How to Defend Yourself Against a Scientist — The Art of Mental Kung Fu
20 Aug 2010
Are you tired of having your experiences and spiritual beliefs dismissed by those more scientifically-minded? Are scientists attacking you for being "unscientific" and illogical? It is time to learn some mental Kung Fu.
SCIENTISTS CAN USUALLY RUN CONCEPTUAL RINGS around those with non-scientific beliefs or who have had paranormal experiences because science has come to occupy the high-ground of objective truth in the minds of both scientists and non-scientists alike. So scientists only have to appeal to contradiction with scientific theory and belief to be able to authoritatively brand non-scientific beliefs as creative fantasy and paranormal experience as delusion or illusion.
This article teaches mental kung fu: how to defend yourself against such scientific attack. It does this by showing the flaws in the belief that science objectively represents reality, a belief that insidiously undermines any experience or belief that science cannot explain or model. And by learning to defend yourself against such challenging opponents — they do not get tougher than some scientists — we learn to defend ourselves against all fundamentalists who try to force-feed us their rigid perspectives.
It is time for society as a whole to stand up to the tyranny of belief, a tyranny at the heart of just about all human conflict and despair. When we lean about how our minds model reality, a process called realitymapping, we free ourselves from the enslavement of beliefs, an enslavement that is, at the moment, almost entirely unconscious. Now is the time for a popular epistemological awakening.
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This is a long article and it is in 6 parts:
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Part 1: The Scientific Realitymap
Defending yourself against a scientist or those that are scientifically-minded is not easy for most of us who have had unusual experiences or have alternative beliefs. This is because we live in a society where science has become the primary religion, preached from the pulpit of every mass-media outlet and classroom, so that any blasphemy against its precepts is mockingly dismissed as ignorance, fantasy and/or conspiracy theory, even by those who themselves are not particularly scientifically literate. As a consequence, beliefs and debate have become strongly polarized, with science and scientists on one side scoffing at anything outside their the orthodox realm, and spiritual/religious people, New Agers and conspiricists on the other trying as best they can to stand up for their experiences and beliefs (often in ways that unfortunately invite further criticism).
But it is almost always a losing battle because science has one big factor in its favour over spiritual beliefs and experiences — science objectively works in practical application, producing the material technology that we all now take for granted (including the computer from which you are reading this article). And so, few are able to question the legitimacy of science as the primary conceptual system for describing our world. Indeed, science's successful objectivity is so alluring that many New Agers and religious people borrow scientific terminology (such as "quantum" and "scalar waves") to try to legitimize non-scientific belief systems, implying that they have some level of scientific objectivity too (formulating what physicist, Richard Feynman, referred to as "cargo-cult science").
To understand what those of us with alternative viewpoints generally need to defend ourselves against, here is a brief summary of the primary beliefs and processes of physical science, and some considerations regarding their limits. (This might be boring for some but it is important to be precise here so that we can then clearly see the holes in the scientific process):
The universe is full of separate things interacting with each other locally — mediated only by mechanics, photons or forces, depending on our perspective; and these influences are limited in scope by the speed of light (300 million meters per second). Instantaneous non-local interaction (system entanglement) not involving mediating forces or information transfer is allowed by quantum theory, but most Scientists regard non-locality as a "special case" scenario that has negligible effect in complex, macro systems. (Light has also been observed traveling faster than 300 million meters per second, but this is dismissed as rogue experimental data.)
Considerations: It is pure conjecture that the universe is full of separate things — that it is a "local" universe. Sure there are many instances where things act as if they are separate, but focusing on those instances does not invalidate its connectivity. There are also many instances where things act as if they were connected. Humans (and presumably other life forms) have felt that connectivity since the earliest times, but even recent experiments to validate quantum theory reveal that particles, atoms and even large groups of atoms can and do act non-locally. From the perspective of consciousness, on the other hand, things out in the world are not separate but bound by meaning and connection to the observer. Who is to say which perspective is the "real" one or more fundamental one? The ultimate connection is when consciousness affects the "physical" world we perceive, something for which there is evidence. If this is the case, then the objectivity of empirical measurement is brought into question and the whole of science itself teeters into the realm of a shared dream.
The behaviour of objects (including living things) can be explained by the collective behaviour of their components. So the working of our mind or brain is determined by the sum-behaviour of the neurons that make up our brain. This is called reductionism — macro-behaviour is reduced to the sum-total of component physical micro-behaviour. (There is a new branch of science called Complexity that deals with emergent system properties of complex systems, but this has not affected science's general love affair with reductionism.)
Considerations: Again this is pure conjecture and seems to be flatly contradicted by living systems and consciousness. However, it does give the illusion of control of complex systems, so from this point of view it is an attractive paradigm that is being forced onto our experience of reality despite an undeniably poor fit on such systems. The fact is that our experience of the world is always from consciousness downwards, not from atoms upwards. It is actually psychologically pathological to deny our experience in favour of conceptual theory.
Reality can most accurately and completely be modelled by mathematical equations relating the different variables in conceptually isolated or self-contained systems. These mathematical equations allow us to predict certain attributes (or variables) of systems from knowing other attributes of systems. This way, system behaviour can be predicted and therefore controlled, and so useful systems can be set up, systems that we call modern technology. For example, if we can predict and control the resonance of an electrical circuit then we have a means to "read" EM frequencies — we have the basis of a communication technology.
Considerations: It is an assumption that mathematical models are able to simulate all aspects of reality, just because it seems to work in limited situations that do not involve high complexity. The very act of creating mathematical models involves finding those few measurable aspects in complex systems that seem to be mathematically related. So to then turn around and claim that "objective" reality itself is entirely mathematical is a delusional induction.
Where mathematical models cannot be formulated, statements of belief are made instead. These beliefs about reality appear to be consistently valid for all similar systems that cannot be easily modeled mathematically. For example, the statement that acids burn things is a scientific belief based on observation. (How acids react can be mathematically modelled.)
Considerations: These beliefs are just that — beliefs and no more. Although they are based on experience, it is an assumption that given the same setup the same thing will predictably happen. Usually when something unexpected happens that foils expectations, especially scientific expectation, the "aberrant" data is generally dismissed until it absolutely cannot be ignored any longer.
Scientific models and theories exclude the messy complexity of the real world because they are, by definition, simplified abstractions. This means that there has to be a massive step-down in information, and the model must not be ambiguous with regard to the reality it maps. However, in league with the assumption of reductionism (belief 2), it is believed that most of the complexity is "noise" in the system, and that reality actually follows mathematical laws. (Hence the statement by some scientists that God is a mathematician.) The ultimate goal for many physicists is to the find the mathematical equation(s) that unites all the known forces, which would basically be a "theory of everything" from which everything (at least in theory) can be derived.
Considerations: Throwing out everything that cannot be modelled mathematically is very dangerous. It is a bit like dismissing those parts of DNA we do not understand as "Junk DNA", a position that only underlines our ignorance and arrogance. It is ironic that the very foundation of our experience — consciousness — is part of that messy complexity excluded from orthodox scientific theory, making the acceptance of the consciousness-free scientific worldview as a form of schizophrenia.
These models and beliefs are systematically tested by a process of attempted falsification called The Scientific Method to see how good a fit they are against our experience of reality (empirical data). If the fit is good (i.e., the model is difficult to falsify in various situations, especially unusual ones), then the model is useful; if the fit is not good, the model needs to be changed or modified so that a better fitting one can be found. This process of attempted falsification (or at the very least systematic observation) and model modification is ongoing so that the modelling, in theory, approximates closer and closer to a some "thing" we call "reality". If the fit is so good that the theory stops being questioned, the model is regarded as a "law of nature" or reality itself. An example of models no longer questioned are the laws of thermodynamics that predict the behaviour of energy or heat in different systems.
Considerations: There are some major philosophical problems with The Scientific Method, not least of which is that the Method is not itself falsifiable which means that it is not actually scientific, but more an agreed philosophical tool or assumption. How can a subjective system of belief be used as an absolute means of assessing objective models? There has to be some bleed of prejudice. Also, in a world where so many of our theories are statistical, when models do not work it is all too easy to dismiss the data as experimental aberration. And even where systems are relatively simple, for example, in the world of sub-atomic particles, the detection of something unusual is often assigned to a new unknown particle rather than questioning the foundations of particle theory itself. As a consequence, the number of sub-atomic particles seems to rise exponentially.
