Science, spirituality, and the limits of the materialist paradigm
"The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you."This is a quote attributed to Werner Heisenberg – a pioneer of quantum mechanics, known for the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty.
There are a number of my friends who oppose religion; for good reasons that I also used to champion. Such people are very much miffed by Heisenberg's mention of "God". They argue the concept means nothing; that it's useless. "God" and "spirituality" are just labels we put on things we don't understand. Anything we don't yet know, science will eventually explain. Until it does, it is useless to guess.
I would argue guessing is an essential part of the scientific process. Most progress started first by guessing. However, more than just this – I wish to address the assertion of spirituality being useless.
The materialist paradigm exists for a reason. If it's what makes a person happy and makes them comfortable, who am I to tell them that they "need" something different? If someone is happy with that understanding of the world, that's fine.
But the fact is that the materialist paradigm is false. I know it is false from experience.
In this, I find the words of Morpheus appropriate:
"Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself."
Experiences exist, and are available from time to time, which can provide you with subjective evidence that materialism is false. The thing with these experiences is, however, that they are not available on demand. This means they aren't easily reproducible.
An often glossed-over property of the scientific method is that, by necessity, it simplifies the unsimplifiable. This is necessary to make any progress at all. However, it is done literally by throwing crucial data away. What science cannot explain, it dismisses as if it never existed. A plot point on a graph that doesn't fit the equation is not pursued relentlessly to find an explanation; it is dismissed as measurement error.
If you're a software developer – like I am – you may have done your share of debugging. You may have had the experience of when you see a weird bug happen, and then you can't reproduce it again. This is the weird plot point of the graph. You may have dismissed this bug, pretended you did not observe it; treated it as a "measurement error". And you might not see it again for months. But the bug is there.
In time, if your software is used enough, users will observe the effects of that bug, and you may be reminded of its existence. Just because you didn't chase it down, it didn't go away. If you pay attention, then in time, you might collect enough data to find that bug, and finally fix it. But you'll never collect that data if you don't pay attention; if you keep believing that the bug "shouldn't" be there.
A shortcoming of science is how often it doesn't do that. All scientific measurement is riddled with these inexplicable phenomena, but for the most part, they're continually being dismissed. Much science, though not all, is an attempt to "understand" by shoehorning the world to fit an equation. It's a pretense that the world obeys rules we are comfortable with - whereas in fact, it very much may not.
So – many people, including friends of mine, believe spirituality is useless. But it is science that is in fact useless, if certain assumptions that we take for granted about the world happen to be false. We are trusting science to eventually provide us with ultimate answers. But the scientific method can only provide us with ultimate answers if those answers can be found within the world.
If the world is in fact an illusion; if the gateway out of this illusion is in fact the mind; then making measurements using contraptions that are part of the illusion will not provide us with an understanding of what is outside.
If you investigate yourself; if you investigate the mind; and by that I mean, paying attention to your mind; not by taking EEG measurements of someone's brain, or poking in there with a scalpel; because the brain is not the mind, and is most likely only a projection, an extension, an outer layer of the mind;
... if you pay attention to your mind, then you may find answers today, instead of waiting hundreds of years before science can conclusively tell you: "Sorry - it turns out you just needed to look into yourself."
Science is a tap, yes. But what comes out of this tap is just more information about the world, which makes sense within the world. If the world is an illusion, chances are that science will never give us information about the outside of the illusion, because all science takes place within it.
But if our minds exist outside of the illusion – then there's potential to access this knowledge directly.