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Basic Para-Science and Scientism.mp4

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I'm Charles Tart and one of the things I do is teach at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alta, California. For the first time in several years, I am going to be teaching a course on Basic Parapsychology, and I'm teaching it in an online format due to scheduling difficulties in using our campus facilities. and I've done this sort of teaching before some years ago before the technology got better, but online format still lack a certain intimacy. and so I'm occasionally going to make an informal videotape like this just to give my students a chance to see what I look like and hear what I sound like; as well as writing many things for them. Since I'm posting this on YouTube, that makes this accessible to anyone and since the subject matter for course Parapsychology is interesting to so many people I'll try to make these videos useful to sort of stand alone in their own right as conveying some information about Parapsychology or related subjects. As I said or rather wrote in the preamble to this you can actually find the syallbus for the course on my blog and if you want to do the readings on your own, fine no problem. You'll get a lot out of that. You won't get what the students in the class will get, of course with the interaction. But anyway, this is me. This is very informal. And I want to tell you why I think our course in Basic Parapsychology is extrememly important. Some years ago the Second International World Congress of Religions was held in Chicago and I was asked to come and speak on the subject of science and spirituality. I was quite honored by this invitation because one of my heroes, one of the foreman of influences on my own career was Swami Vivekananda who spoke at the First World Conference on Spirituality I think 1889 was the date, but I wouldn't trust my memory completely on that, and Swami Vivekananda wrote about yoga as a science, and I was just really impressed when I read that as a young man. to see that you could take something as spiritual as Raja Yoga and treat it as theories and methods in which you could verify for yourself or not verify if they didn't work. what it was all about. That kind of influence has been with me all through my career. When I told my wife I was going and had been asked to speak, she was very excited and was sorry she couldn't go because she thought with delegates from all the world religons at this congress, it would be really colorful. People would be wearing their traditional religious garb, robes and turbans and crosses and all sorts of wonderful exotic sort of stuff. Which got me thinking, to speak on science and spirituality, what was my costume? What was I going to wear to make it clear that I was a scientist? Well you can see that I quickly realized that the efficient garb for scientists in our culture is a white lab coat and I managed to have an identity badge, I can't find the thing now from when I worked at a large research institution, had security clearances and all that and naturally, I carried a clipboard since as a scientist I have to take notes at any time and it was wonderful when I walked up to give my talk with my white lab coat on everybody did a double take. It was kind of a cheap trick in a way but it got people's attention that I was going to talk about science. Now, I want to talk about science as laying the foundation for this para-psychology course because science has a bad rep, deservedly so, in our culture. When my recent book, The End of Materialism, was in press, the publisher asked me to come talk to their sales representatives to tell them how should I go about selling the book. Why was it interesting? Why was it important? And so I had a meeting with about a dozen people and their sales force, and I started by asking them a question. I told them that this was kind of a personal question but I asked how many of them had some kind of regular spiritual practice that they engaged in. Meditation, prayer, uh, yoga something like that and since this was California, of course I could get away with asking a relatively personal question, and as I recall, everybody raised their hand. So I told them, well if I put on my role of scientist in the conventional sense, then I can play that role. I've had publications in major scientific journals, been a professor at the University of California and all that. If I played that role of mainstream scientist, I'd have to tell them that they were either stupid or neurotic or both because everybody knows that science long ago showed that spirituality is all nonsense. There aren't any spirits or gods or heavens out there, and sure some people have spiritual experiences but those are just funny electrical storms in your brain or chemicals doing an unusual sort of thing, it doesn't mean anything. So for somebody to devote time to a spiritual practice either meant they were stupid and didn't realize that science had showed it was nonsense, or they were neurotic and they had a desperate need to believe in this sort of stuff even if it wasn't true. Naturally, I got everybody's attention that way. I wanted to introduce them to the fact that this is a widespread attitude within our culture that science has long ago disproved spirituality and it's all nonsense. So what am I going to do with science in course on para-psychology? So I want to make the big distinction for people and it's something I'll come back to in this course over and over again cause it's a hard one to make and it's so easy to forget. There's a big difference between science and scientism. Science is curiosity. Science is a very open-ended way of saying, "I wonder how the universe