26 July 2004
An In2-MeC Exclusive--More Liberating Facts of Science
Taught by Dr. Don Key!
He's Back By Popular Demand with a Brand New Seminar:
Dr. Don Key, Professor of Religious Science, University of Vineland
The response to Dr. Key's seminar on how to think like a scientist was too overwhelming to ignore. In2-MeC is a website dedicated to serving the Vaisnavas. If the Vaisnavas insist on hearing more from a man who stands in intellectual disagreement with much of Vaisnava philosophy, then we have to be openminded and allow In2-MeC to be a platform of inter-philosophical discussion. Without further ado, I give you Dr. Key. Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend!
Dr. Don Key: Thank you very much. Yes, the avalanche of email that was favorable to my last seminar is quite amazing. I see from this that you devotees out there in Internetland are tired of blinkered fundamentalism. You want your eyes opened to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: the truth that science has to offer. I'm both deeply flattered and greatly inspired.
I'm calling this seminar Scientific Certainty because I want to get to the heart of a consistent criticism that comes from certain quarters within ISKCON: that science is without certainty. Or, to put it bluntly, that science is really a system of faith!
It's a shame to have to say it, but you ISKCON devotees are routinely poisoned against believing in your own senses. This is (what else can I call it) cultic. Here, I'll quote from a book written by one of the leading so-called philosophical lights in ISKCON. Its title is Substance and Shadow.
The origin of sense perception is summarized by Lord Krsna to Uddhava in Srimad-Bhagavatam 11. 24. 7, 8.False ego, which is the cause of physical sensation, the senses and the mind, encompasses both spirit and matter and manifests in three varieties: in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance.
From false ego in the mode of ignorance came the subtle physical perceptions, from which the gross elements were generated. From false ego in the mode of passion came the senses, and from false ego in the mode of goodness arose the eleven demigods.
The subject who witnesses the sense objects is the soul, always different from matter: evam drasta tanoh prthak. The soul is distinguished from matter by consciousness. Yet consciousness is bound to matter by the false ego. The false ego's ignorant mode takes charge of the perceptive power of consciousness. Due to ignorance, the five subtle sense perceptions (panca-tanmatras) appear within consciousness: sound, touch, sight, taste and smell. The same mode of ignorance further gives rise to the gross objects of sense perception (mahabhutas): earth, water, fire, air and ether. The senses are produced from the passionate mode of the false ego. From the mode of goodness come eleven demigods, five of whom manage the functions of the five perceptive senses (ear, tactile faculty, eye, tongue and nose). Another five demigods manage the working senses: mouth, hand, leg, genital and anus. The eleventh demigod manages the mind.
Deranged intellectuals are very capable, of course, of elaborately expounding upon the hallucinatory premises of their knowledge. In this case, the hallucinatory premise is the account of "creation" given in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Now, Srimad-Bhagavatam may be a good source of poetic accounts of the Vaisnava theology of intimate love of God. But as a handbook of science it is not at all useful. Worse, it has become a launching pad of scurrilous attacks against the natural sources of reliable knowledge--our physical senses! In the above-quoted passage the author relegates the senses and their objects to the mode of ignorance. Moreover, this is the mode of ignorance of the false ego! Ergo, what we know of our world which comes to us through our senses is really just an amalgamation of ignorance and pride. If you are a free-thinker in ISKCON, that's what you have hanging over your head. You write in an ISKCON newsletter that modern science has disproved Bhagavatam atomic theory, and you're accused of being ignorant and puffed up! Well, as a man of science I'm telling you it is high time you break out of the medieval prisonhouse of this anti-sensory logic!
Today I shall start a very elaborate presentation about the certain knowledge that we get from our senses. I shall make this presentation in the light of the most up to date facts we scientists have at our disposal. I shall illustrate this presentation with cutting-edge computer graphics. I want you to be convinced!
There is no escaping the fact that we depend upon our senses for everything: for all that we know, and all that we do. But that doesn't mean that everything the senses tell us is true. This is why we need science: to discriminate between the reality and illusion of sensory information.
We are conditioned to believe that the world around us has an absolute material reality. Our entire civilization is built upon this viewpoint. All that we know about the external world is conveyed to us by five senses. The world we know of consists of what our eyes see, our ears hear, our noses smell, our tongues taste, and our skins feel. This
physical world we've received from sense perception, this world we believe is solid reality, is shown to be something altogether else by the findings of modern science.
|. . . our noses smell. . .|
Mankind is fully dependent upon these senses. And so it follows that mankind only knows the external world according to the way these senses present it. Yet scientific research upon these senses has revealed very different facts about what we call the external world.
|Scientific research into sense perception has revealed a reality entirely different from what we accept as the "real" external world.|
These facts have opened scientists' eyes to a very important secret about matter, the stuff that makes up the external world. Contemporary thinker Frederick Vester wrote:
|Scientific findings into sense perception are summarized thus by Frederick Vester in Denken, Lernen, Vergessen (1978).|
The natural starting point of this presentation of scientific research into sense perception is the faculty of sight. From the conventions of human speech it is clear that we are very sight-oriented. When someone says something to us, and we grasp what he telling us, we often reply, "Yes, I see. " Yet he didn't show us anything to see. He spoke some words to us. Still, we say "I see" because sight can stand for information that comes from our other senses. Sight stands for knowledge in general. So the points I make next about sight indicate points that can be made about all the senses.
Here is a visual image of a glass bowl of tasty-looking green grapes. In our conventional understanding of things, we accept with no fuss nor bother that this visual image is simply "out there" in front of us. But in fact, our visualization of this image is an extremely complicated process. What I want you to comprehend here above all is that it is an internal process!
|The initial process of our seeing takes place inside the eyeball.|
Photons (quantum units of light energy) pass through
the lens of the eye, which refracts and focuses them
against the retina at the back of the inner surface of
the eyeball. The retina converts the impulses of the photons that strike against it into signals that are transmitted along the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries these signals to the brain.
The visual center of the brain is at the far back in an area of a few cubic centimeters. Optical signals in the form of neuro-electro-chemical firings pass through the whole brain to reach this center. When we say "I see," we are talking about the convergence of these firings in the visual center at the rear of the brain.
What we experience when we say, "I see those grapes," or "I see those adventurers in their river raft," we do not experience "outside" in the external world. We do not even experience it in the eye. Nor do we experience it in the optic nerve that runs from the eye to the brain. We experience it in a small dark place at the very back of the brain: our private neurological cinema, as it were.
If I haven't gotten your full attention yet, I want it now. What I have to tell you at this point is an extremely vital stepping-stone to the eventual conclusion that I will be coming to in this seminar. The brain is completely sealed off from light. The interior of the brain is ever in total darkness.
This means the brain does not know what light is. Let me explain with this example. Suppose you see a candle in an otherwise utterly dark room. You experience the candle's light as penetrating and dispelling the darkness. Even so, the light of that candle does not penetrate your brain! Your experience of that glowing candle is taking place in the visual center at the rear of your brain, a place that is absolutely absent of even the slightest glimmer of light!
Part Two of Dr. Don Key's seminar will follow soon!