Mod+ 256. DR. DONALD DEGRACIA, WHAT IS SCIENCE?

#2
256. DR. DONALD DEGRACIA, WHAT IS SCIENCE?

Interview with Wayne State University School of Medicine Physiology researcher Dr. Donald DeGracia about Western science versus Yogic thought.
There were a number of inspiring ideas in the interview. This one stuck-out to me.
Again, this idea of karma—Newton identified karma. That’s Newton’s third law, for every action, there’s a reaction. So it happens in the grossest forms of physical matter and it happens all the way up through the psychological and spiritual levels that we exist at. Those are kind of the practical things that I focus on now.
The transfer of energy works because we can model the structure and predict the opposing force event. I suspect that within the inner person that we will learn by looking at how structure is organized in that environment. I think that a person's character is structural and determines "vectors" of experiential events from such organization.
 
#3
So again we have - "proper" science is what Karl Popper deemed it to be. :)


Falsifiability is a myth. In the messy real world of observations and experiments, theories often must be modified to accommodate new evidence. Since any theory can be modified with ad hoc assumptions to agree with contradictory observations or experiments, no theory is strictly falsifiable whether it is called science or not. Criteria for judging a modification to a theory unreasonable and therefore rejecting the modification must be added for falsifiability to have any real meaning.

Falsifiability is often a double standard. Politically unpopular, unorthodox, or simply new theories are demanded to be strictly falsifiable, a condition they can never meet. Accepted scientific theories are asserted to be falsifiable even though they have been and are frequently modified to explain contradictory data. The need for criteria to reject a modification to a theory as unreasonable is either denied or not mentioned, creating an illusion of certainty. These rejection criteria are not mentioned because they are often matters of fallible personal judgement and opinion. The doctrine of falsifiability offers only a mirage of certainty in distinguishing science from non-science.
- John McGowan
 
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#4
Great interview, Alex! This is someone I feel like you could have ten interviews with and there would still be more to discuss. You kept the interview very close to the main themes of Skeptiko, as you should have, but I couldn't help wanting to hear him chase a few rabbits, too, to hear elaboration on some of the tantalizing side comments he made. If you get the chance to have him back, I'd love to hear more about his work as a biologist and his personal yogic journey. I'm definitely going to check out his books.

A side note: The "bat guy" is not David Chalmers but Thomas Nagel. At least I assume DeGracia was referring to Nagel's paper, "What's It Like to Be a Bat?"
 
#5
Great interview, Alex! This is someone I feel like you could have ten interviews with and there would still be more to discuss. You kept the interview very close to the main themes of Skeptiko, as you should have, but I couldn't help wanting to hear him chase a few rabbits, too, to hear elaboration on some of the tantalizing side comments he made. If you get the chance to have him back, I'd love to hear more about his work as a biologist and his personal yogic journey. I'm definitely going to check out his books.

A side note: The "bat guy" is not David Chalmers but Thomas Nagel. At least I assume DeGracia was referring to Nagel's paper, "What's It Like to Be a Bat?"
noted :) thx.

you'll for sure hear more from Don on Skeptiko :)[/quote]
 
#6
DeGracia says stuff like this:
The gunas is the idea that everything we perceive, is just patterns of movement. There is no substance, period. Reality, that’s probably the biggest contrast between the Hindu mind and the western mind is that the western mind believes in reality, but the Hindu doesn’t. What we call reality, the solid real world, the rocks, the stars, the planet, our bodies—the Hindu just sees as something akin to the wind. It’s a pattern of movement, and that’s it. It just moves and flows like a river, it’s a flowing, a movement. It has—it’s not made of anything, it’s just a pattern of movement.

I gave my two cents worth about freedom in the book; I’m so steeped in yogic thought now that the idea makes no sense to me whatsoever. It literally makes no sense, we’re in a world of relative existence where everything conditions everything else, and there’s absolutely no freedom. I’m a highly deterministic person actually.
And you say stuff like this:
We just have to be kind of careful with that because it/s at a level that is so beyond what we experience on a day-to-day basis. What we experience even in these extended consciousness realms that people achieve. If we’re really going to look at it from a sociological standpoint or from an anthropological standpoint, we say there’s a lot of ground, there’s a lot of territory to traverse before we get to that ultimate determinism where there’s this kind of unified consciousness, and it’s all gone up. We have afterlife experiences, we have past lives, and we have a lot of other stuff that we want to process before we get to that kind of—
So DeGracia drops down and for the most part tailors the conversation to that relative level.

