qualitative properties (at least the ones we can talk about scientifically) are ultimately reducible to quantitative ones (for example, color is reduced to wavelength, thought to measurable brain waves, hate and love to the chemical composition of glandular secretions).
3. There is a clear demarcation between the objective world, which can be perceived by anyone, and subjective experience, which is perceived by the individual alone, in the privacy of his/her own mind. Scientific knowledge deals with the former; the latter may be important to the individual, but its exploration does not lead to the same kind of publicly verifiable knowledge.
4. The concept of free will is a prescientific attempt to explain behavior that scientific analysis reveals is due to a combination of forces impinging on the individual from the outside, together with pressures and tensions internal to the organism.
5. What we know as consciousness or awareness of our thoughts and feelings is a secondary phenomenon arising from physical and biochemical processes in the brain.
6. What we know as memory is strictly a matter of stored data in the central nervous system, somewhat analogous to the storage of information in a digital computer.
7. The nature of time being what it is, there is obviously no way in which we can obtain knowledge of future events, other than by rational prediction from known causes and past regularities.
8. Since mental activity is simply a matter of dynamically varying states in the physical organism (primarily in the brain), it is completely impossible for this mental activity to exert any effect directly on the physical world outside the organism.
9. The evolution of the universe and of man has come about through physical causes (such as random mutation, natural selection), and there is no justification for any concept of universal purpose in the evolution, or in the development of consciousness, or in the strivings of the individual.
10. Individual consciousness does not survive the death of the organism; or if there is any meaningful sense in which the individual consciousness persists after the death of the physical body we can neither comprehend it in this life or in any way obtain knowledge about it.