Why can’t scientists agree about consciousness?
by Vic Shayne
Consciousness: The Potentiality of All Existence
Not only does science not have any proof about the location of consciousness, but they also cannot agree on what it is. They continue to be stumped over what NYU professor David Chalmers calls “the hard problem of consciousness.” This refers to the fact that we know what it feels like to exist — yet science cannot prove this feeling or awareness. And, of course, there is no scientific way to measure or quantify it.
Two types of science
There are generally two camps when it comes to modern science. There are materialists and there are idealists. Materialists believe that everything that exists is the product of chemistry, and everything can be explained by way of the basic laws of nature. If it cannot be explained in this way then it does not really exist.
Materialist science is also called Newtonian (mainstream) science. In the other group are idealists who consider that consciousness and mind create the material world — as opposed to the mind/brain being the creator of consciousness. Idealists feel that they can explain the existing world according to this principle. Objective idealism posits the existence of an objective consciousness which exists before and, in some sense, independently of human consciousness. It is my experience that there really is no separation between human and universal consciousness; there is only one singular consciousness without division, boundaries, or interruption.
Conflating correlates with causes
Materialist scientists claim that consciousness is an artifact of the brain; if there is no brain, or if a person dies, then that is the end of consciousness. However they have absolutely no proof of this. Many scientists of this bent conflate correlates with causes, which is a very unscientific thing to do, and this makes it clear that their own beliefs and biases are motivating their claims.
To give an example, materialist scientists will stimulate a part of the brain, such as the angular gyrus, that creates a certain sensation, feeling, or experience of detachment from the physical body. Then the scientists jump to the conclusion that in all cases that particular experience is caused by brain chemistry. However, all cases of out of body experiences, as well as the events, memories, and retrieved knowledge, are not explainable according to such experiments, and yet materialist scientists disregard this fact. They have no explanation how a person out of the body can experience other places and people that can be verified and corroborated, and they leave such puzzling and misunderstood phenomena out of their conclusions.
Quantum physics is coming closer
A growing number of scientists have concluded that consciousness pre-exists all action, thought, and creation. Many of these scientists are physicists; generally quantum physicists and theoretical physicists. One physicist from Harvard, John Hagelin, has lectured about how Einstein’s quantum field, or unified field, is actually synonymous with consciousness itself. There are also some neuroscientists and medical doctors in this camp.
Physics professor Amit Goswami succinctly said, “You are actually a purposeful, embodied consciousness.” And he noted, “Physics — with the exception of quantum physics, with its consciousness-based interpretation — passes over the power of consciousness and intention in favor of mechanical laws and forces.”
The reason why science cannot prove anything about consciousness is because science is contained within consciousness and is therefore inherently limited. It lacks the tools to measure that which is outside of — beyond —itself. Materialist scientists are much like the men shackled inside of Plato’s cave. They cannot see or entertain any possibilities of what exists outside of their own limited worldview.
The answer is prior to science
If we turn to the ancient spiritual practices of India and Asia, then we can begin to find a better insight into consciousness. The Vedic and Taoist traditions, to name but two schools of thought, have come to conclusions about consciousness based upon observation and experience that have been replicated down through the ages. Through the practice of self-enquiry from the Indian tradition it is possible to realize what lies prior to the mind, the ego, the body, all forms and action, and so on.
Self-enquiry (Sanskrit vichara, also called jnana-vichara or ātma-vichār), is the constant attention upon the inner awareness of “I” or “I am.” Some gurus such as Ramana Maharshi, HWL Poonja, and Nisargadatta Maharaj, considered self-enquiry as the most efficient and direct way of discovering the unreality of the egoic self, or the sense of “I.”
Of course, what the individual discovers through self-enquiry is not provable by way of modern science. Any claim made by one who has found the answer to consciousness is simply not accepted by materialist science as credible, and all of what is known and experienced is labeled a hallucination. This leads us to wonder if there can ever be a meeting of minds on this idea since materialism and idealism seem to be parallel philosophies.
Since our current mainstream science is materialistic then we, as a modern society, are conditioned from an early age to believe that this type of science is the bellwether, or the standard by which all phenomena should be regarded. However, for a growing number of people, being mired in materialism no longer works, and the cry, “Prove it!” just doesn’t make sense. It has become apparent to many people that there is more to life than meets the senses and, provable or not, this is how we human beings experience reality.
Consciousness is the totality of all that is, which implies that all is contained and created within it. Ironically, materialist science is included in the contents.