Where two or more models describe reality equally well, the simplest one is chosen. This is just a rule of thumb or heuristic device called Occam's Razor. With mathematical models, this means that we keep the variables or axioms to a minimum, but Occam's Razor also applies to scientific beliefs and scientific philosophy. Using Occam's Razor means choosing the simplest explanation, and the simplest is invariably the material reductionist one. An example of the use of Occam's Razor in physics is the dismissal of the ether theory for the passage of electromagnetic radiation.
Considerations: What we regard as "simple" is subjective, so that Occam's Razor is actually a vague rule of thumb that is used to justify our prejudices. So the "simplest" explanation is often the one that happens to fit prevailing political and cultural beliefs, and is often the most lucrative one. For example, the well-documented environmental effect of the environment on genetic expression, so called epigenetics, is taking a long time to be accepted in the scientific community because it puts the genetic engineering on a shaky foundation, and makes genetics much more complicated. And of course, the perspective that consciousness is a primary foundation of reality, rather than merely an epiphenomenon of a complex neural network, is actually the simplest model for most people on this planet. It is pure subjective bias to invalidate this on the grounds of an interpretation of Occam's Razor favouring reductionism.
Models that become accepted scientific theory are believed to consistently work in untested experimental situations (otherwise they would not be useful as science would not be predictive). This requires some level of faith that the falsification process in 4 was thorough enough for the model to apply repeatedly and universally, both in space AND time. This means that there is an automatic assumption that the laws of physics and chemistry are invariant over space and time, and this includes the value of universal constants that determine the strength of physical forces. And it makes the assumption that reality is consistently predictable in similar situations.
Considerations: There are some scientists now seriously considering that physical constants may vary over time, and that some laws of physics may not apply in the same way to objects in other parts of the universe. Physicists are well aware that the laws of science were considerably different in the first few moments after the Big Bang (which itself is assumption regarding the beginning of the universe). Therefore, it is certainly an assumption that scientific theory is space and time invariant.
Scientists are rational and objective human beings who apply The Scientific Method impartially and consistently, and who do allow personal prejudices to dictate how reality "should" behave. This means that when a model comes along that is a better fit to reality, scientists do not hesitate to adopt it provided it survives rigorous attempts at falsification.
Considerations: Scientists, like anyone else, are human beings with prejudices and dogmas, and history consistently shows that scientists themselves are notoriously rejecting of new models of reality, even in the face of a better fit to empirical data. You just have to observe how emphatically most scientists reject unusual phenomena to see that closed-minded prejudice at work, exactly the same prejudice that initially rejected quantum theory. Often, this prejudice is unconscious and affects which scientific models are selected in the first place for testing against empirical data. (So the bias is not just in model-fit but in also in model selection.)
The philosophical implications of these scientific models have the same authority as the models themselves. Scientific models, especially mathematical scientific models, are just the "bare bones" of scientific theory; they formalize our observation of reality. But human beings are not computers and so our minds automatically put semantic meat on these mathematical bones. In fact, most scientists postulate conceptual theories before formulating them into dry scientific models as this is generally more intuitive for human minds. And often, more than one philosophical conclusion can be associated with a scientific model, depending on the perspective. As a general rule, the more reductionist the system in question the greater is the emphasis on the mathematics. So, for example, particle physics is almost entirely a mathematical discipline whereas there are many successful research biologists who are mathematically illiterate and use conceptual scientific models that have more of the philosophical meaning built in.
Considerations: Whilst the cultural and political influence on the formulation of mathematical theories is fairly limited, philosophical theories give much more room for expressing personal beliefs and prejudices. For most of us, it is the philosophical perspective that brings to life the mathematical theory, and it is the philosophical aspect of theory that determines the primary effect that science has on society. In practice, the social ideology of the day will determine the philosophical translation of mathematical models, so that science ends up serving ideology.
To conclude: science is the art of creating simplified abstract models or maps of reality (which I term realitymaps) that are useful for predicting certain physical aspects of that reality. The reason for the emphasis on mathematics, especially in hard sciences like physics, is that it this type of model is measurably precise (can be validated with empirical data), and therefore much more useful in situations where precision is required (for example in the workings of an electronic circuit, computer chip or satellite trajectory).
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Part 2: The Realitymapping Process
The biggest problem with mathematical models is that the equations for more complex real-life systems are so complex (non-linear) that they generally cannot be solved, so solutions have to be approximated using mathematical tricks and approximations, or they are number-crunched using powerful computers. For example, the quantum mechanical mathematical model has only been solved for hydrogen atoms because hydrogen is the simplest atom. The equations for the next simplest element, helium, are unfortunately too complex to solve precisely and scientists have to be satisfied with approximate solutions. This throws up an interesting question: if the mathematics is unsolvable for a system due to its complexity, how do we know the mathematical model is valid for that system in the first place? So if physics struggles with the complexity of helium atoms, it can hardly be considered a working model for processes as complex as living systems, unless it is being used merely to model gross physical characteristics of those systems. (The laws of motion do give some useful data when trying to avoid an elephant in free-fall, but scientists will have pretty much nothing to say about the elephant's consciousness.)
On a macro-scale, the difficulty in precisely predicting the weather is a classic example of the difficulties encountered with non-linear mathematical models. In this case, because the mathematics is too complex to solve, complex processes like weather are imperfectly simulated with computer models, and on that basis forecasts are made. This process of finding approximate solutions for the models of real-life complex systems (a Bayesian approach) means that most of the predictive modelling of reality by science ends up being statistical. So, for example, weather forecasts tend to give probability ratings for rain or sunshine. Science, therefore, is not quite as precise with complex real-world applications as most non-scientists believe (even university science undergraduates are taught a fairytale science that avoids the complexity, contradictions and fuzziness that plague actual scientific research).
The primary way to model complex systems and avoid too much mathematical approximation is to simplify the model, picking out fewer salient features to relate mathematically. In other words, we disregard reality's complexity so that our maps are easier to use and more accurate in what they feature. The only problem here is that what we gain in mathematical precision we usually lose in reality detail. It is the classic case of limiting the unknown by defining it as non-existent, and in the process throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
This penchant for features of experience that can be modelled mathematically to give predictability means that the scientific process by definition disregards non-predictable aspects of reality. As consciousness heads the list in non-predictability, you will not find consciousness in mainstream scientific theory (although you will of course find plenty of references to it philosophically as an emergent property of neural nets, an unfalsifiable belief that is as scientific as the belief in a divine being called God). This information selection and reduction is of course essential for making useful maps of reality. (Understanding how scientific theories map reality was the genius of Polish-American philosopher and scientist, Alfred Korzybski. A brilliant man!)
A good illustration of this reality mapping process is the standard London tube map (underground train map). This map is highly abstract and selective, only showing tube train lines and their relationships to stations. The spacial layout of the various stations and the pathways of the different lines has been distorted for simplicity so that passengers can easily find which combination of lines to take to get from one station to another. To illustrate the necessity for this distortion, take a look at a spatially correct London tube map and you will see that it is far less useful and far more confusing. London tube maps do their job by mapping only the aspects of reality most relevant to those travelling in London on underground trains. (Apart from the ubiquitous delays and occasional closures!)
However, if you are looking for a particular London street, you will not be able to find it using the tube map. Rather, you will need to use a London street map. London street maps bear little correlation with London Tube Maps because they have been created for a different purpose. And neither of these maps will pinpoint the exact location on a street of a particular restaurant you might want to visit, or your loved one waiting for you under a particular tree.
So different maps are created for different purposes, selecting out only those salient features that are needed for particular purposes. You cannot include all features in one single map as, to do so, would result in a map as complex as reality itself, in which case you may as well ditch the map and just use reality! Maps are useful precisely because they exclude large portions of reality — they act as a reducing valve that grab those aspects of reality we need to know about from the infinite confusion of reality's actual complexity.
Science is essentially "realitymapping" from a mathematical perspective. It attempts to show only those features in reality that are mathematically related and predictable, period. Not only that, science tends to favour those mathematically measurable properties that support its general philosophy of reductionism (although this is starting to change a little as holism becomes more popular). Of course there are "softer" branches of science, such as medicine, psychology, psychiatry, anthropology and archeology, that deal with systems too complex to reduce mathematically and where it is much more difficult to find useful mathematical correlations, and so these disciplines tend to comprise of philosophical rules of thumb, descriptive models and observed processes, rather than mathematical abstractions. After all, unless a model is testable against mathematically precise data points, it must remain a heuristic model (philosophy) and cannot be regarded as a true scientific model (mathematics). For this reason, soft sciences should really be regarded more as systems of philosophy rather than systems of science, but that realization would not bode well for their funding, which is why they tend to do so much self-PR to give the impression that they are on solid scientific foundations.
