Autism spectrum/A few impertinent questions/Can science investigate and attempt to describe a non-materialistic version of the universe?

Richard Lewontin, a self-proclaimed materialist, wrote: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance in the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions somehow compel us to accept a materialist explanation for the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our priori commitment to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover that commitment is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.”

As Stephen Meyer wrote, “Scientists committed to methodological naturalism have nothing to lose but their chains – fetters that bind them to a creaky and exhausted nineteenth-century materialism."

Fritjof Capra wrote, “. . .there is approximate knowledge. This insight is crucial to all modern science. The old paradigm is based on the Cartesian belief in the certainty of scientific knowledge. . .all scientific concepts and theories are limited and approximate. Science can never provide any complete and definitive understanding.”

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If life is not a mechanical contraption, mechanistic science will have limited ability to describe it. During the age of materialism, materialists decided that science can completely describe reality, and nothing was beyond our comprehension. However most of our scientific knowledge is actually limited, tentative and fallible. We don't really understand life. We are surrounded by life, and observe it constantly, but we don't know what is deleted when a living organism dies. We know some relationship exists between our thoughts and personalities - and our physical brain. We have little understanding of the details. We insist that moral purpose does not exist as an aspect of "scientific" reality; yet we regard immoral people as defective – lacking something. Materialism may have been an understandable reaction during the centuries that science spent under religious dominance, when the church wielded authority to punish people who dared to question religious dogma. But surely by this time that "divine foot in the door" is no longer much of a threat. Darwin's random-mutation-and-natural-selection was the first (and still, the only) explanation of biological novelty that eliminates any need for purposeful, creative intelligence. Indeed, "natural selection" became a sacred symbol for people promoting materialistic science, and it was defended with passion. The British evolutionist, Richard Dawkins, claimed neo-Darwinism allows him to live as an emotionally fulfilled atheist. I share an intuitive recognition with religious people that reality consists of "something more". I am a religious agnostic. Nevertheless, either the belief in a deity, or belief in the existence of a creative consciousness and volition as natural forces seems to me more consistent with reality than deterministic materialism.

The w:Flynn effect is the name given to a substantial and long-sustained increase in intelligence test scores, as measured in many parts of the world. Each successive generation of children has been scoring progressively better on older intelligence exams, to the point where test makers find they must modify the exams in order to keep them useful. The significance of the Flynn effect is debated, some experts claiming that the ability to answer IQ test questions is not really a measure of intelligence, that the cause of the increase in IQ scores is unknown – maybe due to improved teaching techniques. However the most intelligent people don’t necessarily produce the greatest number of children, so natural selection obviously wouldn’t have much to do with any increase of in our ability to manipulate abstract information.

These are my grandchildren. The two on the right were mugged on a street in Chicago. Eva was knocked unconscious. Bertha jumped on the mugger and beat on him. She managed to tear his shirt off him, but he got away with the purse. The size of the shirt was labeled “XXX large”. Bertha weighs 109 lbs. (photo)[1]
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When pieces of DNA from an egg and sperm come together and reorganize themselves into novel complexity, a creative, evolutionary process begins about which we can only speculate with awe. In humans it continues for nine months, but it doesn't cease at birth. We continue to grow and evolve as long as we live. I am baffled by biologists who believe that such an exquisitely complex process could consist of nothing but a series of random accidents. When under stress, biological systems are known to increase their mutation rate, and perhaps the creativity of biological systems is similar to our own conscious, creative processes. When we encounter problems in our conscious lives, we search for reasonable solutions. We have no understanding of what ideas actually consist of - or how they might originate. Nevertheless tentative solutions to problems appear in our conscious minds. We test one. However we don't usually wait around to be killed off by "Natural Selection" if a solution proves ineffective. We try something else. Most of the time biological creativity finds solutions that allows the fetus to continue to evolve. But creativity is never perfect, and, so long as the organism lives, growth can continue. Maybe we are labeling some of Nature’s incomplete adaptations mental illness. It has sometimes been claimed that mental illness and creativity occurs in the same families, and mental illness might be regarded as a stigma. Some of us are more stable than others, and some of us are more open to change. The stigma of mental illness might lessen if it were recognized as being a part of the evolutionary process. The most stable individuals might not be the most creative, and the most stable families might not be the most adaptive. Certainly, if I had any choice (which I don’t), I might prefer being born into a family that was participating in the evolutionary progress of the human race – even if some of those innovations were not always successful.

Inanimate matter has also changed, slowly over eons of time. Perhaps a smidgeon of creative free-will is an aspect of all nature, but it would be too weak and subtle for us to detect in inanimate matter.

