The Galileo Commission – Remit
Our world view is not simply the way we look at the world. It reaches inward to constitute our innermost being, and outward to constitute the world. It mirrors but also reinforces and even forges the structure, armouring, and possibilities of our interior life. It deeply configures our psychic world. No less potentially, our world view—our beliefs and theories, our maps, our metaphors, our myths, our interpretive assumptions—constellate our outer reality, shaping and working the world’s malleable potentials in a thousand ways of subtly reciprocal interaction. World views create worlds.
I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, puts all of our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.
The time has come to realise that an interpretation of the universe – even a positivist one – remains unsatisfying unless it covers the interior of things as well as the exterior; mind as well as matter. The true physics is that which will, one day, achieve the inclusion of man in his wholeness in a coherent picture of the world.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
When Galileo looked through his telescope, he realised that we are not at the centre of the Cosmos, but simply orbiting a star. In a letter to Kepler he wrote: “Here at Padua is the principal professor of philosophy, whom I have repeatedly and urgently requested to look at the moon and the planets through my glass, which he pertinaciously refuses to do” Many in the Church and in Universities were reluctant to look at the evidence for themselves, because it opposed the established belief system and power structure.
This has striking parallels today. For example, many scientists are unwilling to look at the evidence for consciousness beyond the brain because they are certain in their belief that consciousness cannot extend beyond the brain. It is the authority of science and the fear of scientists for their reputation that prevents them from expanding their view. At the time of Galileo, the infallibility of Scripture was at stake. Now it is the infallibility of scientific materialism that is at stake.
The world today is dominated by science and by its underlying assumptions, which are seldom articulated and thus generate not only a methodology, but also a world-view or philosophy. While scientific methodology is a set of evolving rules, socially negotiated among scientists, this scientific world-view is a quasi-religious set of assumptions about the world, generally known as ‘scientism’. We fully support scientific methodology, but we are critical of scientism – those assumptions that underpin the current scientific world-view.
The emphasis is on a purely material interpretation of reality, and the direction of explanation is exclusively from material to immaterial – hence the generally accepted proposition that the physical brain gives rise to immaterial consciousness. Importantly, science has been given an implied mandate by society to provide humanity with an ‘official’ story of the universe and ourselves, because it is believed that only science as it exists now can decide what is true and what is possible. The current story is one of an accidental and random universe operating on the principle of natural selection and without any inherent meaning and purpose. It is important to realize that this mainstream narrative is not necessarily the truth but extrapolates partial current and past findings into a future hope. This, we believe, has a demoralising effect on society, and does not reflect our deepest insights into the nature of human life and is only possible at the expense of ignoring a lot of other scientific evidence that cannot be integrated into this mainstream narrative.
This has far-reaching implications. When combined with its claim to offer the only legitimate knowledge and mode of knowing, science exerts an unbalanced influence in schools and universities and on society in general. Its core assumptions (considered to be “facts” by many scientists) influence us more than we might imagine. It is surely no coincidence that we live in very materialistic times, with all that this implies.
Science has given us much to be grateful for, and will continue to do so. That said, in its present form the scientific world view derived from science is both limited and limiting. It is limited because much scientific work is based on a set of assumptions that have been superseded by science itself. And it is limiting because society has adopted these same assumptions based on the authority of science. In other words, an outmoded philosophy of science is holding back both science and society.
However, it is possible to imagine an extended kind of science – a science that is based on an expanded set of assumptions that go beyond the restrictions of the materialist worldview. It would be a science that does not have a dogmatically limited definition of physical reality and that is therefore open to investigating anomalies – such as aspects of consciousness and the ‘paranormal’ – that science is currently unable or unwilling to accommodate. In effect, it would be an ‘expanded science’, because it would extend beyond a simplistic view of the physical and the material. Within an expanded science, existing ‘hard’ science would still be valid in the contexts where it was generated. Many areas of research could still be profitably undertaken within existing materialist assumptions. But if science could be based on such an expanded set of assumptions, and if they came to form the dominant philosophy of science, then that would open up new avenues and new possibilities. In other words, expanding science and its scope would transform our worldview. And since it is our worldview that underpins virtually everything we think, say and do, a new expanded science could lead to significant advances in all aspects of our lives, including our most important social institutions – such as education, health, law, and government.
It is for all these reasons that we have set up the Galileo Commission as a project of the Scientific and Medical Network. Its remit is to open public discourse and to find ways to expand science, so that it is no longer limited by an outmoded view of matter and physical reality, and so that it can accommodate and explore important human experiences and questions that science, in its present form, is unable to accommodate. These include:
- Consciousness ‘beyond the brain’, such as telepathy, precognition and near-death experiences
- Altered states of consciousness, such as the ability to perceive non-physical (“spiritual”) aspects of the world and human beings
- The possibility of inherent purpose in the universe
The first stage of the Commission’s work is to produce a report in the autumn of 2018 that will draw on the great variety of work that has already been done, and will make practical recommendations on a way forward and provide a comprehensive list of resources. .
We anticipate that expanding science will involve some new basic assumptions (an expanded ontology), additional ways of knowing and new rules of evidence (an expanded epistemology), as well as new methodologies that will flow from these.
We will be consulting widely over the next six months and welcome comments and input with ideas about how to move the project forward towards a more widespread adoption of an expanded science.
We also wish to make clear that this is not a project that tries to promote any existing belief system – such as Intelligent Design – or an anti-evolutionist agenda, religious creeds or esoteric systems. We do this in the very spirit of science: as an open and open-ended inquiry that refuses to be limited by any set of assumptions, conscious or unconscious, that have been invariably brandished by scions of scientific progress like Roger and Francis Bacon as “idols” that prevent progress. We wish to expose those idols not in order to replace them by others, but by extending inquiry into yet unknown realms.
If you wish to play a part, please contact us.