There are a few examples of brilliant scientific investigation in biology, for example, with the determination of the structure of DNA, but that was more physics in the interpretation of x-ray diffraction patterns, and biochemistry, and was carried out by biologists of unusual cross-discipline scientific genius. Excluding biochemistry which is chemistry, most of biology today cannot be regarded as an exact science, which opens it up to nonscientific influences.
Cultural, political and psychological influences, therefore, skew these soft sciences much more than hard sciences, so that the "science" of complex systems tends to be the science that is most lucrative to big business. Classic examples of these "sciences" are genetic engineering and the cancer treatment industry. Much of this predisposition to reductionism — understanding life in terms of the behaviour of its molecular components — is a consequence, for example, of the massive research funding by The Rockefeller Foundation in the 1930s to the 1950s, which actively focused on placing biology on a reductionist/molecular foundation. In this way, life became conceptually controllable and therefore an unimaginably more lucrative commodity.
Biotechnology companies present genetic engineering to the public as an exact and precise science — and therefore a safe science — but the truth is alarmingly different. Genes are often combined using a "scatter gun" approach with DNA literally being fired into target cells in the hope that something useful develops (mostly it does not), and the biologists try to ignore the complexity thrown up by horizontal gene transfer (the spread of polluted genes that happens from species to species), because that would throw a spanner in the works of their illusion of control, and therefore in their financial contracts. Genes also do not act sequentially but in a very complex manner, one that also involves environmental influences (so called epigenetics). As a consequence, any alteration of genes is extremely risky due to unexpected side-effects, and on top of that, any mistake becomes not only self-replicating but ends up polluting the gene pool for all DNA based lifeforms. Indeed, New Scientist magazine ran a June 2010 special report feature entitled "The Unknown Genome" which underlines the ignorance that is still prevalent in this field, but an ignorance that is not being allowed to hinder actual field-studies by these biotechnology companies, which of course it should. This is not science; this is dangerous profiteering. And it subsists almost solely on government bribery and heavy PR.
The other example of systems of philosophy that masquerade as science is medicine, and especially cancer treatment. Meta-analysis repeatedly shows that chemotherapy gives, at best, a 2%-3% increase in survival. Even orthodox medical researchers cannot deny this fact. And yet, the public are kept in the dark regarding the effectiveness of this "treatment". Why? Because the cancer industry is a $200 billion dollar industry, and science is not going to be allowed to get in the way of that sort of profit! As Albert Braverman, MD, wrote in the Lancet in 1991: "Many oncologists recommend chemotherapy for almost any type of cancer, with a faith that is unshaken by the almost constant failures." And the oncologists sell this "treatment" to the unwary public by quoting "relative treatment risk" as opposed to "absolute treatment risk", bamboozling them into making decisions on misleading statistics. This, again, is not science. It is pure PR and results in "World War" level casualties, and of course massive pharmaceutical profits.
So the softer the science, the more complicated the reality it is trying to map, and therefore, the poorer the fit. Reductionism just does not cut the mustard in complex systems, systems which also happen to be some of the most profitable to control because they are closer to actual human experience. (Ironically, you will find that most of the highest profile debunkers tend to come from soft sciences because, in these disciplines, vicious ideological defence is central to justifying non-scientific positions. So the biologists and medical doctors are more practiced in reality-denial.)
The big problem comes when we forget that our realitymaps are maps and start confusing the map with the territory itself; a bit like becoming so absorbed in a movie that we forget it is a studio-manufactured fiction. This is a very human thing to do, and scientists are no less human than the rest of us. As a consequence, many scientists and others dismiss experiences like consciousness, UFOs, telekinesis, distant healing, ghosts, cold fusion, God etc. — events that have shown themselves to be unpredictable and difficult/impossible to model mathematically — as nonexistent by definition. If it does not appear on the map, and as the map is a perfect representation of reality, then it cannot actually exist and must, by logical deduction, be fantasy — deliberate or otherwise. This is a bit like dismissing the existence of a London street because it is not included on the London Underground map. Wrong map! We only reveal our epistemological naivety if we insist that anything not included on our realitymap therefore does not exist.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of epistemological naivety amongst scientists and the general population, and so we have stupid men and women (brilliant sometimes but only in a single dimension of reasoning) setting themselves up to be arbiters of what is and is not possible, rejecting experiences that they themselves know nothing about because... well... these experiences cannot have happened because they have no place on their scientific realitymap! Blind ideology makes you blind!
Of course it is not just scientists who tend to confuse their realitymaps for reality; those with other realitymaps, such as traditional religious realitymaps, also tend to confuse their maps with reality. And this tendency to confuse realitymaps with reality is generally labeled fundamentalism; indeed, anyone not au fait with the limitations of realitymapping is a budding fundamentalist. (Debunkers have more in common with religious fundamentalists than they do with most working scientists — just look at the similar blind-certainty that both of them use!)
The scientific realitymap has become the prevalent map used in Western democracies, and is also the primary map used, albeit often inadvertently, by those who consider themselves part of the New Age or New Consciousness movements. This is why so many new ideas and systems in these movements are shrouded in pseudo-scientific terminology — quantum this, quantum that, photons, zero-point field, collapse of the wave-function — terminology that hints at the underlying acceptance of the scientific realitymap. Of course, there will be some deliberately using such terminology for marketing reasons, passing their ideas off as bona fide science, but underlying this always the belief that the scientific realitymap is somehow the "real" one. For example, New Age teacher A'shayana Deane teaches courses called Ascension Mechanics, but experience at a wholistic level of consciousness, which is assumed to be central to whatever ascension process is going on, is not and can never be "mechanical". That phrase has probably been used because the word "mechanics" makes it sound as objective as "quantum mechanics". This is misuse of language. There are, however, a few — very few — who use the terminology correctly on "fringe" research, and there tend to be maverick but bone fide scientists.
So unless you are very much focused on traditional religion, chances are that you spend most of your time navigating life using the scientific realitymap. There are instances of religious scientists and others who use different realitymaps to navigate different aspects of their lives (in some sense we all do this) but there is almost always a primary realitymap that defines the context of all realitymaps, so that the scientist who has strong traditional religious beliefs will still have a general scientific outlook, even in church where the God concept is tacked on scientific belief and used to explain how the scientific world came into being. From this perspective, God becomes the great mathematician who created the world using scientific laws and equations. The realitymap we generally use, therefore, is more a consequence of culture than it is of interest or education, with modern democracies immersed in the scientific realitymap, and other more ancient cultures steeped in religious realitymaps.
Whilst most Christians in modern democracies now have more of an underlying scientific realitymap, Muslims in more traditional societies in the Middle East largely retain the religious realitymap, which is the cause of the conflict between the two cultures. So this conflict is not a Muslim-Christian one as many in the media portray, but more a Muslim-Science one.
All realitymaps must have a high degree of internal consistency, otherwise they would be so chaotic that they would have no use. Maps must consistently map a particular territory, even if that territory is completely contrived and conceptual. So there is a certain process that needs to be followed in order to modify a realitymap in any way, and that process is largely cultural, even in the case of the scientific realitymap.
If you want to modify or adjust the scientific reality map you need to be consistent with new experimental data, and you need to be proficient at high-level mathematics and have a working knowledge of how scientific theory is constructed. But then comes the hard part: persuading your fellow scientists that the changes you describe should be officially adopted. For that you need to publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal (the more prestigious the better) to get other scientists to accept your new theory. After a while, that theory will become an accepted theory and, in time, if it hits no opposition both empirically and conceptually, then it may even eventually become a scientific law.
The scientific map is therefore pretty fluid, although it has to be said that it is fluid only in certain dimensions. (It is not fluid enough to take seriously unusual experiences such as psi and cold fusion, even though there is real scientific evidence to support these phenomena.)
The religious realitymap, on the other hand, is much more fixed, the final maps being drawn up and "set" many hundreds of years ago. (The exception to this is shamanism and other ancient beliefs that leave the door open for individual experience and modification because their realitymaps are more experiential, fuzzy and less dogmatic.) So whilst any individual scientist has the potential to redraw the accepted scientific realitymap (as Einstein, Bohr, Schrödinger and Heisenberg did at the beginning of the last century), individual priests, monks or religious leaders have absolutely no chance to alter their particular religious realitymaps — the dogma is set in stone. Instead, if they are driven enough in their new perspective, they will end up starting either a new religious branch of their faith, or in very exceptional circumstances, start a whole new religion. Because of this, and the fact that religions are not grounded by empirical data in the same way that science is, religion is fragmented with lots of different factions, whereas science has largely managed to maintain a unity. (Soft sciences pretend to be on the same ideological page but, in reality, they are quite fragmented, although not as much as religion.)