But everything we experience is maya. It is all illusion. All truth within maya is relative truth. Nothing can be said to be really true.That appears to be DeGracia's real message. All the rest of stuff you talked about in the interview is maya.

The irony of the truth seeker who insists on looking only inside the realm of maya is delicious.
 
#8
There were a number of inspiring ideas in the interview. This one stuck-out to me.

Hi Stephen

Thanks for picking up on this. I am planning soon to do another multi-part post on my blog about this very topic. Most people know the idea of "karma" but don't really understand it. Somehow the idea has morphed into a Westernized version...kind of like the Westernized versions of yoga. People talk about "good karma" and "bad karma" as the result of past actions. As I have read the Yoga Sutras and commentaries thereof, I have learned more about the technical way this concept is used in yoga practice. It's an important aspect of yoga practice.

The main misunderstanding in the West is to think of karma by itself. In yogic thought, karma is the result of what are called "samskaras". The two go together always: samskaras and karma. They could loosely be translated as "cause" (samskara) and "effect" (karma). This is not exactly what they mean, but the link is close. Samskaras are habits or urges or predispositions that cause one to act a certain way. The action is the karma and always is a consequence of the samskaras. So really, to speak of karma by itself is meaningless in the context of yoga. Further, if one were to only try to deal with karma, they would only be tackling effects, or symptoms, not the actual causes. The causes are always the samskaras. Samskaras go very, very deep in the structure of things. Too much to get into here, which is why I am thinking of doing an essay about it sooner or later.

Thank you,

Don DeGracia
 
#9
So again we have - "proper" science is what Karl Popper deemed it to be. :)


- John McGowan
Hi John

Observant comment. Please believe that I am not a "Popperian" (that's a joke for Fantastic Four fans out there). Popper was raised because I address the demarcation problem in What is Science?, which was his idea. By today's standards, Popper is obsolete. If anything, I am most inclined to accept Feyerabend's ideas about the nature of science, which is that it has no definable nature at all. This is quite consonant with my observation that science in general is like Brownian motion. At least it looks that way if one is not aware of the inner planes and how they work. In a way, you can see What Is Science? as the attempt to define a new philosophy of science. However, it's really not new, it's just drawing on yogic ideas to explain what science does. But, as far as I know, I'm the first to make the claims so, in the context of philosophy of science, it's a new idea. But from the point of view of yoga, it's very, very old. Yogis have known about "siddhis" for millennia.

Anyway, Popper's ideas are what they are, but they are a fairly myopic view that misses large swaths of the scientific landscape.

Thank you, Sir, for the comments.

Best wishes,

Don
 
#10
Good interview, Alex. Coincidentally, last night I had my first lucid dream in a long while. I woke up within the dream, recognized it was a dream, and then began telling everyone else who was there that they were dreaming and it was such an unusual and special thing. They just looked at me...one man said "maybe it's an hallucination". :)
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#11
Damn...I feel like I should get the Fantastic Four joke but I'm drawing a blank.

Interesting interview, I have a lot of thoughts but for now I'll say I liked the explanation of the demarcation problem, but I'm not sure if we can rule out getting lab data for Psi.
 
#12
Very perceptive! Yes, I would say you were able to decode exactly what I was saying. If, by any chance you are interested in an elaboration of this exact point, I just completed and released a new ebook called Experience that can be gotten from here.

http://dondeg.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/experience-is-now-a-free-ebook/

(P.S. Hi Alex, hope its okay to post links like this)

Best wishes,

Don DeGracia
Cool, Don. I will have a look. I've reread DO_OBE many times over the years. Thanks for always making your work available for free. I don't expect everyone to do that, but I think it is an amazing practice.

Thanks!
 
