Friday, August 24, 2007

Materialism as Meme

As I've discussed before, many people assume that materialism is essentially the same thing as a scientific world view. In fact, materialism is only one possible belief system about the world, and one that definitely struggles with certain findings and observations. Like other conceptual memes, materialism continuously seeks to propagate itself at the expense of competing mental frameworks. In reality, much of what purports to be "science reporting" is instead just "materialism meme reporting". Here's a great example of such (H/T TDG):

New virtual-reality experiments show the brain can be tricked into believing it's outside the body, lending credence to the strange claims of some patients and shedding light on how the brain might generate its "self-image."

Notice two things. The first is that these experiments are supposed to be about tricking "the brain". The clear implication is that "the brain" and "the person" are identical and interchangable concepts. This is practically de rigueur for science reporting and is considered much more scientific than talking about people or selves (presumably in imitation of the Churchlands). The second is that this experiment somehow explains the "strange claims of some patients" that they believe they are "outside the body". That is an obvious reference to out-of-body experiences associated with the Near-Death Experience. Clearly the "science writer" is assuming the materialist metaphysics here without the least bit of question.

The point of this kind of science article is not really to discover the truth about near-death experiences, but rather to attack other interpretations of the NDE and to proselytize the materialistic one. It doesn't really matter to materialists that this research actually does not address the most important fact about near-death experiences -- that they often result in veridical perception. The point is not to actually address that kind of evidence, but instead to come up with some kind of nice-sounding way explain away the NDE while completely ignoring those aspects of the NDE that contradict materialism, to defend the materialism meme from alternative concepts, allow materialists to feel smarter and better-informed than those 'superstitious and backwards' people who think that the NDE has a non-materialist explanation, and in effect to "twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones".

Next time you read an popular media article about any kind of psychology or consciousness research, look for the key words indicating an unquestioning assumption of materialism and mind = brain. You are almost certain to find it.

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