A few days ago I posted an essay responding to Jerry Coyne's attack on theology. The essay was later picked up by the Science and Non-Duality website. Coyne has now responded to it in his blog. The present post is a reply to that.
Explaining consciousness remains one of the top unanswered challenges in science and philosophy today. How can the warmth of love, the bitterness of disappointment, the redness of an apple, the sweetness of strawberries, be explained in terms of mass, momentum, charge, spin, or any of the attributes of matter? How can concrete qualities be explained in terms of abstract quantities and relationships? Nobody has an answer to this, and not for lack of trying.
Theology has been the subject of much bashing by neo-atheists over the past several years. A fresh blog post by Jerry Coyne today seems to encapsulate the essence of their grievance: theology is claimed to be a discipline with no subject of study.
In an earlier article in this blog, I summarized my metaphysical position in two brief paragraphs. That has led to two misunderstandings, both of which derive from this point: Although I say that all reality is in consciousness, and that there is no universe outside, or independent from, subjective experience, I also do not deny that reality exists independent of personal psyches, like the human psyche.
In my previous article in this blog, I summarized my metaphysical position in two brief paragraphs. That has led to two misunderstandings, both of which derive from this point: Although I say that all reality is in consciousness, and that there is no universe outside, or independent from, subjective experience, I also do not deny that reality exists independent of personal psyches, like the human psyche.
In my book Why Materialism Is Baloney, I argue that we do not need to postulate a whole universe outside consciousness – outside subjective experience – in order to make sense of empirical reality. The implication is that all reality, including our bodies and brains, are in consciousness, not consciousness in our bodies and brains.
This essay is about a shocking contradiction in our common sense about the nature of reality; a contradiction that you are probably totally unaware of. Becoming aware of this contradiction has the potential to change your life.
On the one hand, our common sense says that the colors we see, the sounds we hear, the smells we feel, the textures we sense, are all the actual and concrete reality. We take it for granted that they are all really 'out there,' in the sense of being outside our heads.
In Chapter 2 of Why Materialism Is Baloney, I illustrate a broad pattern associating procedures that reduce brain activity with expanded consciousness. These include hyperventilation, meditation, ordeals, gravity-induced loss of consciousness, strangulation, cardiac arrest, brain damage, and even psychedelics. Indeed, a 2012 paper by Carhart-Harris et al. has showed that psychedelics only reduce neural activity, with no increases anywhere in the brain.
(Disclaimer: this essay adopts the format of a fictional medical description of a fictional psychiatric condition – called "intellectual fundamentalism" – for the purposes of social and cultural criticism. The essay should be interpreted metaphorically, not literally.
This is a somewhat unusual post, but I suspect it can be very helpful in clarifying my formulation of Idealism and general metaphysical position. Maybe many of the questions discussed below are precisely the questions you have.
First, a brief intro. As you've probably noticed, I very recently joined twitter (@BernardoKastrup). A lot of the discussions I've faced there thus far have been with militant pseudo-skeptics and focused on posturing rather than understanding.