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phoenix goodman

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Does the scientific establishment unwittingly suffer from paradigm bias? Does it assume incorrect axioms of existence?

In the light of Thomas Kuhn's "Paradigm Shift" theory, and inspired by the TED controversy of removing Rupert Sheldrake's talk, let us examine the current scientific establishment.

The scientific process is capable of historical meta-analysis to make sense of its own patterns and processes. As Kuhn points out, every generation of scientists tend to assume premises that are fundamentally false but define the paradigm in which they work, and all assumptions flow from those premises.

Two major examples to illustrate are the geocentric/religious paradigm overthrown by Copernicus, and the Newtonian absolute space-time paradigm overthrown by Einstein. Of course, we must look to the actual psyche's of the establishment itself in those contexts. Was Copernicus not considered a heretic? Did not pre-Einsteinian physicists literally just ASSUME absolute spacetime as an axiom when contemplating physics? They are only easily shown to be incorrect in 20/20 hindsight, although up to that point, all the textbooks of school and general consensus among very smart 'experts' propagated those fallacious foundations.

Scientists that are overly specialized, careerist, non-philosophical, and lacking in paradigm shattering intuition/creativity might be the 'gatekeepers' of today, propagating fallacious assumptions themselves, and dismissing all non-establishment positions as heretical.

Has science itself transcended all biases? Has it overcome all incorrect assumptions? Was Newtonian absolute spacetime the final barrier? If not, then we MUST give 'heretics' a shot, should we not? What if they are a paradigm shifter?

As a thought experiment- if we are to contemplate the hypothetical that there are indeed wrong assumptions, what might they be?

Could it be that matter emerges from mind, and not the other way around?
Can Cartesian dualism be solved?
Could it be that the paradigm of Empiricism is merely a subset of the superior Rationalism?

Was Leibniz right?


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  • Mar 21 2013: There are a couple of significant assumptions that I can think of which I suspect may, at the finest levels of our inspection of reality, may distort our understanding.

    For example, all of scientific enquiry is built on the assumption that the natural world provides reliable evidence. Yes, we can use the evidence we derive from the material world to do all kinds of interesting things, substantiate theories convincingly, etc, but this assumption remains within the foundations of all that materialistic science has built.

    Secondly, we're very taken with logic and mathematics. The neat and flawless nature of statements like 1+1=2, or the old "All men are mortals.." seem incontrovertible. We can use abstract thinking to model all sorts of things very convincingly, but I worry that there is a tendency to unconsciously conflate these models with reality and to treat our logical rules as perfect analogies of the natural rules that give rise to reality as we know it. I suspect that our abstractions deviate from the reality, and that even an extremely small deviation may lead to distortion in our understanding when we try to apply our models at very high resolution.

    Thirdly (and this is increasingly acknowledged), I think we need to recognise more that the same phenomenon can be understood and thought about in very different ways. I don't know how applicable Sheldrake's ideas are, for example, or how well they match up to reality, but if the case is that they could provide a model that is even slightly applicable, then it is interesting and worth thinking about. I think that the more approaches we have on understanding reality, the more angles we come at it from, the more easily we will be able to triangulate on the central truth towards which all efforts to understand reality are alligned.
    • Mar 22 2013: I would love to see Mr. Sheldrake stand in a room with James Randi and then attempt his mystical feats of telepathy and extra-sensory perception. I suspect that, just like the dozens of other charlatans who had the unfortunately mistaken believe that they could fool the "Amazing Randi" over the last few decades, he will meet a similarly embarrassing fate.

      There is no telepathy. There is no extra-sensory perception.

      Years ago scientists thought that elephants somehow communicated through telepathy, but since then found that subsonic sounds and their ability to "feel" sound through their feet are the true source of their "superpowers".

      We used to think that pigeons were terribly smart and able to memorize landscapes or perhaps had a "magnetic" sensor. We now know that they too, have ultrasonic abilities.

      We once thought that dogs could "sense" our diseases through some kind of magic. We now know that they simply smell various diseases and changes in our hormone levels.

      We live in the now. We live in reality.

      Philosophy is not science. The only thing they share are a quest for the truth, but they both quickly diverge into completely different paths. If you want to argue all the wonderful (read: colorful) additions that philosophy has brought to our lives vs. the contributions of science, I would suggest the following:

      Not a single candle can be made to flicker with all the philosophy in all the world. And with 100 year old science, born from the brains of sexist, racist, and small-minded men I can turn on light bulbs in every home, every car, and every flash light.

      I think it's plain that from the perspective of practicality, and perhaps even relevance, that this discussion appears to delve a little too far into metaphysical spirituality and "voodoo". It would perhaps be better served in creationist forums, rather than a place where science and rationality are supposedly being shared.
      • Mar 22 2013: Are you responding to my post or did you reply to me by accident? I cannot quite connect what you are saying to what I am saying. I did not, for example, mention anything about psychics, pigeons, or James Randi.
        • Mar 25 2013: So, you didn't mention "Sheldrake's ideas"? Mmmh. Maybe the word just popped into my head at a "low resolution"?

          I think that's where all of that "magic" and mysticism came from in my reply. Perhaps I read too much into it? "My" Sheldrake worked on paranormal and psychic perception, unless you're referring to a different Sheldrake?
      • Apr 6 2013: While it is true that past research might not have led to results pleasing to Randi, the fact remains that the research done was well done, intricate, performed by physicists and other highly qualified scientists and they were looking at things like whether or not information is carried by photons than at things like 'how can we impress Randi?". The research h papers that so many are either unaware of or wish didn't exist do and foundational research matters. Those who have not examined it show themselves to be fools when making claims about what is and is not born out by science. I've touched on the existing research in a brief blog, complete with downloads so you can get an idea of the caliber of research being ignored... Check it out at
        • Apr 8 2013: Hi Tamra,

          I did take a look at your website, but I can't find any evidence that supports your claims. Instead, you have copies of memos that *might* suggest meetings, etc.

          There is, in fact, a large mountain of evidence that points to charlatanism on the subject of remote viewing, and even the "great Randi" has had experience in this particular subject -- including on live TV for all the world to see.

          Every single time that double blind studies have been conducted, they were found to be statistically inconclusive. To date, not a single supposed study has yielded repeatable, positive results. This leads to the following conclusion:

          "The scientific community rejects remote viewing due to the absence of an evidence base, the lack of a theory which would explain remote viewing, and the lack of experimental techniques which can provide reliably positive results. It is also considered a pseudoscience."

          [taken from wikipedia, please read the article yourself for numerous citations]

          The fact of the matter is, that science DID look at this numerous times. It was not rejected on the basis of dogma. It was rejected on the basis of scientific fact after careful observation and years of study (decades, in fact) by numerous private and government entities.

          To characterize this nonsense in the context of my flickering candle analogy, I would say the following about remote viewing: "Never mind making a candle flicker. They never even saw the room it was in."

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