Scientific materialism brings with it some rather troubling implications. For example, that our brains are really "simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output" (Jerry Coyne, professor of biology). Or that humans are "survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes" (Richard Dawkins, biologist).
I bring that up because last night I was reading an article by Aldous Huxley on A Case For ESP, PK and PSI, which appeared in the Jan. 11, 1954 issue of Life magazine. It was a rather lengthy piece that stated the positive case as it existed then (in the heyday of J.B Rhine). Much work has been done since then by researchers with respectable credentials, yet the case for PSI still remains outside the mainstream of scientific thought. (But not, I would add, to the average person who can point to their own experiences.)
Anyway, the following paragraph from the article literally leaped from the page at me and I knew I had the subject of my next blog post:
Our philosophy has no place for free will or for anything which might be described as the soul. And yet, with a blessed absence of logic, we go behaving as though we believe in the uniqueness, the paramount value of human personality. Habit and the fact that our fundamental institutions were framed by men who were firmly convinced of the existence of all things that "no behaviorist has ever observed" make it quite easy for us to think one way while acting another, incompatible way. How much longer can we continue to perform this curious feat? One fine day some dangerously logical demagogue may ask us why, if men and women are merely the byproducts of physical and social processes, they should not be treated as such. After which we may expect to see the fiction of George Orwell's 1984 turn into appalling fact.
Are we there? Have we reached the day when we are going to be treated merely as "byproducts of physical and social progress"? Perhaps not, but some of us fear we are inching steadily in that direction.
The reason I believe those forecasting the end of religion are mistaken is that humans as a whole will never be able to fully embrace the worldview that philosophers of scientific materialism (such as those cited above) so boldly proclaim. It is too deeply ingrained in the human psyche that we are free and aren't mere robots. The rank and file human will always sense their uniqueness and rebel against reductionism. At least that is my prediction.
As approaching an understanding of PSI phenomena, again the rank and file human has some sense of the transcendent. The sense that our minds are not a byproduct but rather a direct product of the Supreme Mind which ordered the Cosmos is basic. That would allow that there can be connections with each other, our environment, and the Supreme Mind.
For me the acceptance of psychic phenomena serves as a kind of argument for belief in the primacy of mind in the universe. The annals of human history are replete with examples of premonitions, predictive dreams, spontaneous intuitive insight, and other psychic experiences. The Universe is intelligible and our minds are intelligent. Either that is by design or is the result of the most astonishing coincidence (or series of coincidences) of all time.
That I am a meat computer functioning inside a larger meat machine is something I just can't wrap my mind around. I'm sure that is true for the majority of us. And even those who do claim to believe it often act inconsistently. They are too uniquely human not to.