Belief,Wonder & Dogma

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As Dr. Charles T. Tart sees it, the world has been miraculously transformed by science and technology. This transformation has been very good in many ways, he points out in his 2009 book, The End of Materialism, but the material progress has been accompanied by a shift in our belief systems, a shift that has resulted in the “partial crushing of the human spirit” by scientism.
“[The] constant rechecking of ideas against observable reality is where scientism corrupts the essential scientific process,” Tart, a member of the Academy’s Advisory Council, writes. “Because people caught in scientism have an a priori cognitive and emotional attachment to a totally materialistic worldview, they won’t really look at the data about psi phenomena, OBEs, or NDEs, which imply a spiritual, nonmaterial side to reality. If forced to look at some of the data, they ingeniously try to ‘explain it away,’ to trivialize it so that it doesn’t really have to be dealt with.”
Tart makes it clear that the problem is not a conflict between science, per se, and spirituality, but between scientism and spirituality. Scientism is, he says, a rigidified and dogmatic corruption of science. “As I’ve observed it in my career, and as I think psychologist Abraham Maslow would have agreed, science can be practiced in a way that makes it an open-ended, personal-growth system for the practitioner or one of the most effective and prestigious neurotic defense mechanisms available,” Tart offers.
At the other extreme from scientism is religious fundamentalism. “The organizers of most religions make their theories into doctrines, too often doctrines that must be believed or you’ll be damned!” Tart observes, adding that “religions are too often taught with an attitude that you must not question the doctrines and that you’re a bad person if you do and you’ll be punished.”
Tart is a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California (Davis campus), where he served for 28 years and is now a core faculty member of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, Calif. He has authored more than a dozen books, including Altered States of Consciousness (1969) and Transpersonal Psychologies (1975). He studied electrical engineering at theMassachusetts Institute of Technology before deciding to be become a psychologist. He received his doctoral degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1963, and then received postdoctoral training in hypnosis research with Professor Ernest R. Hilgard at Stanford University

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