So modifying the scientific realitymap is an involved process, something that most non-scientists do not appreciate. The problem is that new data needs to be drawn in on the scientific map in a way that does not disrupt the rest because so many people's lives are based upon these maps in one way or another. (There is a natural human resistance to change, especially when scientists make a living from map applications or map education.) But every now and then experience/data comes to light that cannot be denied but that also cannot be incorporated in the current scientific model of the world. When that happens there is huge pressure by the scientific community to dismiss that experience/data as map redraws are always a last resort. If the experience/data is not consistent and/or not easily mathematically modelled, it can be more easily ignored or dismissed. This happens with topics that might be described as fringe science (fantasy science in the eyes of the orthodox). If the experience/data is consistent and can be mathematically modelled, then the time is right for what is called a scientific revolution whereby the scientific realitymap is largely redrawn (as happened with relativity and quantum theory). Of course, just because the time is right for a redraw does not mean that 95% of the scientific community will strongly resist that change — again, that is an aspect of human nature.
For example, Julian Schwinger, who won a Nobel Prize in 1965 for his formulation of quantum electrodynamics, wrote in 1991: "The pressure for conformity is enormous. I have experienced it in editor's rejection of submitted papers, based on venomous criticism of anonymous referees. The replacement of impartial review by censorship will be the death of science." Now quantum electrodynamics is a theory that builds upon the amalgamation of quantum theory and relativity, both developed decades earlier, and so in itself it is not a big a scientific revolution as those involving the advent of relativity and quantum theory, and yet... Schwinger, an orthodox scientist, was having this level of resistance to his new theory, a theory that has to be said is hugely successful and agrees in every way with empirical data. What Schwinger fails to grasp here is that this censorship is ubiquitous to all map-making processes, and reflects the human condition. It is only "the death of science" to a person who has a very idealized view of the scientific process, one that excludes all cultural and psychological influences.
Being critical of science, therefore, for rejecting fringe scientists and fringe science is a little naive when one considers that orthodox scientists face that same rejection when they discover and formulate theories that will cause big change. It is the human condition to have to fight for map changes because of psychological resistance, even in supposedly "objective" disciplines like physics.
To conclude this section: science is a creative mathematical artwork that is drawn around selected empirical data-points. It is a realitymap for chosen aspects of our experience that are consistent enough and empirically measurable to be modelled mathematically (or at the very least conceptually). By selecting only those aspects of reality that can be accurately modelled mathematically/logically, we end up with a tool that allows us to predictable build physical systems that can do something useful for us — systems we call technology.
But just because something happens that science is unable to formalize in this mathematical/logical way does not necessarily imply that this experience is fantasy. We have to, of course, reject such experience for practical reasons if we are specifically gathering data for scientific map-making perhaps for technological application, but that is a not a rejection of experience/reality as much as a deliberate selection or filtering of experience for a specific purpose. If people, including scientists, were more aware of realitymaps and how we use them, then we would not be attacking each other at every opportunity over worldviews. Indeed, most conflict is a clash of perspectives, and we are touchy about our perspectives because we confuse them with reality. So an understanding of realitymaps — their contrived nature and their limitations — is a prerequisite to societal harmony. Otherwise, we spend our lives defending our own ideology, and attacking that which we do not agree with. The process of realitymapping should be be a central topic taught in schools, along with language, art, science, mathematics and meditation — it should be that central to any education.
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Part 3: Constructing Realitymaps for Unusual Experiences
So you have had an usual experience: perhaps you saw a flying saucer, had a prophetic dream, a miraculous healing or your thoughts seemed to directly affect reality. Or maybe you have witnessed an alien abduction or other out-of-body experience?
When paranormal events happen, we tend to first try to locate the experience on our predominant realitymap. In Western culture that tends to be the scientific one (even if we are religious). If we find it there — even just a simple label that acknowledges such possibilities — the anxiety or cognitive dissonance associated with unusual experiences is reduced and we can place ourselves using the map in relation to the experience (in other words the ego gains back its conceptual control).
If, on the other hand, our experience cannot be found on the map, we are faced with some choices, choices that most will make subconsciously.
Those who confuse their realitymap with reality itself — and that includes the majority on this planet — will try to deny and dismiss any experience that cannot be mapped on our own realitymap as illusion or delusion. This protects the ego or sense of self which is entirely integrated with the realitymap. [The ego's integration with realitymaps will be covered in a separate article.]
For those who cannot so easily dismiss the experience — either it was too powerful or it happened more than once — the next likely step is to modify the current realitymap to include some sort of exception, even if that involves merely placing such experience in some miscellaneous "Here be dragons" category. This way the experience is acknowledged as real by appearing somewhere on the realitymap so that sanity can be somewhat restored. (After all, living experience that is consistently unmapped becomes a delirium from which we lose our sense of place and position in reality — we lose identity. This is fine if we are going for the Adaitic enlightenment, but for most people this would just be experienced as pure and simple insanity.)
Whilst it is relatively easy to modify personal realitymaps by adding "exception categories" because these types of map tend to have less internal consistency, map modifications become very difficult when we are trying to modify a more sophisticated realitymap like the scientific one which has to have internal consistency, in this case mathematical consistency. In such cases, modification can mean whole swathes of the map need to be redrawn, which is why those with more detailed scientific realitymaps tend to remain in complete denial of paranormal experiences. (Those with more descriptive realitymaps such as those used in religion have much more leeway for modification and they tend to reinterpret paranormal experiences in their own cartographical idiom.)
Occasionally these days, individuals will throw out the scientific realitymap altogether and adopt a religious realitymap in what is called a religious conversion or a spiritual awakening, in an attempt to gain latitude in being able to locate the experience. Often, however, such experiences will not be adequately represented on any traditional realitymap, so we tend to search for them in the New Age or New Consciousness realitymaps. These are relatively new realitymaps that are in the process of being formulated, so they tend to be more plastic, fragmented, disorganized, and in places downright contradictory, which makes these easy to modify. (This is why the New Age is so difficult to define... there is no single defining realitymap.) All new maps are like that — you just have to look at some of the historic early maps of the world to see that.
And those that put together these new maps tend to borrow terms from accepted realitymaps because it gives them more credibility, both from themselves and others. It is a bit like naming towns and cities in new countries like the US and Australia (new from the immigrants perspective) after towns and cities in the countries those immigrants originated from.
For example, when we experience the mind affecting reality in some way — maybe we have had a spontaneous healing after doing intense imagery work — we might look to the scientific realitymap to see where mind (potentially) affects reality, one place being in the quantum physics part of that realitymap (another being through brain chemicals). So we may call our healing experience "Quantum Healing", although in this context it has to be said that it is pretty meaningless. This is just human association for psychological benefit (and, to be a little cynical, maybe a marketing ploy). The label "quantum", after all, from a scientific realitymap perspective actually means that energy has a fine granule structure when we look close enough, just as matter does with regards to atoms and subatomic particle, and the mathematical implications of this energy granulation lead to paradoxes which one possible philosophical implication of is mind-matter connection. So quite what quantum has to do with our miraculous healing experience is anybody's guess!
Adopt too much scientific terminology out of context and you end up with what, by definition, is pseudoscience — a body of knowledge that is trying to pass itself off as science when it clearly does not use the same modelling/mapping processes and peer-review checking. When this happens, you set yourself up against orthodox science, taking the convenient but simple-minded position that, being stuck in orthodoxy, "they would reject anything alternative wouldn't they" (as we have seen, humans have a block on anything that involves changing their worldview, and that includes humans with alternative realitymaps).
Two New Agers (amongst many) who are examples of teachers who pass off their realitymaps as scientific, when they clearly are not, are Gregg Braden and David Hawkins. As a consequence of the scientific howlers they make (howlers obvious to anyone with even high-school science), any gains they try to make in assumed scientific authority are quickly lost in the mess they make of the science and mathematics. A good scientific critique of Braden's work can be seen on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rkwQgeJcFs and there are a couple of critiques I have written on David Hawkins. From the comments on YouTube you will see that some viewers get very upset when alternative theories are debunked, claiming that science has no place to debunk spirituality. But what these viewers are forgetting is that these spiritual teachers have deliberately chosen to present their theories as science, and so it is perfectly valid for them to fall under scientific scrutiny. You cannot have your cake and eat it too; you cannot pretend that what you teach is science and then, when the going gets tough, play the "alternative" or "spiritual" Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.
