As I write this book about paying attention, science is about to change.
How is it changing ? In science we observe, with a theory in mind. Then we write down what the theory predicts should happen – How? By doing experiments to test the theory – does what we observe match what the theory predicts? Yes? Then it must be a good theory. Philip Goff, a philosopher explains it more fully in this article.
The current scientific world view
But this methodology breaks down when we want to observe consciousness at work – because we can’t observe an emotion felt, or a thing understood, to use as our data. The best science can do is to observe processes and correlate what happens to the brain when associated emotions are felt – we have to rely on the reports of the subjects being used in the experiment, about what is essentially their private conscious experience – they tell you what that felt like.
There is a revolution coming – and science is about to change, taking in what it used to ignore – the question of ‘what is consciousness’. Now seems a great idea to write a book about paying attention, which is an act of intent, using our human consciousness.
Philip Goff offers an exciting alternative that could pave the way forward. Based on the early 20th century work of Arthur Eddington and Bertrand Russell, Goff makes the case for panpsychism, a theory which asks – What if consciousness is not confined to biological entities alone. What if consciousness is a basic feature of all physical matter―from subatomic particles to the human brain? If that is so, we could stop having to exclude the intrinsic nature of matter from science. If matter IS consciousness, then we have a different world view entirely.
Not new after all?
In fact, this is a theory which I have heard in spiritual discussions at home – when people who have had peak experiences in consciousness talk about them they say that there is that ultimate consciousness in the very dust, and in the spaces between two particles of dust. This God, or consciousness or whatever you want to call it, is everywhere. The Ramakrishna Mission monks also report this phenomenon – some from reading this in the Upanishads, and one or two from their own private experience.
Looking forward to reading the book
So here is Galileo’s Error: Goff says that Bertrand Russell was on to this idea – as was the scientist Arthur Eddington – he’s making his way towards what might be a theory of human consciousness which actually works. On the way, the very discipline of science has to change.
The mind-boggling change in medicine (both for treating the body and the mind) which this heralds makes my heart positively sing.