It’s so interesting how conventional philosophy approaches and flirts with the obvious truth, but cannot really confront it because Science itself is yet another dogmatic set of beliefs –founded on questionable assumptions, like the belief that we are separate individuals..
In this very compelling TED talk, philosopher Daniel Dennett makes the “scientific” case that neither our thoughts or beliefs are “us” –he compares them to the parasites that can take over an ant and even make an individual ant commit “suicide” to reach the parasite’s goal –the top of a leaf.
In this wonderful talk Dennett uses a “scientific” and “philosophical” perspective to analyze our own beliefs –called “memes” by atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins –which seem to have a life of their own.
As Dennett says, once a meme is “loose” in the world its adoption takes people over –the best example being the fundamentalist religions which currently wreak so much havoc.
Of course, the underlying meme that Dennett and Dawkins are trying to debunk is the notion of “God” –but once one has granted the legitimate reality of thought, especially outside the brain of individual humans, and given it a “life of its own” as a meme, what are the implications?
Now science must inevitably account for “mind” and perhaps even confront the 800 lb. gorilla that is “a priori” to all being or existence –Consciousness.
Having established clearly that thought is NOT consciousness –then science must now address –what IS Consciousness and can it be “known” objectively?
One might ask which scientists if any are approaching this kind of work?
One area is surely neuroscience and perhaps more specifically the area of dreams –something that science pretends to “study” and “understand” but which clearly points to another mental realm.
Based on our own experience we know that dreams “seem” real –they are thoughts that we completely believe (as though we’re immersed in a movie or video game). In “waking” consciousness –we can continue to believe our thoughts (and remain unconscious –in Dennett’s terms in the grips of the mental parasite) –or we can begin to “awaken” and question our thoughts.
Of course our own computer science has simulated dreams with computer graphics to a greater and greater extent – forcing us to profoundly rethink the models of perceptual reality we have taken as true. Through observation and meditation, we can eventually create a gap between our “selves” that apparently begin to notice our thoughts -and the thoughts themselves – connecting with the “spirit” or “being” above thought –as Eckhart Tolle describes it.
From this perspective we know that some thoughts clearly are helpful –and probably related to the primary genetic program we seem to be running –survival and/or evolution.
For example, a thought that the last time I went into the jungle, my friend got eaten may save my life, and perpetuate the species. Then came thoughts about which plants were safe to eat, and which cured ailments.
This is the beginning of science – the trial and error testing of hypotheses that may seem to lead to a “higher” level of truth –within the overall dream (Consciousness).
At the apex of current science is genetics and the decoding of the genome –the chemically encoded set of instructions that lies beyond thought –serving as the basis for our and all known life’s organic being.
Geneticist Juan Enriquez has made clear in his amazing TED talk that in fact genetic code operates as an “application” –like our own computer code it is based on a rigid set of logical principles and syntax –so that if it is symbolically altered we can literally create a new life form.
I’ve noted the potential implications of this in my own video on the subject:
And again – even prominent scientists and atheists like Richard Dawkins have noted the eerie similarity between what we have conceived (software) and what instructs our Being (DNA) —
So if we know that thought “exists” from philosophers like Dennett with the ability to take us over, and that another level of being exists, that allows us to describe and analyze thought as memes, what can we say about the level of apparent “thought” that has gone into our genes –and clearly not by “us?”
Since it takes supercomputers to decode the genome we can clearly see that on the order of its complexity it is vastly beyond anything we have created with science (our own thought-belief system (“meme”) of being separate objective thinking objects).
And we can also know that whatever thought “went into” DNA it is like software that did not simply randomly “evolve” –as disturbing as this thought is to scientists like Dawkins –Google was created via thought –by a Mind. Apparently so was DNA.
Does this automatically validate the fundamentalist meme of Creationism? Well no –we have no direct evidence of the conventional notion of “God” so according to the Scientific meme we can discard it, as Dennett has.
But now, what of our “objective” science itself? Is it now clearly exposed as yet another meme –assuming our knowledge of ourselves as separate “things?”
The key element of the scientific meme is that we are our bodies –and yet even scientists like Dennett have noted that we are “composed” of many different types of cells; in fact besides “our own” tissues (with “our” genetic instructions) there are literally millions of other organisms that live symbiotically within our bodies at all times.
Some of these are benign – fortunately for our current state of being. Some are not – as Enriquez points out in showing the genetic code for the Ebola virus in his video above.
What does all of this point to –apart from the apparent incompleteness of scientific understanding?
First, that “objective” Science itself is a meme. It is not Truth. It is a belief system like all others that seem to “inhabit” our minds.
So can science ever reveal Truth? – That is a very important question.
Some, like the Advaita Nonduality folks assert that Being or Consciousness is unknowable. Period. (“Don’t believe anything you think.”)
Others romanticize ancient cultures when there may have existed a “Sacred Science.” And yet, here we are. Programmed apparently for survival to continue thinking about our “selves.”
“To acquire power, the modern age turned to the mechanism of thought rather than to consciousness. As a result the emotions—unharmonized, untouched by the ideas of the intellect—unconsciously continued their work of governing the life of man under the formation of egoism. Ideas which could have guided the harmonization of mind, feeling and instinct became instead mere explanations which divide and analyze, and through which unity can never be obtained.”
Many of the ideas Dr. Needleman refers to are “esoteric” – they were withheld from the masses, guarded by “priests” and insiders and lost to plunderers and savages (believers in other memes). One immense such loss was probably the Library of Alexandria…
In modern times, these sources can be found on the Internet, and profound thinkers like Eckhart Tolle, who writes so eloquently about the dysfunctional effects of the egoic mind, have potentially led us back to a level above mere thought –or memes. In seeing clearly that even Science is yet another meme or belief –we can possibly reconnect with Consciousness as lived experience (an idea that can “guide the harmonization of mind, feeling and instinct’), with renewed reverence for the true scale and sanctity of Existence itself.
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