The 10 "False Assumptions" of Modern Science?

By Michael Edmonds 08/12/2013 13


Last week I came across a magazine I hadn’t seen before in Paperplus. Called “New Dawn” it purports to be “the No. 1 magazine for people who think for themselves” and covers a range of topics such as the afterlife, psychic healing with pets, astrology and conspiracy theories. Amidst this hodge podge of muddled thinking was an article by Mike Adams (aka the “Health Ranger”), who some readers may be aware of through their reading of other blogs such as Respectful Insolence.

In this article Mike Adams refers to the work of Rupert Sheldrake, who in his book “The Science Delusion”, criticises science. A while back I starting blogging about “The Science Delusion” however, after the first few chapters I gave up as the misrepresentation and misinterpretation of science was doing my head in (I swear I could feel the brain cells imploding in despair). Mr Adams in summarising Sheldrake’s key points at least makes it a less prolonged (albeit a still painful) process to respond to these supposed 10 false assumptions of science, as follows.

1) The universe is mechanical

Adams (based on Sheldrake’s writings) complains that modern science

“believes that the entire universe is made up of “stuff” and  nothing else. There is no consciousness, no spirit, no mind and nothing other than mechanical and chemical stuff.”

Of course he (they) have overlooked the existence of energy and the perfectly reasonable assumption that what we experience as consciousness (or mind or spirit) is simply a complex interaction of matter and energy.

2) All matter is unconscious

There is no evidence that matter itself is conscious, but this does not preclude the development of a larger consciousness as I have implied in my response above. Adams argues that

“modern science assumes humans are nothing more than biological robots” and

“the idea that inanimate objects such as minerals or crystals might have some sort of consciousness is considered heresy by most modern scientists”

I think the first statement is incorrect, while the second is correct and rightly so as there is no evidence to indicate to the contrary.

3) The total amount of matter and energy is always a constant

The disagreement with this “assumption” seems to be around the authors need for a creator/ grand designer etc and draws on unclarity around dark matter.

4) The laws of nature are fixed.

Adams refers to early theories (and examples?)  about faster than light  teleportation and quantum entanglement suggesting that these

“ignore(s) the apparent laws of physics”

The use of the word “apparent” seems quite ironic in that it almost hints that Adams realises, but refuses to acknowledge, that science does adapt its theories and even its “laws” when evidence to the contrary is provided and a better explanation can be formulated. Science is not the rigid framework he attempts to imply (of course if one wants to look at rigid frameworks of belief, one need not venture far from the dubious treatments such homeopathy, reikki and crystal healing that Adams is more than likely to support).

5) Nature is purposeless, with no goal or direction.

Criticism of this “false assumption” is based on the opposing contention that there is a “driving creative force” in nature which the author links to the concept of “spirit” and relies on criticism of Darwinian natural selection and misguided claims that there are no fossils of a “missing link between humans and primates.

Again, I would contend that while nature itself can be viewed as purposeless, sentient creatures, e.g. human beings can create purposes themselves and decide on their own goals and directions.

6) All biological inheritance is material carried DNA

This argument uses epigenetic factors, something well understood by modern science to argue that views of “old school science” that DNA alone controls your health, behaviour, and all your inherited attributes. I don’t know who these “old school science” beleivers are but I am not aware of any scientists who believe that DNA dictates everything around us. It has been quite clear for at least several decades that environment affects us, with epigenetics providing some of the explanation for us.

The trouble with many of those who claim this “false assumption” is that will often carry it too far in the opposite direction claiming that our genetic background has little affect of our health for example, and simple modifications of diet can cure ALL disease.

7) There is no such thing as a mind other than an artifact of of brain function

This is simply a rehash of points 1, 2 and 5. It seems to me analogous to claiming that a computer programme is an artifact of computer function.

8) Memories are stored chemically in the brain and disappear at death

I’d like to see proof that this is not the case beyond the authors suggestion that he is

“convinced that memories are holographically stored across not only the brain matter itself but also in a non-material spirit matrix of some sort which interacts with the brain”

9) Unexplained phenomena such as telepathy are illusory

Evidence please to show the contrary?

10) Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works

This section has some dreadful misrepresentations of modern science including statements such as

“most modern-day scientists do not believe that any vitamin, any mineral or any food has any biological effect on the human body other than providing calories, sugars, protein, fibre and fat.”

Talk about setting up a strawman. It was modern science that showed the importance of vitamins and minerals in protecting against a range of diseases. What I suspect is that Mr Adams has a problem with modern science not being able to support, in good conscience, various claims that high doses of vitamins and minerals can cure all manner of disease.

It then suggests that

“the mechanistic model of medicine is an utter failure for human civilisation”

ignoring the many successes of modern medicine while simultaneously providing no evidence for the successes of “alternative” medicine approaches. If Mr Adams would care to provide evidence for one of his “non-mechanistic” treatments and put it up against the successes of quinine, penicillin and morphine, for example, I’d love to see the comparison.