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#16
Very perceptive! Yes, I would say you were able to decode exactly what I was saying. If, by any chance you are interested in an elaboration of this exact point, I just completed and released a new ebook called Experience that can be gotten from here.

http://dondeg.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/experience-is-now-a-free-ebook/

(P.S. Hi Alex, hope its okay to post links like this)

Best wishes,

Don DeGracia
Welcome Don... of course it is... great to have you in the forum :)
 
#17
Good interview, Alex. Coincidentally, last night I had my first lucid dream in a long while. I woke up within the dream, recognized it was a dream, and then began telling everyone else who was there that they were dreaming and it was such an unusual and special thing. They just looked at me...one man said "maybe it's an hallucination". :)
interesting. I've been having more frequent lucid dreams lately too :)
 
#18
Alex's question at the end of the Podcast:

What should we make of science that is outside of Western science--do other cultures offer a "science" in the way that we think about it, and does it deserve our attention?
 
#19
Alex's question at the end of the Podcast:

What should we make of science that is outside of Western science--do other cultures offer a "science" in the way that we think about it, and does it deserve our attention?


A number of writers have made the observation that the science of the "interior", which is necessarily experienced by an individual consciousness, is every bit as rigorous as the science of the "exterior" as it is conceived of in the West. The thing is, that the evidence gathered by interior-directed science cannot, by definition, be shared by everyone on demand. One can't show others the data from a mystical experience one might have had. One can only describe an experience.

On the other hand, there are plenty of descriptions of what happens in certain states, what effects they have, and plenty of methods for getting into those states. If a pukka spiritual teacher knows enough about a student, s/he can prescribe practices suitable to their state, which, if carried out diligently, will lead to predicted results. In that sense, interior science is verifiable, and you can have significant numbers of people who agree on that.

In a way, that's no different from what in principle happens in Western science. Someone designs an experiment and comes up with results, and then someone else (is supposed to, but increasingly this isn't happening) repeats the experiment and verifies it; and maybe in time, it leads to practical applications in technology. However, because of the enormous degree of specialisation, many scientists simply accept the truth of what other scientists outside their own field say; in that way, they're no more informed than Joe Public. And within certain specialisations, some ideas become fashionable and clung to even in the face of overwhelming counter-evidence. I think in fields like evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cosmology, medicine, and climate science (amongst many others), the system tends to promote the pursuit of complete fantasy.

You couldn't get away with that in the science of the interior, because it relies on personal, first-hand experience. One necessarily has to "repeat the experiment", viz. replicate the experience, if one is genuinely going to be able to claim its truth.

I agree that it's necessary to be able to tell the truth to oneself, and that applies under any definition of science. Western science is steeped in untruths these days, and the system is gamed so that the promulgation of untruth is actively rewarded. We think of ourselves as rational, educated people, capable of objectively evaluating what is real, when actually there's an enormous amount of (not necessarily intentional) self-deception. We're as steeped in superstition as we ever were, but sticking the label "accepted science" on something is meant to make it true. Well, it ain't always so, any more than with religious doctrine.

As was pointed out, things aren't all hunky-dory on the other side, either. There's also lots of self-deception that can go on in interior science. Self-deception is the thing that needs to be attended to: the first step in being able to competently perform science of any kind. I find Degracia's heightened awareness of his own ignorance extremely refreshing: there's far too much certainty in science in general: far too much arrogance, as well as laziness in questioning inculcated ideas. In the end, only one thing is certain: consciousness exists, and is something I experience.
 
#20
Don, many thanks for popping in and taking part in the discussion: that only happens rarely, and is much appreciated. I will be exploring your site in the future, and I hope Alex has you back on the show so that we can hear more: perhaps you could focus in on some of the minutiae.

I enjoyed the interview and am in broad agreement with much of what you say. Only one thing, really, bothered me: at one point, you seemed to be conflating idealism with post-modern social constructivism. I don't know if you meant idealism with a small or a capital "I", even though you mentioned Berkeley's name.

A number of us on this forum are Idealists with a capital "I", and I for one can tell you that I'm not at all a fan of social constructivism. Yes, it exists and is a favoured tool of politicians, polemicists, and even some scientists, and in that sense has great importance and significance. However, Idealism as a philosophy isn't constructivist. If you have the time, I'd recommend paying a visit to Bernardo Kastrup's site here:

http://www.bernardokastrup.com/

He also has quite a number of videos on YouTube, and if you haven't so far come across his work, I think you will find that much he expresses in his version of Idealism is highly compatible with your own viewpoint.
 
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