The Two Types of Science

The Two Types of Science -

Most people don't realise there are two entirely different concepts that are commonly called "science". And that they can, at times, completely contradict one another.

1. One is the original meaning of science: Something which is done using the "scientific method". Theories are developed from repeatable, verifiable experimental evidence. The word "theory" is used to indicate that the conclusion which was drawn is not actually known to be 100% definitely true, it's just a way of explaining what we see and observe that fits in with the evidence and makes sense. Something that fits in with repeated observation, and has not been demonstrated by experiment to be false. Or a conclusion (or set of conclusions) that was made from these experimental observations.

2. The second type of science is the absolutely massive edifice that consists of popularly accepted scientific theories — that were once based on previous experimental evidence (or lack of opposing evidence), and repeated for long enough to be accepted into mainstream thought. And now treated as if we know everything on that topic. Along with this goes the assumption that nothing that contradicts these accepted ideas can possibly be valid.

Which is, ironically, the very thing that science itself was originally meant to oppose. In this second type of science, the important thing is not what can be demonstrated by repeated experimental observation — but what has already been accepted as truth at some time in the past, by officially recognised "scientists".

I'd been vaguely aware of this for a long time, but when I read the quote below the idea really solidified for me. I realised how much of what we now call science is really just another version of faith.

When such [materialist] scientists and philosophers are confronted with the evidence, their reaction is often anything but rational. Philosopher Neal Grossman describes how he discovered this for himself:

'I was devouring everything on the near-death experience I could get my hands on, and eager to share what I was discovering with colleagues. It was unbelievable to me how dismissive they were of the evidence. "Drug-induced hallucinations," "last gasp of a dying brain," and "people see what they want to see" were some of the commonly used phrases. One conversation in particular caused me to see more clearly the fundamental irrationality of academics with respect to the evidence against materialism.

I asked, "What about people who accurately report the details of their operation?"

"Oh," came the reply, "they probably just subconsciously heard the conversation in the operating room, and their brain subconsciously transposed the audio information into a visual format."

"Well," I responded, "what about cases where people report veridical [verified to be genuine] perception of events remote from their body?"

"Oh, that's just coincidence or a lucky guess."

Exasperated, I asked, "What will it take, short of having a near-death experience yourself, to convince you that it's real?"

Very nonchalantly, without batting an eye, the response was: "Even if I were to have a near-death experience myself, I would conclude that I was hallucinating, rather than believe that my mind can exist independently of my brain."

He went on to add that dualism — the philosophical thesis that mind and matter are independent substances, neither of which can be reduced to the other — is a false theory and that there cannot be evidence for something that is false. This was a momentous experience for me, because here was an educated, intelligent man telling me that he will not give up materialism, no matter what. Even the evidence of his own experience would not cause him to give up materialism.

In other words, Grossman's colleague simply stated that nothing could possibly convince him that materialism was false. Like others before him, Grossman realised at that moment that for some people materialism is an ideology, a dogma. For such individuals, materialism is not a scientific hypothesis that is open to be potentially being proved false; it is an article of faith that "must" be true, regardless of evidence to the contrary. As Grossman shrewdly pointed out, a complicating factor is that materialists are typically under the impression that their belief in materialism is not ideological, but empirical [i.e. demonstrated to be true by experimental evidence]. That is, they talk as though their adherence to materialism is rigorously scientific, when in fact it is merely an expression of faith. [Emphasis added.]

Chris Carter, "Science and the Near Death Experience", p. 236. Carter is quoting Neal Grossman, "Who's Afraid of Life After Death?", Journal of Near-Death Studies 21, no. 1 (Fall 2002), pages 5-24. The quote begins on page 8 of the journal, which is page 4 of the PDF. I've added one paragraph from Grossman's article which doesn't appear in Carter's book.

Once you realise this, it's no longer about choosing faith versus science — it's just faith versus a different type of faith.

My father thought very highly of science and of anything "scientific". As a small child I was given books to read about famous scientists, to hopefully become inspired by them, and want to become one. I heard repeatedly how science is something that intelligent people know to be true. Because it's based on thinking, and intelligence... And that all these kinds of things were good. Religion was the opposite, based on superstition and invented fantasies, with no basis in fact. There was a strong message that to follow religion, you had to put your brain into neutral gear.

But that was a long time before I understood that science can mean two completely different things. And long before I realised that the way we use the logical parts of our mind — what we usually call "intelligence" — is actually a type of trap...

Cover image by Looker_Studio / Shutterstock.

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