Previously (31 July 2008) I posted a blog entry with the same title as this one, asking a simple question based on a situation. The entry was as follows:
What is the difference between the following two situations?
1. A scientist does an experiment and observes that an elemental particle moves from point a to point B. A second scientist does the same experiment with the same results.
2. That same scientist sits down at night, starts meditating and observes that he experiences a unity with all that exists, transcending his ego and becoming one with the universe. The second scientist does the same and experiences the same.
So why is it the the first event is generally accepted as "objective" and "scientific" and the second event often dismissed as "delusional" or "non-scientific"?
I also posted this text on a discussion forum and had an interesting exchange with some well-meaning people, mainly those who believed that the world around us (reality) only consists of things that science can describe and that meditative experiences are merely delusions. My discussion with them came down to the following points.
scenario 2, the findings are not verifiable...the individuals have
to alter their mental state to achieve a sought after goal...no one
but the individual has the experience
Response: If “verifiable” means that they cannot be tested by scientific means, then that merely shows the limitations of science as we know it. Science is an admittedly narrow window on reality as it only sees externals with simple location (i.e. you can point at it) and not internals (i.e. stuff that we know exists, such as thoughts and feelings, but that you cannot point at). So, reality is indeed actual fact, but what constitutes "actual fact"? Science has this limited view and many people take that as "actual fact", whereas the validity of scientific feelings can usually be disputed (e.g. newly found "facts" replace facts that used to be taken for granted as "reality" at a high pace). Secondly, why can't "actual fact" also be constituted by "subjective observations" that are equally reproducible as scientific experiments (viz. millions of meditators report similar experiences)? Science is incomplete by definition so why would reality only consist of what science can explain?
Feedback: in your
scenario 2, you ask for an altered mental state...no different from
drug induced states of mind...there is a commonality of experience
with LSD users... yet this has nothing to do with anything or anyone
else but the individual drug user.
Feedback: In the
REM state we are capable of creating monsters...does this make
monsters real? Real that is, to anyone but the dreamer?