Far better for spiritual/philosophical teachers like Braden and Hawkins to stay clear of what they clearly do not understand and just present their teachings in their own language, making their realitymaps more spiritual/philosophical than scientific. This would be more honest because what they are not presenting scientific realitymaps, although a superficial glance might give the illusion that they are. Unfortunately, it is not just their own teachings that suffer from this deception: in the process, they tarnish the whole New Age by abusing the scientific realitymap in this way, increasing the divide between orthodox science and fringe science/New Age theory.
So if you see a UFO, a ghost or recover from a life-threatening illness, forget trying to justify your position with quantum mechanics or zero-point energy and stand proudly behind your experience without trying to dress it in respectable scientific clothing. Those experiences are entirely respectable as they are, period. (I have personally witnessed many unusual phenomena and states of consciousness but feel no need to try to justify those experiences scientifically. It does not make them any more real and only indicates insecurity in the reality of our own experience.)
99% of the time "alternative" modifications and additions to the scientific realitymap by those outside orthodox science do not stand up to even unbiased scientific scrutiny. But the 1% hints at a potential scientific revolution just around the corner, if orthodox science is courageous enough to face those areas where it does not work. And the primary such area is the role of consciousness in affecting matter, because if this phenomenon is real then there are no closed or isolated systems. This means that the door is permanently left open for unusual experiences, exposing science as a realitymap rather than reality itself. (For more information on that 0.01%, you might read one of Dean Radin's books.)
Most of these New Age realitymaps, therefore, are not scientific, even though they pass themselves off as science. But it is important to note that this does NOT imply that the reality/experience they are trying to map is unreal, only that they are not proficient mapmakers and as a consequence have copied the form of the maps they have some familiarity with, without appreciating the detailed process of construction that goes into manufacturing those types of map.
So how do you construct meaningful realitymaps for unusual experiences?
It depends on your skill-base and what type of person you are. If you are an open-minded scientist, proficient at scientific map-making, then you are likely to be focusing on those aspects of reality that are amenable to scientific mapping. If you are a Jungian psychologist, you might draw up a map of associative meaning and unconscious symbolism. If you are a shaman, you might focus on those aspects that fit with your vision of the interaction between waking reality and the spirit worlds. If you are an orthodox Roman Catholic, you might view such experience as the work of God or the Devil, depending on the level of your fear/incomprehension. And if you are like most members of Western Society using a simplified scientific realitymap with some personal modifications, then you are likely to construct a more pseudo-scientific realitymap. Nothing wrong with that per se because you are not building a life-and-death technology using that pseudo-scientific realitymap, so the science does not have to be legitimate. Rather, your realitymap serves the purpose of allowing you to psychologically and philosophically make sense of those experiences. In other words, pseudoscience has a place in our interaction with reality, but not the place that those who tend to use it would probably recognize.
An example of these different interpretations might be the following: you wake up in the night and see a ghost at the bottom of your bed which then immediately disappears. Your mind immediately tries to categorize that experience using the realitymap it is most familiar with (its working realitymap):
- The orthodox scientist will dismiss that experience as an illusion or a dream because there is no place on her realitymap to accept the existence of ghosts.
- The open-minded scientist provisionally accepts the experience and realizes, for him to map it, he needs to wait up at night to see it again (the phenomenon has to be repeatable) and use scientific instruments (light meters, magnetic field detects etc.) in order to get some data points that will at least allow him to put the experience in the real phenomenon category. Whether he then takes it further into scientific theory is unlikely due to the high degree of formalisation necessary.
- The Jungian psychologist will accept the experience but will try to find the symbolic meaning of this experience in relation to the greater reality of the collective unconscious.
- The shaman might see the ghost as a messenger from the Upper or Lower worlds, or as an omen of something about to happen.
- The Roman Catholic might see the ghost as a representative of Jesus, or the Devil, or he may map the experience as the image of a deceased person.
- The New Ager might see the ghost as an other-dimensional viewed during a dimensional-bleed.
- And the average person living in Western Democracies who is not particularly religious might see the ghost as a combination of the above, or maybe just a pure fantasy. Most ordinary people have far less invested in their realitymaps than, for example, scientists do, and therefore the acceptance of unusual phenomenon is usually higher amongst non-scientists than it is amongst scientists.
So the realitymap we try to construct will depend on what our goal is; what we are looking for. The scientist is generally trying to map repeatable and measurable aspects of reality which is why, one-off and/or unmeasurable phenomena just do not appear on his or her realitymap.
From this perspective, no realitymap per se is better or worse than another realitymap. The Creationist realitymap holds equal weight to the Evolutionary realitymap. However, it is in the application of these maps that separates them out. If you want to make sense of the fossil record, for example, then the Evolutionary record will make far more logical sense and is likely to be a good enough model to make some predictions about intermediate species (whether they are actually found or not is another matter). Creationism, on the other hand, makes no such predictions, and its primary purpose is to bolster the literal authority of the Christian holy book, which is very important in some communities. So both maps have their functions.
So the Creationist Realitymap and the Evolutionary Realitymap are not equivalent in their specific domains. Creationism would be pretty much useless in trying to categorize fossil records, whereas Evolution would be useless in trying to uphold religious cohesion. Each is king in its particular domain.
Which should be taught at school? It actually does not matter: provided that realitymapping itself is taught then children understand that maps are created for different situations, and so there is no need to have a war about which is the "real" map. In this manner, the children are taught "how" to think, not "what" to think.
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Part 4: General Strategies of Defence
Here we discuss some general strategies when defending ourselves from scientific criticism. The scientific realitymap is targeted here because it is the one that is most easily confused with reality itself as it so successfully models certain physical characteristics of that reality in the form of modern technology. So every use of our mobile phone, for example, is a reminder that science works. So most people in modern democracies believe that science is not just another arbitrary belief system, like religion, because it seems to have more "reality" to it. So the map making process is least transparent in science. Therefore, if we can understand the contrived nature of the scientific realitymap, then understanding the nature of other realitymaps such as religious realitymaps becomes a doddle. (Writing "How to defend yourself against a religious fundamentalist or New Ager" would have been A LOT less challenging... and a lot less instructive.)
But we must never forget that there are many individuals throughout the world who are legitimately criticized by scientists through their own stupidity at presenting their experience, beliefs and modified realitymap in a way that is not authentic or honest. Humans will often try to manipulate other humans, whether they are scientists or non-scientists, and we need to watch for this tendency in ourselves as well as in others. So we can stand by for our experience of alien contact, for example, and look to understanding some of the mystery associated with this experience (one that is shared by many people), but as soon as we start claiming that we are receiving messages from Venusians through our adapted radio and foil helmet because we are their chosen Earthling commander, then the realitymap becomes trite and self-referencing, and whilst it might be of use as a personal mythology, it is not helpful to others — except emotionally to the type of person who wants to be told by some "master" what to believe. It is surprising how many addicted followers there in the world whose insecurities in their own experience only serve to keep up demand for abusive gurus and self-important New Age teachers.
So now let us look at some of the general strategies used to defend ourselves against scientific criticism. The first two are entirely preventative strategies used to avoid becoming a easy target for such criticism. The other strategies are little more offensive. However, some of these strategies have a flip side: if you look for a specific weakness in your scientific opponent then you better not have it yourself. If you do, then everything will backfire and descend into a flame-war. These will be pointed out as we go through the list. [And please note, this list is not exhaustive... you can probably think of a few others yourself.]
- Do not try to pass off your new realitymap as fringe science by filling it with unnecessary scientific terminology. Science is a very precise language, and its terminology has very precise meaning. Unless you really know what you are doing, window dressing a theory to look scientific in order to impress yourself and others will not only incite the derision of scientists, but is misleading and dishonest. If you are going to take that route, and some have successfully done it (usually maverick scientists, but scientists nonetheless), make sure you are competent in mathematics and logic. It is astonishing how many New Age teachers not only dress up their theories in pseudoscience, but have no shame when their mathematical and logical mistakes are uncovered, continuing right on with their epistemological abuse. This abuse tarnishes the whole New Age and slows down the acceptance of new ideas due to the polarisation it causes.