works". And assuming that we humans have the intelligence that if we work at it, we can figure out things about how the universe works. As such, there are no final truths in science. We have regularities that hold up pretty well but things are always open. But, science is done by people and the original people who did science were by large, actually very religious people. They saw science as discovering the wonderous ways in which God had created the universe and so, indeed science was kind of an act of worship. But that's not too much the case anymore, a few scientists are probably like that, I might be one of them. Depends on how you define some things, but let's not go there. Science is done by people. People who want to have a good paying job, who want to get promoted in it, who want to be accepted by their colleagues, by society and so forth. That means scientists get into a kind of mindset and that mindset is materialism, physicalism. It's a belief that there is no reality but physical objects and physical forces that interact with those objects. Conciousness, that's just what happens in the brain which is a physical object and when that physical object, the brain, stops working in a certain way, consciousness disappears, we call it death, a coma even, and that's the end of consciousness. Spirituality is about believing that there's something more than that and there's no scientific evidence for it. Now, if you make that a formal theory, if you say ok I'm going to theorize that there are only material objects and material forces which we have a fairly good understanding of, but realize that as a scientific theory aslways subject to further testing and you look and see if there are things that happen that don't fit into that theory, that's a perfectly rational and genuninely scientific thing to do. But, most scientists when they get outside their own speciality become followers of scientism. Scientism is a term coined by sociologists long ago, the 1930's or something like that I think, to describe the fact that people become obsessed with material explanations. They start thinking we really do know everything that's worth knowing and their mind closes down. That becomes the truth, not a theory to be tested anymore. The result is when they hear about something spiritual, which has no place in the material universe, they don't say, "well this is something that needs to be investigated more clearly, or examined more closely". They say, "oh that couldn't be true, don't bother me, I'm not going to pay any attention to it. "You must be nuts or stupid". That's not science, that's scientism. That's when science becomes a kind of fundamentalist religon that feels that it's got the truth and doesn't like heretics who, question that particular kind of truth. So this course on parapsychology is going to primarily about scientific para-psychology. That is, when we've done science properly, not rigid prejudiced scientism, but when we've done science properly and looked at things like telepathy and clairvoyance remote viewing, pre-cognition, things like that, what do we find? What does the evidence point to? And, what theories can we come up with, what meaning can we draw from that kind of evidence? Ok, and I'm making that distinction now because in popular use, a lot of people use para-psychology basically to mean everything and anything weird. And we're not going to do that. We're going to stick much closer to what's actually been scientifically investigated. But, we are going to talk about it's meaning. So, you know, we will end up talking about the evidence that consciousness might survive death in some form. Not that it's a solid finally researched sort of thing say like telepathy or something like that, but there's enough evidence to give it some scientific basis and it's worth our looking at. So that's what this course is going to be about. Not scientism, in fact when I catch people falling into that scientistic attitude of just assuming we know everything and we must never ask questions, I'm going to call them on it. And if I slip into it you should call me on that also. So we're going to have an interesting time, we're going to learn about all sorts of interesting phenomena like telepathy and those other things I mentioned, for which there's excellent evidence that these things are real. Right? We might not have a very good explanation of them yet, but they happen. We'll also look at some of the things where there's enough evidence that we have to look at them seriously, but we're probably not comfortable saying these are proven. It's the difference I make in the End of Materialism book between what I call the big five. Those phenomena for which we have tons of evidence to show they exist and the many maybes. Things like "survival of death;" where there's enough that we really need to take them seriously, but a lot more research needs to be done and maybe they're not true. It might be explained some other way. So we're going to have a lot of fun. This little informal chat has given you a chance to see what I look like. Hopefully the science suit has not brought up too much of your attitudes towards scientism. But, it might actually be interesting for you to think about what was your feeling the moment I appeared with this lab coat on. Alright, I'll see my regular students online when the course starts and if time works out I'll make some more of these tapes just to add a little human element to some of the aspects of parapsychology. I'll put some printed stuff with resources up at the end of this.

Video Details

Duration: 14 minutes and 37 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 218
Posted by: jphaas on Jan 20, 2011

Basic Para-Science

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