For scientific realism to be valid, we would have to accept that science describes or approximates reality. Discoveries in quantum physics over the last century have indeed made this claim more appealing because it seems we are discovering a new scientific domain, mind, which has been detailed in some wisdom traditions around the world for millennia. Those same wisdom traditions say that mind is not the ultimate reality, though it is as far as science will penetrate.
Scientific realism will take us to the edges of the mind, but not beyond. As it makes that journey, the scientific mind will evolve from materialist to panpsychist to idealist to non dualist.
The non dualist mind experiences the very edge of all experience, physical and mental, and by virtue of seeing the great chasm beyond, recognizes the falseness of all that it once "knew" to be real, including itself. The independence of even that mind has to be left behind - and along with it all experience - to recognize reality, which is untouchable by the mind, and therefore by scientific realism.
The key to recognizing why scientific realism is false is appreciating two facts:
- Science will ultimately understand mind in great detail.
- Mind and consciousness are not the same.
The nature of mind and the nature of consciousness are more different than the natures of any two other entities one can imagine.
This is because all entities other than consciousness, which can't be truly circumscribed by the concept of an entity, are experiences in the mind. Consciousness alone is not an experience in the mind!
In Part 1, I commented on why perception is such an infinitesimal glimpse into reality. I admit my fault: By using the word "infinitesimal," I allowed for the theoretical possibility that perception approaches reality in even the slightest manner. For clarity's sake, let me shut that door.
Perception, no matter how refined, augmented, and comprehensive, does not provide a glimpse into reality. Perception has to be surrendered, or seen through, at the threshold of reality.
The greatness of perception is that, when refined, augmented, and comprehensive, it can reveal to us the immensity of the mind, of which science currently knows tremendously little.
If a person wishes to swim, he/she must leave land. Swimming in the ocean is nothing like walking on land. Similarly, if a person wishes to know reality for the first time, he/she must go beyond perception. This doesn't mean perception is not useful in the mental world (and its subset, the physical world). It doesn't mean one can't return to perception again. But at first, perception (materialism, panpsychism, idealism) has to be left behind.
To understand the difference between consciousness and mind, the mind itself must be sufficiently subtle.
This literally means that the mind must become translucent. One must be able to see the "mind" all around, as you and I are doing as we read and write this, and yet see through it or beyond it as well. Upon seeing beyond, when we look back over our shoulder, the mind is seen as nothing but the apparent activity of consciousness.
At first glance, there appears to be overwhelming evidence that there is an external world. That sense disappears on close, relaxed examination. The apparent "overwhelming evidence" is relative to an understanding of reality that is appreciable or approximated by perception, which I have done my best to refute. The evidence is indeed great for a mental reality, which is the direction the scientific mind is evolving toward. However a "mental reality" (or pseudo-mental reality, which panpsychism supports) is not reality itself, in which there is no movement, no perception, no mind, no boundary.
Logic can take us to the brink of reality, but not further, because it is entangled with perception.
This is not to say we should not use sound logic. The more sound the better! Sound logic will take us into the domain of idealism. And from there the gravitational pull of consciousness will eventually flatten the remaining misconceptions in the mind.
A quick point about NCC's (neural correlates of consciousness, which are the activity of neurons in the brain). NCC's are not correlates of consciousness, given my explanation of consciousness above. They are correlates of experience, or mind. Mind dances with itself through physicality and mentality. It correlates with itself in infinite ways, only a small fraction of which are known by science, one of them being NCC's. Let's rename NCC's as NCE's - neural correlates of experience. It's infinitely more precise, and without precision science will keep pounding its head against a wall.
Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is the author of Michelangelo's Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. He is a practicing emergency physician in the Washington, DC metro area.