- If you cite scientific references, make sure they are legitimate and accurate. This ensures you do not give your scientific opponent an easy target. Citing research incorrectly or misleadingly brings every you say and write into disrepute, even if parts of it are legitimate. There are some New Age teachers that have built whole careers on misleading scientific claims, parading themselves around as fringe scientists when they struggle at even rudimentary science, mathematics and logic. Once again, this tarnishes the whole New Age as pseudoscience. (Soft "scientists" such as biologists and medical doctors are guilty of this one as well.)
Avoid professional debunkers. Scientists are busy people who are more interested in science itself than in uncovering what is not science. However, there are a few individuals around, usually associated with the soft sciences for reasons stated earlier, who have made it their life's purpose to attack anything that remotely threatens orthodox science. And the irony is that debunking to that level is akin to religious fundamentalism. You would not bother to reason with a religious fundamentalist so avoid the unpleasant and useless experience of trying to reason with a debunker. Remember, if society had ever taken debunkers seriously, scientific revolutions like the one involving quantum theory would have been stifled at the onset and we would still be in the Dark Ages.
Flipside: If you avoid all criticism you can end up with new theories of reality that are more personal fantasy than anything else. There is such a thing as helpful criticism, and you should always be aware of how far you are sailing from the scientific shores. (It is okay to sale for out to sea so long as you are a good navigator, and that requires some conceptual spacial awareness.)
Find out if your scientific opponent has commercial interests. The scientific world today is run more as a business than anything else, with most scientists strongly focused on pursuing research funding and boosting their personal bank balances. After all, scientists are normal human beings pursuing self-interest like most other human beings. So there is often some financial conflict of interest going on in any situation where "truth" is defended too vigorously. Find that conflict of interest and you undermine the scientist's position. For example, those scientists who claim that genetically engineered food is safe because it passes safety legislation do not tell you that the legislation is drawn up by the biotech companies themselves; and the doctors who escalated the Swine Flu scare and tried to convince us that the vaccines are safe have strong financial interests in vaccine sales.
Flipside: If you have commercial interests in your alternative realitymap then it might be a good idea to declare this right from the start so that it is not used against you later.
Check for statistical/mathematical misuse. The old saying goes: "There are lies, damn lies and statistics," and it is as true today as it ever was. Non-scientists tend to be ignorant of statistics and can fall for the tricks scientists play on them, from data cherry picking and overgeneralization to relative percentages and false causality. Scientists are generally mathematically literate (unless they are biologists or medical doctors), so much of this number-abuse is unfortunately deliberate. So it is always worth studying rudimentary statistics in order to be able to spot the more common abuses. One great defense is to defend statistical criticism with statistical criticism. So for example, if a doctor attacks you by saying that your alternative treatment is ineffective, you can throw back at him that chemotherapy success rates are, at best, around 2 or 2.5%, and that it was reported in the Lancet in Nov 2007 that 46% of orthodox medicine is of unknown effectiveness, with a further 10% being harmful or unlikely to be beneficial. Another example might be the misuse of statistics with climate change models. Weather is affected by so many complex factors and variables that it is very difficult to point a finger at a single causal effect for climate changes, but political pressure can demand that single causal effects are focused upon. This is bad science.
Flipside: Turning this one on its tail, if you use statistics yourself to justify your realitymap, make sure you do not abuse the maths.
Ad hominem attacks. When a scientist (or anyone for that matter) starts attacking you personally it is likely that he or she is unable to find serious fault with in your alternative beliefs. So in this situation you need to keep trying to bring it back to the issues and away from you as a person. You stand by your experiences, beliefs and realitymap; but your experiences, beliefs and realitymap do not depend on you. This is far better than just attacking the scientist personally back, a move that only descends into a pointless flame war. Just keep reminding yourself, if the attacks are personal, that you are probably in the stronger position.
Flipside: If you have stacked the truth of your beliefs and realitymap on yourself as a person — whether it is an enlightened being or unrecognized genius maverick scientist — then ad hominem attacks are perfectly valid. Realitymaps backed by this sort of dictatorial authority appeal only to those who enjoy being submissive, and there is no point interacting with scientists (just stick with the company of those stupid enough to follow you).
Move the focus as quickly as possible away from the physical detail and onto the realitymapping process itself. We fight only over what we believe to be reality, not over what we believe to be perspective. Therefore, it is important to draw the scientist away from his usual literal interpretation of his scientific theories and back to a more sophisticated mapping perspective of science, by reminding him or her that the map is not the territory. By doing this, rather than reality being defined by science, science becomes just one perspective of this big unknown called reality, leaving room for the unexpected and the unexplained. This move is likely to immediately put the scientist on the wrong foot, making his or her years of education redundant as most orthodox scientists are pretty ignorant regarding realitymapping.
Flipside: This is not a good idea to do if you are largely confusing your own realitymap with reality, because you then expose your own mapping ignorance. Realitymaps are always easy to spot when they are not your own realitymaps — the blind spot is always closest to home.
Take an historical view of science, pointing out that science is still rapidly evolving and only a few hundred years old at best (modern physics is less than 100 years old) and so it is exceedingly unlikely that the scientific laws the scientist is using to bash your theory are going to be around a hundred years from now. For example, physicists believe that photons can never travel faster than the absolute speed of light which sets limitations on systems. But new experiments already are starting to hint that this may be wrong. If a scientist rejects this, claiming that modern physics is almost complete, just remind him or her that back in 1894, leading scientist A. A. Michelson, who had earlier demonstrated along with E.W. Morley the constancy of the speed of light, claimed that the future of science would consist of "adding a few decimal places to the results already obtained." Little did he know that a complete revolution in physics was just around the corner! So pointing out that science itself is a work in progress undermines a scientist's use of it as an absolute framework to judge the truth of experience. You could flippantly add that we would still be in the Dark Ages if we all took the position that events are impossible if they cannot be described by the current laws of physics. Finally, a little Shakespeare quote is always nice to throw in: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Flipside: If a scientific realitymap can be dismissed using historical perspectives, so can any other, although it has to be said that religious realitymaps tend to have been more enduring. New Age realitymaps are on very shaky ground as they are so new, so it is important to take the position that the new realitymap may be incomplete or wrong too.
Remind the scientist that from a classical physics perspective, only 5% maximum of the universe is known. Given that 70% plus of the universe is dark energy we know almost nothing about, and that 25% plus of the universe is dark matter we also know almost nothing about, physics and chemistry — the bedrocks of science today — therefore describe a maximum of 5% of our universe. And these figures are probably quite optimistic! Therefore to use such incomplete and specialist systems of knowledge to dismiss something unknown is both arrogant and stupid.
Flipside: It is very easy to have the same level of arrogant faith in alternative realitymaps as well. As a general rule, leave the door open for any possibility — that does not mean you have to embrace every strange notion going around, only that you keep an open mind and do not dismiss anything outright.
Insist on a consciousness-centric perspective, rather than a material-centric scientific perspective. After all, awareness underlies every perception we have and thought that we think. By doing this we put "experience" back into the driving seat which "concept" occupies from the scientific perspective. If a scientist can be forced to admit that experience is primary, even to the basic laws of physics, then his position of rejecting your paranormal experience because it is out of step with scientific concept is weakened. You could even throw in that the rejection of direct experience, for whatever reason, is a recipe for psychosis! Extending this tact further, you can say that science has almost nothing to say about consciousness itself (arguing that it is an emergent property of a complex system is just a scientific-sounding admission of ignorance) and so it has to be incomplete by definition, and certainly cannot have anything to say regarding the experiences of that consciousness.
Flipside: Take this too far, and you end up with a dream-reality position which might get you labeled as a fantasist.
Mind-over-matter considerations. If the mind can affect matter then putting in such a wild card opens up infinite possibilities in all closed systems. Science is usually formulated in clinical settings of laboratories and deep space, where systems can relatively easily be conceptually simplified and isolated for mathematical mapping. However, if you introduce mind in the equation, suddenly the system is no longer an isolated clinical one and scientific modelling becomes more of an approximation. And there is certainly bone fide scientific evidence for mind-matter interactions. (Read one of Dean Radin's books.) Having mind-matter interaction, justified perhaps by the quantum theory philosophy, means that there is even more room, in even simple systems, for other possibilities — for the unexpected.
Flipside: There is no point introducing mind-over-matter considerations to break up closed orthodox systems if you yourself are trying to promote a quasi-objective realitymap that excludes the interaction of mind. (This tends to happen in some alternative science realitymaps.)
