The essay titled “The Empirical Standard of Knowing – Faith Misplaced”, is based on my presentation at the 2016 Annual Conference of the Institute for Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS), Star Island, New Hampshire, June 25, 2016. In this essay I describe the purpose of knowing as the cumulative human efforts to bend the world to our needs and desires, and then I explore the limits of knowing in the empirical enterprise of physics and mathematics. At the root of this enterprise are certain tenets of faith, the largely unexamined orthodoxy that drives modern science.
Over the past century, as empirical science has probed ever more deeply into the frontiers of time and space, the evolving orthodoxy has increasingly seemed to contradict our personal experience of the world. Our sense of time and space is labelled as an “illusion.” Our experience of being conscious and aware is discounted as “epiphenomal” to the acivity of the brain. Our efforts to make rational choices through the exercise of our free will have no efficacy. The universe is random and without purpose. Scientific faith in this sense serves as a dogmatic precondition to inquiry that confines knowledge exclusively to the empirical realm. This mistakenly limits the range of human knowledge and potential, denying the true richness and depth of the human experience.
The empirical standard for knowing is faith misplaced. Understanding the limits of empirical knowing opens the door for a broader and deeper inquiry into the human experience that embraces alternative ways of knowing, ways that draw from our rich human heritage and build on our subjective and interpersonal experiences. A new symbiosis of spiritual and empirical inquiry as pathways to knowing is needed. This can bring us full circle to the roots of our humanity and our quest for knowing, and to the origins of this mystery we call life.
“There are levels of knowing that are inaccessible from within the physical and mathematical constructs of empirical science. The universe has awakened to itself. Evidence of this awakening and self-awareness can be found in the abstract forms of mathematics as well as in the manifestations of complexity, emergence and quantum theory in the physical world. At the pinnacle of this awakening is our human consciousness.”
A copy of the entire essay is now available for download on the Publications page.