 

These 10 “false assumptions” of modern science are little more than poor interpretations and misrepresentations of science. Rather than being the

“dogmatic, permanently pessimistic science”

described by Adams, modern science is, in actuality, creative, thoughtful and adaptive. Rather it is those who push “non-materialistic” treatments such as reikki, crystal therapies and homeopathy with scant evidence to support them who are being dogmatic. Furthermore, ask any scientist an modern science is not pessimistic – it inspiring and fascinating for those who take the time to truly understand what science is all about.

 

 


13 Responses to “The 10 "False Assumptions" of Modern Science?”

  • “modern science assumes humans are nothing more than biological robots”

    I am curious to know which part of this statement you feel is is incorrect? That we are biological robots or that science assumes this? Or both?

  • Although Sheldrake and Adams are all over the place, there is a grain of truth in some of what they say. Consciousness has not, and I believe cannot, be fully explained by science (or metaphysics). Consciousness is related to issues about the identity of persons over time. If I tell you that I am going to torture YOU tomorrow, you will be concerned in a very different way to if I told you that I am going to torture someone else tomorrow. Yet science (and metaphysics) cannot fully explain this major difference. The issues here get very complicated very quickly, and therefore end up in the “too hard basket”. I suggest, therefore, that the idea that consciousness has a non-physical component is a real possibility. Maybe the brain is the physical “vehicle” in which consciousness can reside and interact with the physical world. If you believe in science, then you might not like that idea …

  • Re: the quote at #8; my immediate response was “Huh?” When he says “convinced” and “of some sort” and suggests that the brain works optically, I realised he has no idea what he’s on about.

  • Darcy,
    It is largely the “nothing more” part of that phrase that I disagree with.
    I think in some respects the analogy that we are “biological robots” is reasonable though I think critics use it to ignore human sentience which I see as a function of biology not something beyond it.

  • Fair enough, I don’t generally worry about “nothing more” statements. Just because they find the conclusion distasteful – doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

  • Stephen,
    There is nothing to suggest that what you describe as consciousness is anything more than the result of the complex electrochemical and biochemical processes going on in our brain.
    Why shouldn’t sentience/consciousness be the result of what is going on inside our brains?

  • The point is that science hasn’t (so far) been able to crack this particularly hard nut. You can BELIEVE that it eventually will do, if you want to have such FAITH in science! As I said, the issue is complex.

    • Stephen
      The point is that there is no evidence that consciousness or “spirit” exists beyond biology so I think the onus is on you to prove that a non biological consciousness not on science to prove that it doesn’t exist.

  • The evidence is that science has tried hard and gotten nowhere. Under some circumstances, absence of evidence can be evidence of absence (e.g. Is there a cat in this box? Well I’ve had a good look and I can’t see anything!) The very nature of science and the very nature of consciousness are in different realms anyway. Science can only measure objective observables.

    • Stephen,

      “Science has tried hard and gotten nowhere”

      Science has tried hard to do what?

      “Under some circumstances, absence of evidence can be evidence of absence”

      And how do you decide which circumstances this applies in?

      “The very nature of science and the very nature of consciousness are in different realms anyway”

      What makes you think this? What evidence do you have to support this?

      There is plenty of research to show that consciousness is the result of biology – drugs affect consciousness, and there is no evidence that consciousness exists after the physical death of the body.

  • The onus would be on me to prove this IF I was claiming it to be fact! But, if you read my words in my first post above, what I said was “the idea that consciousness has a non-physical component is a real possibility.” I am saying that it is an open question, that’s all. My personal opinion is that there is a nonphysical component to consciousness, but I am not trying to convince anyone of that.

    You say: There is plenty of research to show that consciousness is the result of biology – drugs affect consciousness, and there is no evidence that consciousness exists after the physical death of the body.

    I do not doubt that physical things (e.g. drugs) affect consciousness! That does not show that consciousness is itself physical! There is no evidence that consciousness doesn’t exist after death, so it is an open question. I very much doubt that scientific instruments could detect consciousness that was unattached to a physical body, even if such thing does exist. If science can’t detect something even if it exists, then it can neither prove nor disprove the existence of it.

    • Stephen

      First up, I’d like to thank you for the discussion – although we have different points of view I think it is useful to tease them out, as it not only helps me understand another persons point of view it also helps me refine my own thinking.

      So am I correct in understanding that your worldview allows for the existence of something (e.g. consciousness) that lies beyond the physical world?

      If so, do you believe that science should not be able to measure this unseen world? After all if it interacts with the physical world then surely it would be measureable and therefore within the ability of science to measure it.
      If it does not interact with the physical world then we are unable to confirm it’s existence and it is indistinguishable from other things we have no evidence for – e.g. unicorns

  • One has direct knowledge of one’s own consciousness (almost by definition), which makes it rather different to unicorns! I don’t think science can measure this “unseen world” (not really “unseen”, because I can see mine!) It may be possible to measure its interaction with the physical world in some way, but in practice we are a long way from being able to do that properly. For example, if one’s consciousness makes decisions (e.g. go home. or go to the cinema), then we would have to trace every minute step of the process back into the brain to try to find a determining cause of that decision. If the decision was fully determined by physical factors, then there would be no room for consciousness (except as a kind of passive observer). But, as I said, in practice we cannot do this, so it is an open question.