Emergent properties of complex systems are generally unexpected and unpredicted. Even if you accept a bottom-up material perspective of the universe, the complete unpredictability of emergent properties of complex systems means that the whole can function in unpredictable ways, and as human experience almost always involves very complex systems (and systems within systems) then science has no logical basis with which to dismiss any experience involving complex systems (i.e., most things in life). And if you take it further and argue that because of the ultimate "quantum" unity of the entire universe created from a single Big Bang, then the whole universe can be classified as an interrelated complex system, making consciousness not just an emergent property of brains and nervous systems but an emergent property of the whole universe. This allows you to place consciousness back into the heart of the universe without having to reject too strongly the bottom-up material perspective.
Flipside: This unpredictability also applies to alternative realitymaps.
Remind the scientist that in real life situations events usually do not repeat themselves because of the complexities involved. Sure, the planets and stars follow repetitive paths in the sky, but events in your life are always slightly different and always a bit fuzzy and uncontrollable. As science is the systematic study and induction of repeatable, measurable and controllable happenings — i.e. those characterized by lab conditions on Earth and isolated systems in space — it is wholly unsuited, by definition, for being used to determine the veracity of almost all real-life happenings (and beliefs based around them) which are non-repetitive, unmeasurable and certainly uncontrollable.
Flipside: If real-life happenings are mostly one-offs then any sort of realitymapping becomes very difficult. After all, how can you put something on a map that has only been seen one time by one person?
Quantum theory gives possibility to everything. You can use quantum theory to argue that there is a slim but finite chance of anything happening in the universe, including all the paranormal activity, and so it is not so easy to dismiss. The scientist may come back to you saying that the probabilities of such unusual things happening is almost infinitely small, but you can then ask him to prove this (which of course he cannot as the system is too complex). Based on human experience, paranormal activity seems to happen relatively often; whereas the scientist can only deduce from blind theory using mathematical assumptions and simplifications that the probability of paranormal activity happening is vanishingly small.
Flipside: Do not get drawn into an exposition on quantum theory too much if you do not really understand it, as the scientist may end up running rings around you in that area. So try to keep things brief and focused on that one aspect of quantum theory.
Make comparisons with the illogic of quantum theory. If the scientist is deriding your beliefs or experience because there are aspects of it that are illogical, just remind him or her that, although this may be the case, a hard science like physics itself is predicated on quantum theory which, as anyone knows, goes entirely against logic and expectation. So just because there are illogical or contradictory aspects to a realitymap does not necessarily invalidate it. If you want to take it further, you can mention Bell's Theorem which proves that the illogic of quantum theory cannot be explained by local hidden variables and is therefore endemic to the system. If you want to take this even further and make it more general, you might also bring up Godel's Incompleteness Theorem which proves that any mathematical system of logic (which is what physics essentially tries to be) will not only have contradictions and inconsistencies, but an infinite number of them. Therefore, as illogic saturates even scientific beliefs and mathematical systems, there is no shame in finding it in an alternative or spiritual theory or belief. Finally, you might mention that quantum physicists have to fudge the mathematics of quantum theory to avoid the infinities, a process called renormalization (and which Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman called "hocus-pocus"), but this somewhat contrived nature of quantum theory does not make it any less useful and accurate.
Flipside: Only argue these points if you really read up on quantum theory, Bell and Godel.
Remind the scientist that there are scientific experiments that prove beyond doubt that the laws of physics, at best, are incomplete. You can recommend, for example, one of Dean Radin's books or Michael Brooks' 13 Things That Don't Make Sense. If the scientist retorts that he is not interested in these tiny exceptions, remind him or her that it is such tiny exceptions to accepted theory that spark scientific revolutions, as happened with the problems encountered with black-body radiation at the end of the 19th Century which raised the curtain on modern physics. So ask the scientist to critique the experimental setup of some of these unusual experiments, and if he or she refuses to do so, then tell him that he is acting more as a high priest defending dogma than a scientist, and therefore should not be representing the scientific perspective.
Flipside: If there are exceptions to your own New Age theory, these can invalidate it too unless you argue that your map is more descriptive than prescriptive (which it will probably be anyway.)
Attack the assumption of the time-space invariancy of scientific laws. Some scientists have put forward the argument that the laws of physics may have evolved over time or be different in different parts of the universe. This is almost impossible to prove but so is the assumption that scientific laws and constants are space-time invariant. Therefore, if you really want to annoy a scientist who is, for example, dismissing your theory because of carbon-dating issues, you could counter that this rests on the assumption that radioactive decay rates have always been constant, something that cannot be proved. Most assume that potential mistakes in carbon dating are to do with contamination, when in fact the process itself can be questioned.
Flipside: You have to accept, however, that your own realitymap may also be valid only for specific space-time regions. And you would be surprised how many alternative investigators kowtow at the altar of radioactive decay dating, including the lesser known uranium decay dating for long geological periods of time.
Look for the tautologies and redundancies in scientific arguments. Scientific reasoning in specific areas (invariably in soft sciences like biology and medicine - evolution, ecology and even epidemic models) can be redundant. For example, take biology's "survival of the fittest": it is actually a non-statement as we define the fittest as those that survive. In other words, only the experimental results can predict the experimental results, so we have a theory that is not empirically falsifiable or capable of prediction, which means it is not, by definition, science. The same applies to ecology which builds models that are not predictive but (post hoc) descriptive. This is indicative of science being taking "off-road" into complex systems where it cannot really function.
Flipside: Much of the New Age is even softer than soft sciences and so many of the arguments in New Age philosophy are also redundant. For example, using a muscle testing or pendulum system for measuring the vibration/truth of a statement or person and then defining any 3rd party measurement that disagrees with this measurement as corrupted, in the interest of attaining pseudo-objectivity, means such a measuring system is not falsifiable and therefore is not science. Also, saying that those with high vibration are spiritually evolved is tautological, masquerading as an objective assessment of spirituality.
Holistic system are impossible to understand deductively. The problem with holistic systems (non-linear systems) is that simple deductive cause and effect reasoning just does not apply. As scientific education focuses on bottom-up linear deduction (non-linear systems are notoriously hard to mathematically deal with and so science tends to ignore non-linear aspects hoping they are insignificant). This explains why ecology was such a late bloomer for science — so much of it is counter-intuitional to the linear deductive mind.
Flipside: If you argue this one, do not turn around and start spouting off on your beliefs about holistic systems as you are falling into the same trap. If you refer to them just refer to your experience of them, rather than conceptual models of them, and always keep the door open that nothing is entirely certain.
- Affirm a carrying medium for vibrational memory. The main argument against a lot of vibrational medicine (like homeopathy and flower remedies) and other non-matter mediated energies like ghosts and departed spirits etc. However, even orthodox science is beginning to admit that the so called empty vacuum of space is actually a seething energy of quantum interactions — the so called zero-point field — that give a medium to sustain non-matter vibrational information. Even water has some very unusual properties and, due to its morphic crystalline structure, could potentially hold vibrational information. (There are some scientific studies that do show that homeopathy works, although there are other studies that disagree with the results.) So by having empty space able to contain information and energy, we have the possibility of hidden universes and other dimensions. This opens up the physical universe as described by scientists and allows for consciousness to be everywhere and in every time.
Non-Local considerations. Due to quantum entanglement, different parts of the same quantum system, even if separated to opposite ends of the universe, can communicate with each other instantaneously, breaking the limits imposed by the speed of light. So wherever there is a situation where a scientist argues about limits to information transfer, make a reference to quantum theory's entanglement. However, do not fall into the trap of labelling your system a quantum system (see 1 above) — only bring up quantum entanglement as a means to show the scientist that arguing about the limits of information transfer is futile even from his or her own perspective.
Flipside: It is surprising how many alternative realitymaps are equally mechanistic and local.
Archeological Inaccuracy. Reject ancient-historical "scientific" assumptions on the basis that archeologists, anthropologists and other historical "scientists" are notorious for being inaccurate and manipulative with regards to their treatment of historical data. (Also see 16 above.) The problem with history is that it just does not fit the prevailing belief in a gradual civilization process, but instead strongly hints at cycles of civilizations, some extremely evolved, interrupted by great cataclysms. This is backed up by water erosion evidence, consistent myths from completely different parts of the world, and the many ancient artifacts and building abilities that defy the orthodox view of what "primate" societies were capable of (for examples, read Forbidden Archeology). Archeology and anthropology are more akin to a creative fiction exercise than it is to bone fide scientific investigation, and are hugely influence by culture and politics.
