Why STEAM needs the humanities to understand science


Materialism has lost its influence in the scientific community, but it is not clear what replaced it. Are we in the middle of a Kuhnian paradigm shift? May be.

The decline of materialist philosophy has been rooted in 1) the belief in “intelligent design” that God exists, and that it does not matter how it happened; 2) unsatisfactory explanations of mental and conscious phenomena and of the “body-mind problem”; and 3) recent developments in 20th century quantum physics.

that of Thomas Nagle The mind and the cosmos is a recent example of the decline of the materialist paradigm. He suggests that since the human mind is part of the natural order of things, any philosophy of human nature that cannot take it into account is fundamentally wrong.

Recent studies by psychedelics have shown that the mind is irreducible to matter. The “mystical experiences” at the heart of individual transformations have led to an acceptance of the mind-altering power of psychoactive medicinal plants, long considered the preserve of mystics and charlatans.

Like Michael pollan indicated in the the Wall Street newspaperGenerally described as the dissolution of one’s ego followed by a fusion of oneself with nature or the universe, a ‘mystical experience’ can permanently change a person’s perspective and priorities. This mystical experiment points to something new about psychedelic therapy: Its success does not depend strictly on the action of a chemical, but on the powerful psychological experience that the chemical can bring about.

Jeffrey Kripal of Rice University

Source: Max Productions Video

So, I contacted a colleague, Jeffrey Kripal, an expert in the history of religions, to enlighten us on the link between science and spirituality, spirit and matter, and the humanities and STEAM fields. In his recent book, The Flip: epiphanies of the mind and the future of knowledge, he argues strongly in favor of the humanities and explains why the STEAM fields would be empty without the human psyche or the collective soul.

Dinesh Sharma: You suggest that we reimagine the humanities as the study of consciousness encoded in culture. The study of “culture” since the work of Clifford Geertz is the study of local cultures, but the awareness you propose to study is almost beyond time, place and context.

Jeffrey Kripal: Your question encodes my answer. It’s one at a time and, not an either-or. The anthropology you describe is conventional anthropology. Its dogmatic localism is precisely what put us in the situation we find ourselves in now: a kind of nihilism and inability to imagine a meaning shared between cultures.

DS: You say that Western knowledge systems are on the verge of “tipping over”. This is indeed the case in physics. But the new physics is limited in the hard sciences, not permeating the wider culture, due to the politics of knowledge.

JK: You are reading me correctly. I think we are at a crossroads. Our social and spiritual imaginations have not caught up with the quantum reality that our mathematics, our physics and, frankly, our technologies use and assume. We live in a vast schizophrenia. It doesn’t help much when elite physicists complain about popular attempts to permeate culture or confuse quantum physics. So what? Correct them. Help them. And let’s move on.

    Jeffrey Kripal of Rice University

the flip

Source: Jeffrey Kripal of Rice University

DS: Are you seeking to “reverse” the “materialist paradigm” that has dominated the academy since the Enlightenment?

JK: Well, yeah sure, but the book isn’t about me doing anything. This is a larger cultural, philosophical and scientific change that is happening all around us. I’m just reporting.

DS: I like your line, “science only studies the things it can study.” So, it can be defined by what is selectively excluded from the sciences?

JK: Science works so well because it can tell what it will study and what it will not do. We are not so lucky, or we are luckier, in the humanities. We study human beings, who never quite fit our paradigms or models, and, strangest of all, we are human beings who study human beings, so it’s crazy. What I’m trying to say in the book is that human beings have all kinds of weird, quantum-like experiences, and we shouldn’t ignore them or ignore them just because they don’t play by the rules. of our scientific or humanist games. On the contrary, we should change the rules of these games.

DS: However, there has been an eternal dialogue between the sciences and the humanities, the “two cultures of the scientific revolution”, as CP Snow called him. Do you think that the study of Eastern religions made it possible to get out of this impasse?

JK: The study of Asian cultures has mainly fallen into traditional Western academic categories, such as “culture”, “philosophy” and “religion”. We really didn’t take their ontologies seriously. For the most part, we only “described” them as “speeches” or envisioned various political and social identities and thus crammed them into our little boxes. If we took their own philosophical views (and experiences) really seriously, we would probably take consciousness much more seriously.

DS: You focus on the personal experiences of “secular” or “materialist” scientists, who have had mystical experiences through spiritual practices. How long have you been collecting these stories?

JK: I focus on lay engineers, scientists, and medical professionals because I teach at a STEM-focused university, and I realized a long time ago that students wouldn’t take traditional religious sources seriously. But when I introduce them to modern, secular scientists, they do a double take. It is much harder to ignore them. I have been collecting these stories for about two decades.

DS: What are the precognitive dreams that you think are prophetic or that draw from another time domain?

JK: Of all the psychic or paranormal phenomena, I am probably the most impressed with precognitive phenomena, which tend to occur in dreams. The work of Eric wargo is amazing here. If you haven’t read it, drop it immediately and go read Time loops. Believe me. Eric’s ideas predict a lot of things that I actually encounter in the stories I have collected. I have always been more Freudian, but the “unconscious” here is hardly what Freud thought. Eric essentially maintains that there is no unconscious; that the unconscious is consciousness transposed in time; that Freud was in reality studying communications spread over time and often returning from the future. I don’t know if he’s right, but that’s the kind of burrow you are led into once you start taking these phenomena really seriously.

DS: In the book, Consilience: the unity of knowledge, sociobiologist EO Wilson discusses methods that have been used to unite the sciences and may, in the future, unite them with the humanities. Biologists are likely to view consciousness as evolving over time, across millions of years, in various adaptations and mutations across reptiles, fish, amphibians, mammals, and humans.

JK: Sure, but the biological sciences have a long way to go. They have real snags around vitalism and teleology, for example. I think both of these are real mistakes – they can be pragmatic and useful mistakes, but they’re still wrong. Life is not reducible to chemistry. Evolution is moving again and again towards obvious goals (like the eye). I have a favorite quote here. It’s a definition of hydrogen that goes something like this: “Hydrogen: a light, odorless gas which, with sufficient time, transforms into people.” Appropriately, he is listed as anonymous. No one wrote it down.

DS: Finally, says Elon Musk, SpaceX Starship could protect the ‘Light of Consciousness.’ The spacecraft carrying humans could play a key role in preserving humanity in the universe. What do you say about Musk’s idea? He wants humans to be a multiplanetary civilization.

JK: I’m always hesitant to bring up topics that I know very little about, so I’m not sure what to say about Elon Musk. I know that intellectuals are very good at criticism, at saying “no” and very bad at asserting, at saying “yes”. I also know that individuals and communities really need something cosmic to assert and dream of. I work and live in Houston, right across the campus from the same football stadium where President Kennedy gave his famous “moon stroke” speech in September 1962. I think we need some moonlighting. We must also, of course, ask ourselves serious questions about these big projects: “Why not work harder to preserve this planet? “How can we be more attentive to the beneficiaries of such a project? “” Are we really capable of subsisting off the planet? Having asked such questions, I am sure that if previous great human endeavors (including the Apollo space program), none of which were morally pure, had awaited the blessing of academics, they would never have happened. In short, I do not know Elon Musk or his project, but I am wary of our suspicions.


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