Don’t mistake the assumption to be the conclusion
(A spiritualist and a materialist discuss the scope of science, specifically of naturalist science)
Materialist: You are unscientific because science has proven that the soul doesn’t exist.
Spiritualist: Science has done no such thing. In fact, science can’t disprove the existence of the soul, even in principle, at least as long as it sticks to naturalism as its operational methodology.
Materialist: Why can’t science disprove the soul?
Spiritualist: Naturalism begins by assuming as an act of faith that all natural phenomena can be understood in natural terms, where natural essentially means material. And the soul is by definition spiritual, being categorically different from matter, as the Bhagavad-gita (02.16) indicates. So right from the beginning the soul becomes ruled out of the scope of naturalistic science.
Materialist: That simply means the soul doesn’t exist.
Spiritualist: No, it only means that naturalistic science can’t say anything authoritatively about the existence of the soul.
Materialist: Why not?
A naturalist exploring the world is like a person in a libarary wearing earplugs that block out all sound.
Spiritualist: Let me explain with an example. Suppose a person in a library wanting to concentrate on his reading wears earplugs that block all sound. Can he make any authoritative statement about whether there is any sound in the room?
Spiritualist: Similarly, naturalistic science in its pursuit of natural explanations for everything blocks out everything non-natural. So it naturally can’t find anything non-natural or non-material such as the soul.
To report the assumption as the conclusion reflects confusion. Naturalists get confused like this because they equate science with one of its methodologies – naturalism.
If science is to make authoritative statements about the soul’s existence, it needs to distance itself from naturalism and adopt another methodology.
Materialist: But why does science need any non-naturalist methodology when the naturalist methodology explains everything?
Spiritualist: Actually, the naturalist methodology doesn’t explain everything. It is useful for understanding the outer world, for that world is mostly made of material things. But it is unhelpful for understanding the inner world, wherein the central reality is consciousness. And consciousness itself is not explainable materialistically – material things are objects, whereas consciousness is subject, being the perceiver of material things. Naturalism when attempting a material explanation for consciousness just can’t explain how matter can produce something that experiences matter. Objects when brought together even in the most complex combinations will still produce objects alone – they will never produce subjects.
Spiritualist: Not only that, many mysterious phenomena related with consciousness such as near-death experiences and past-life memories are also not explainable within a naturalistic framework.
Materialist: But the claims about such phenomena are questionable – none of them have been adequately substantiated.
Spiritualist: Yes, many of these claims are questionable, but not all. Many serious scientists have also researched the phenomena and found credible evidence for them. But passing judgment without examining the evidence is the standard strategy naturalism uses for maintaining its monopoly on science. Despite naturalists’ repeated dismissals of such phenomena as inauthentic, the evidence for their authenticity keeps mounting, being painstakingly accumulated by many careful scientists. Dogmatic rejection of such evidence only stunts the progress of science.
Materialist: Stunts science’s progress? I can’t believe that.
Spiritualist (opening his phone): Let me read to you a couple of quotes from eminent scientists. In his book Essays in Psychical Research, the renowned psychologist William James stated, “Science may keep saying: ‘Such things are simply impossible’; yet so long as the stories multiply in different lands, and so few are positively explained away, it is bad method to ignore them.”
Materialist: Hmmm … What’s the other quote?
Spiritualist: It’s by English scientist Alfred Wallace, the co-founder of evolution. In his book My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions, he eloquently wrote how he outgrew the narrow-mindedness that rejected naturalism. “The facts did not fit into my then existing fabric of thought. All my preconceptions, all my knowledge, all my belief in the supremacy of science and of natural law were against the possibility of such phenomena. Every other possible solution was tried and rejected. . . . We ask our readers not for belief, but for doubt of their own infallibility on this question; we ask for inquiry and patient experiment before hastily concluding that we are, all of us, mere dupes and idiots as regards a subject to which we have devoted our best mental faculties and powers of observation for many years.”
Materialist: You may be having a point there.
Spiritualist: To study the non-material arena of consciousness systematically, science needs a non-naturalist methodology that is open to non-material explanations. For those adventurous enough to want to expand the frontiers of science, bhakti-yoga comprises a spiritual science that trains our consciousness to directly perceive the source of consciousness – the soul.
An analysis of bhakti-yoga is, of course, the subject for another discussion.