Flipside: If you are going to reject archeological and anthropological "science" then it is better not cherry-pick orthodox theories that agree with your own alternative historical theories. Instead only use orthodox data that is entirely descriptive and reject all orthodox assumptions that have been based on that data.
Science is now so large in scope that scientists have become super specialisers. There is a saying that scientist now specialize so much that they know more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing. When we specialize to this degree, we are notoriously poor at understanding the reality mapping process because that requires a broader vision. A narrow focus turns a scientist more into a technician, and technicians whilst maybe brilliant in their own field, have little experience on anything outside their narrow expertise. We make a serious mistake when we assume that a university academic can automatically speak intelligently about matter outside the narrow scope of his or her specialty.
Flipside: Make sure you are not a super specialist yourself, caught in your own narrow vision, albeit an alternative vision, of reality.
Dismiss science itself as unscientific. If a scientist dismisses your theory as unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific by definition, a good retort is to point out that The Scientific Method itself, which is the philosophy at the core of the scientific realitymap making process, is unfalsifiable, and this brings an element of subjectivity into science. Also, the philosophical tool used by scientists to choose between two or more competing models of reality — Occam's Razor — is equally fraught with subjective interpretation, and therefore also erodes the absolute-objectivity that science and scientists pretend to have.
Flipside: If you are going to do this, make sure you have not presented your own realitymap as an alternative scientific or objective one. Objectivity is just too easy a target.
Ignore attacks. This is an obvious solution but one that only really works if you are confident in the realitymapping process. If you still confuse your theories with reality, believing them to be truth rather than merely your own map of truth, then ignoring a scientific attack is more difficult and requires a thick skin. But if you are conversant in the process of realitymapping, then scientific attacks start to become laughable and are easily ignored (unless you want to be entertained by using one of the techniques above).
Flipside: The annoying thing, however, is that scientists in the pockets of big business have the ear of our governments, so that our legal systems tend to reject alternative realitymaps. For example, you would soon find yourself in jail if you advertised alternative cancer cures because the medical profession has managed to encourage legislation that gives it a monopoly in this area, despite the fact that their lucrative "treatments" such as chemotherapy have a dismal success rate. So ignoring attacks is not helpful if those attacks are coordinated to legislate against alternatives, especially when they present more effective solutions.
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Part 5: Summary
Realitymapping is more art than science; and that includes scientific realitymapping. The art of scientific realitymapping is to map a selected small set of predictably repeating physical aspects of reality that allow us to create predictable (and therefore useful) physical systems. We call these systems technology. In order to maintain all illusion of control, such a physical realitymap is build from the bottom-up or on a reductionist base — explaining the behaviour of high level systems from the collective behaviour of those systems' components. This helps to exclude holistic properties of complex systems that are notoriously uncontrollable and difficult to understand rationally. (In technological systems, collective component behaviour is often called "noise".)
The smallest components in this bottom-up model, of course, are the fundamental particles and energy packets — such as electrons and photons. Because the scientific realitymap needs to have such a high degree of mathematical internal consistency, the cultural holy grail of scientific realitymappers is to formulate a map or model of reality that can (theoretically) predict the entire universe from the behaviour of fundamental particles and photons — the so-called Theory of Everything. In practice, the mathematics of such a theory would be so complex that only special-case approximations would be calculable, but that would not stop the unsophisticated "map-is-the-territory" brigade from claiming that such a theory dictates every aspect of reality, despite the absence of proof. (Ironically, even after defining as illusion and thereby discarding all those unpredictable, complex and holistic parts of reality, scientists are still struggling to logically unite that tiny subset of predictable aspects of reality, something that can never happen because a subset can never entirely represent the whole.)
Scientists need to understand that mapping, by definition, is a process of abstraction, subtraction and approximation, and so no map can ever define every aspect of the entire territory. It would be of absolutely no use if it did. Scientists try to get around this by arguing that the map is the territory; that it is more fundamental than experience; that God or Nature is somehow a mathematician doing an infinite number of calculations using the scientific equations to plot future states of the reality system. So the laws of physics become the very foundation of reality itself, rather than being regarded as mathematical mappings or approximations for repeatable and predictable aspects of reality, which they in fact are.
As a consequence of confusing maps with the territory, science has become a new ideology that rejects anything that does not appear on its realitymap — a bit like someone claiming that a road does not exist because it cannot be found using a satnav. And scientists, most of whom are ignorant of the realitymapping process, have become closed-minded apologists, defending their narrow worldview with the same vim and vigor of religious fundamentalists.
There are actually two aspects of reality that are rejected by orthodox science (although there is some overlap):
- Those that are so complex that they are non-repeatable and uncontrollable. These aspects of reality are being mapped by New Agers (for want of a better term).
- Those that are repeatable and controllable but which challenge orthodox dogma. These aspects of reality are being mapped by fringe scientists who are looking to either extend the scientific realitymap or to spark a complete map redraw of scientific revolution.
The first produces metaphysical realitymaps whereas the second produces actual scientific realitymaps. Both have their uses in different situations, although it has to be said that if (and for many there is no "if" about it) the mind directly affects physical reality due to some sort of mind-matter entanglement, then metaphysical maps become entangled with the scientific realitymaps. This also opens the door to objective empirical assessment for some of the more material aspects of metaphysical realitymaps.
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Part 6: Conclusion
This article has shown some of the techniques that can be used to defend ourselves against someone using the scientific realitymap to judge our experiences and beliefs. As was stated before, it would have been much easier to have written a about defending yourself from a religious fundamentalist or a New Ager, because in these mapping processes, which are generally regarded as less objective, the realitymapping process is more obvious. Science, on the other hand, is so formalized, internally consistent and based so strongly on empirical data, that most of us (including most professional scientists) confuse the scientific realitymap for the territory itself.
Even those who profess to have alternative realitymaps fall into this trap. For example, tne New Age teacher, A'shayana Deane, said in a recent video: "Yes, quantum physics is real." [Is real?? This statement is meaningless.] So if we can learn to defend ourselves against a scientist, we will know enough about realitymapping to defend ourselves against anyone who wishes to impose an ideology or worldview upon us. For once we see an ideology for what it is, like knowing the solution to a puzzle, we cannot go back to the ignorance of searching for a mythical objective Truth (outside the truth of our basic awareness of awareness).
Of course, there will always be those who blindly accept a realitymap as reality for emotional reasons, and that is their right so long as their insecurities don't encourage them to try to impose that realitymap on everyone else (something that unfortunately usually happens because the insecurity associated with blind acceptance automatically seeks out converts to try to bolster its position). But once we are aware of how realitymapping works, we can be more honest with ourselves in why we are accepting a particular ideology, and less likely to try to persuade others to join our worldview.
Becoming aware of how our minds navigate reality using realitymaps is the key to reducing human conflict, and to free our minds to greater possibility. Without this understanding, different groups of people remain stuck in their different fundamentalist worlds, fighting for the truth of their own perspectives. When humans learn that realitymaps are just creative perspectives of reality, then they tend to be open to modifying those perspectives for the greater good. In other words, our maps serve us rather than us serving our maps.
But it goes further than this: for when we become aware of the realitymapping process, we become conscious of the differentiation between our basic conscious awareness (ground-state of being) and the belief structures that construct and define the reality that that awareness is aware of. This is a recipe for what is often called "spiritual awakening" or "enlightenment" — when the true source of "I am" is experienced, an experience that is usually clouded by identification. So there is both a personal and societal benefit from becoming conscious of the realitymapping process, and it is so fundamental to the future coherence of society that it should be central to education at every level.
As long as our realitymaps remain unconscious, we will be controlled by them: human affairs will remain a story of conflicting ideologies, and human psychology focused on ideological defence and conceptual limitations. In these times of crisis, dispelling the ignorance of how our minds map reality must become a collective focus, so that we have the vision and flexibility to step into life-affirming future.
The only true freedom is the freedom of and from the mind. Becoming conscious of the realitymapping process and how our beliefs construct reality is central to being able to complete the journey to true freedom.
A note to open-minded scientists aware of the limits of orthodox science: this article should more correctly be entitled "How to Defend Yourself Against a Bigoted Scientist" as there are a growing number of scientists who are perfectly aware of the limits of science and who revel in the exploration of those places that are 'off-map' on the scientific realitymap. These are the real pioneers of science, and this writer has huge respect for these individuals.