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Friday, October 28, 2005

MIND AT LARGE: Two leading science organizations have told Kansas the state can't use key science education materials developed by the two groups. Reason: Kansas science curricula gives too much room to uncertainties about the theory of evolution and fails to make clear that science has no room for "supernatural phenomena," or forces external to nature. Now it's true, of course, that many claims for supernatural phenomena vanish on close inspection. But it may also be true that there are forces of nature not yet understood or recognized by materialist science, the most fundamental such force being: mind. Materialist science has ducked the issue of consciousness by simply asserting that mind is an "epiphenomenon" or side effect of random physical forces. How exactly does mind manifest from matter? Here materialism falls silent because it can't coherently explain how mind could emerge from mindless matter. Materialism asks us to accept not simply that mind is wholly natural, but that it is also wholly physical and objective. This leaves the undeniable subjectivity of consciousness entirely unaccounted for. Now, many people — in Kansas but not only there — find this silence unacceptable. And many are drawn to the idea of supernatural intervention. How else to explain just where conscioiusness enters the picture. But there's an alternative to both supernaturalism (mind comes from "outside" the system) and materialism (mind just somehow "emerges"). Consider the possibility that consciousness has always been there, no matter how far back you care to look. Suppose that all matter possesses some form of mind. Imagine that what could be called "intrinsic inner intent" is as fundamental to the fabric of existence as gravity and time-space. If this is true, it would help to have some empirical evidence demonstrating how mind, or consciousness, or intrinsic inner intent, is not necessarily dependent on matter, or actual physical bodies. Here's the obvious question. Extrasensory perception: Is it real? An organization called the Institute of Noetic Sciences is a research organization committed to exploring this question scientifically. They're currently doing studies to find out whether Person A can influence the physiology of Person B, simply through the act of staring. Far-out stuff. They say their preliminary findings suggest that "even subtle shifts in intention and attention have measurable, nonlocal properties." But even without scientific ventures of this kind, there's no doubt that human beings are possessed of the capacity to direct our intentions so as to make choices for which we are responsible. And this, more than any other factor, seems to me to be what most divides the contemporary left ("I'm a victim of society, I'm defined by race and gender and history, I'm not responsible, who should I sue first?") from the majority of Americans at this point in our history.