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It is true that religion was once intolerant of anyone questioning details of the dominant faith. However it seems to me that any religious intolerance pales in comparison to today's evangelical atheists' denunciation of anyone who questions their mechanistic philosophy. Materialism is a philosophy, not a scientific fact. If the universe is evolving and intelligently designed, rather than the result of a collection of meaningless accidents, there would be no way to determine whether or not a deity was involved. RM&NS was a simplistic explanation of evolution. There is nothing simple about trying to understand consciousness, free-will and purposeful organization. Simple is insisting that such things don't exist. A well-known saying claims, "Love makes the world go around." I suspect it might be more accurate to say, "Love holds the world together." Controversy and our natural curiosity are what keep the universe on the move, and pondering such matters should not be left to cosmologists. I realize most scientists feel the rest of us should accept their science on faith, especially theories we don't completely understand. I recently asked my physicist son if there were scientific theories he didn’t understand. He said yes. He agreed that he accepts on faith some of the science that lies outside his field. Because of my experience with 20th century psychiatry, I am no longer able to do that. I wouldn't presume to declare any scientific theories invalid, but I don’t accept them on faith either. I remain agnostic. However if science does ever achieve a more profound understanding of how the universe functions, I’ll bet it won’t be some obscure, convoluted, mathematical formula that only a tiny minority of us are capable of comprehending.

Freud and Darwin (and, yes, even Marx) contributed to our present understanding. So long as concepts are freely debated, they remain a creative force. Ideas only become malignant when someone claims to have achieved ultimate truth and tries to stifle dissent. We can at least try to ensure that questions are always permissible, and insist that skepticism be as honored as certitudes.


Questions edit

The original images may be found on this pdf copy of the book.

Current page: Can science investigate and attempt to describe a non-materialistic version of the universe?

  1. Wouldn’t volition be an essential aspect of creativity?
  2. Could an inherently creative universe, a living universe, ever be defined by mathematical formulas?
  3. How did the laws of nature originate?
  4. Are some scientific concepts too sacred to be debated?
  5. Are intelligence and creativity two separate and distinct processes?
  6. Are psychoanalytic theories profound? Or just convoluted?
  7. If purposeful creativity exists as an aspect of reality, why should we assume it is a process unique to human consciousness?
  8. Can the value of scientific knowledge ever justify enrolling people in research projects without their knowledge or consent?
  9. Exactly what technical knowledge enables psychiatrists to manipulate ids, egos and psyches?
  10. Should "normal" be equated with average?
  11. What technical knowledge enables psychologists to declare people emotionally abnormal?
  12. Are psychologists able to scientifically measure parental love? Or its lack?
  13. Is the universe, including life, an automatic, mechanical process, driven by nothing but the laws of physics and chemistry (the materialist position)? Or do other forces play a role, such as mind, consciousness, judgment and volition - most of which we presently have only have limited understanding?
  14. Should doctors and scientists refrain from expressing skepticism about theories of colleagues in other fields?
  15. Do people generally choose the challenges which force them to grow?
  16. How can we claim to scientifically manipulate thoughts and emotions if we don't even understand how such elusive phenomena relate to physical reality?
  17. What is faith? If belief that God organized the universe is a matter of faith, why isn't the materialist belief that the universe came together by some accidental, mechanical process also a matter of faith? (Or, the Buddhist belief in self-organization.)
  18. Are living creatures constantly evolving as they strive to grow and adapt? Or must evolutionary adaptations passively wait around for a random mutation to accidentally pop up in someone's genome?
  19. Should we have official committees to define scientific knowledge? Or is an ever-changing, constantly-challenged, general consensus our best way to keep our understanding of reality vibrant?
  20. Could lying on a couch and obsessing over a traumatic childhood ever be therapeutic?
  21. Would it even be possible to conduct a scientific study to determine whether psychological treatments are effective?
  22. What is racism?
  23. Does free-will exist?
  24. Would obsessing over a traumatic event ever cure any mental illness?
  25. Could a creative intelligence be an innate aspect of all Nature?
  26. What would define economic theories as materialistic or non-materialistic?
  27. Is intolerance often the result of personal insecurity?
  28. Consciousness and free-will may be defining characteristics of all life, but do we have much understanding of what they actually are?
  29. Can we do other people's growing for them?
  30. Are Western democracies civilization’s ultimate achievement?
  31. Which would produce the most psychologically stunted individuals? Being emotionally challenged? Or never encountering any challenges?
  32. Could the purpose of life be to participate in the growth of the universe?
  33. Can science investigate and attempt to describe a non-materialistic version of the universe?
Current page: Can science investigate and attempt to describe a non-materialistic version of the universe?

Author's instructions edit

(circa 15 September 2016)

Hi xxx,

Enclosed is an email for your husband. I enjoy seeing your pictures on facebook.

Hi xxx,

I am Guy’s mother,

I realize your publishing company is not the kind I am seeking, but perhaps you can recommend one. I’ve written a book, which I’ve self-published a couple of times. I want to self-publish it once more and have it distributed to all my relatives after my death. (I work on it constantly, and I don’t want to give up the opportunity to change it while I am still alive.) It is ahead of its time, and very controversial, and regular book publishers aren’t presently interested. Maybe the research which I describe will someday be published, and my descendants can publish it for profit. I’d like to make the arrangements and pay some self-publishing company for it now. It is on the internet at:

That version is up to date, except a couple of the pictures have been deleted.

Thank you,

Berthajane Vanderift

Make several dozen of printed copies of the book for each grandchild including those not yet born, and everyone else who might be interested.

  1. The photos used by Berthajane can be found by linking a copy on the pdf file. Click "photo" to reach the appropriate page.