Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.
Doris Lessing ― The Golden Notebook
Now don’t misunderstand me, I have no opinion on the (I assume) American soft drink: Kool-Aid. This blog is actually on woo and how easy people seem to be seduced by it. Especially those who believe they are sceptical about woo. Rather naively, I believed that once a few actual facts were shared, then enlightenment would mean that the mastery of woo would simply blow away. I guess that makes me an optimist… except I now realise the truth… and that there is no hope for Homo Sapiens Sapiens. So my brief foray into optimism was merely an aberration to my normal pessimistic self.
Perhaps a little context is warranted.
As those of you who know me, or others who have read my various posts, already know that my ‘conscious’ ‘mind’ is a constantly seething mass of concepts, ideas, observations etc. etc. But in this particular blog I will try to narrow it down to (a tad of irony here…) the one question: Why is there something rather than nothing?
Now those of you with a philosophy bent will immediately recognise this question as the biggest, most complex question there is. And that it has foxed philosophers (and their prior hominid brethren) since the species first began to think. But before panic… or rolling of the eyes… sets in, I am not seeking to answer said question, but merely to point out how a ‘conspiracy of woo’ is stifling the discussion. And yes… it is to you Materialists whom I address this post.
So rather than attempting to answer the question, I will use it to act as the jumping point to world-views. World-views are those beliefs that we hold not only to be true, but to be so fundamental to reality that most people don’t realise that they are merely views and not the nature of reality. But before I venture into my comments on woo, I shall expound just a tad more context. Since we all have our world-views (whether or not we are aware) I should first state mine, since it relates to the point of this post, and how it came to be.
There are many labels abounding, and even those who share labels need not agree the meaning of said labels. So I guess I should perhaps subjugate myself to the most appropriate labels before I begin to define them as what they mean to me. But first, where to start?
The only thing of which we can be certain, is that there is something we know as ‘I’ and that this ‘I’ lives in a changing world. But what might these ‘I’ and ‘world’ mean? There are 2 possible basic conclusions… best described as monist and pluralist. Basically, that everything boils down to one simple thing, or that everything is a combination of separate ‘things’. In effect this latter pluralist concept was described by Descartes with his famous “Cogito ergo sum” phrase, and specifically reduces reality into a dualism. So it would be fair to assume that the reader has either a monist or dualist basis for his/her world-view.
Dualism contends that mind and matter are distinct and separate ‘things’. That is, that we are made from stardust and live in a stardust-derived universe, and that there is a meta-physical, or spiritual, world which is connected to the material world through consciousness in the physical brain.
This is not a view without problems, and has resulted in what is known as the ‘Hard Problem of Consciousness‘ as coined by David Chalmers. Suffice to say here, it is no longer a view held by most thinkers who tend to hold a monist view, but can still be found in some un-informed followers of religion. I am both a monist and Catholic (the latter of which isn’t really relevant to this topic).
But being faced with the two ‘known’ realities of Descartes, the monist has to choose whether everything is physical or mental. And then having decided, being able to explain the other ‘reality’ in context. This results in either Idealism or Materialism (physicalism), and is hotly debated as both sides attempt to prove their own stance the only monist reality (as can be seen in the video below with Chalmers and Dennett). My personal monism is Idealism. So to round off my world-view labels… I am a monist idealist panentheist Catholic. Now that’s out of the way, what has this to do with woo, conspiracies, and my reason for writing this post?
Most people have no interest in world-views, even when affected by their own, as it doesn’t really impact their daily lives. But if introspection is tried a finer world-view can be uncovered, resulting in improvement in said daily life. Some people (including myself) can’t help but be ensnared by it and seek to find ‘the answer’. Some then choose to proselytise their personal world-view… often aggressively. It is to this with which I take issue.
This weekend in the UK was Father’s Day. And for several reasons already covered in this blog this has become very important to me. My daughter came to visit me, before the two of us travelling to meet my son. Generally it was good, but it did highlight this issue of mine, and how it now infects my troubled relationship with my kids. My daughter, you see, in happier times left the nest to read a philosophy degree. However, instead of her matriculating with an inquiring mind, she seems to have become victim to the ‘conspiracy of woo‘.
Now you shall be forgiven in thinking that woo only applies to non-scientific folklore or superstition, but it actually refers to any belief that is unfounded… regardless of how popular, ‘sensible’, or ‘scientific’ it may appear. It is when woo is used to discredit real evidence as woo, and redefine certain woo as theonly valid approach. This is to what I refer as conspiracy, and is undertaken by neo-materialists and neo-atheists who not only adopt one side of monism, but refuse to even acknowledge its mirror: idealism. Ironic since a main staple of validity is super-symmetry, yet except when it comes to a personal view which is spread not as a view, but as a fact, with its symmetric view dismissed as woo. And worse, this is happening in our universities which should be non-partisan and explain all views along with their strength and weaknesses, and not in teaching that the ‘Hard Problem of Consciousness’ has been solved, and should not be questioned and that if anything or anyone does question its status as fact is lampooned as a crazy loon with a head filled with ridiculous woo… despite the fact that materialism has been debunked for centuries, and moreover this has been confirmed to be false by all the latest scientific findings (and by modern this includes the 1930s plus).
As for the ‘Hard Problem of Consciousness’ being solved, this not only is preposterous… it is impossible, despite what materialists maintain with smoke and mirrors. The truth is that we cannot ‘solve’ the question, but can amass the best evidence to support a prevailing view, be it materialist, idealist, or dualist. And it is this evidence that leads me to Monist Idealism, despite being brought up Catholic, and studying at the disciple of materialism university. This is because, returning to the message in the opening paragraph, we must start at the most a priori knowledge we know to be true, and using epistemological science to carefully build from. So this being what materialists claim that they alone do this, how can I believe them to be wrong and be an idealist? But this post is already long, so I shall save my personal world-view, and why that of the materialists is unsupported, unreasonable, and wrong for a follow-up post. For now, regardless of my beliefs or those of others, the point I want to emphasise here is that it is wrong for places of higher learning to stifle thought, skepticism, questioning and to propagate bias and isolationism of thought.