|Alan Wallace, Ph.D|
A trained physicist and Buddhist practitioner, Wallace holds a doctorate in religious studies, and urges 'mind scientists' - cognitive psychologists, neurologists and neuroanatomists, etc. - to look beyond their current scientific paradigm which has almost completely avoided the subject of consciousness itself, labeling it as 'subjective' and, therefore, beyond the pale of objective, empirical scientific inquiry.
"What people often fail to recognize, however," says Wallace, "is that the very category of the physical, of the mental, is a category that we humans have constructed . . . and reconstructed over the last four hundred . . . years of science."
"We have created (and) devised, based upon our modes of observations, of measurement (and) of experimentation, exactly what the parameters of the 'physical' are. What is matter? What is not matter? These are human definitions," he points out, "and these definitions have evolved as science has evolved."
"The 'physical' (or) matter, is precisely what the physical sciences are good at measuring," Wallace observes. "But the category, once again, is a physical construct. So the notion that everything in the universe must fit into a construct that we human beings have devised, and then insisting, moreover, that everything in the entire universe must fit into a construct as we have devised it now . . . strikes me as idolatry."
"Thus far," says Wallace, "mainstream science overwhelmingly has assumed that consciousness simply emerges in some as yet inexplicable way from complex configurations of chemical compounds engaging or intereacting with electricity. But no one has proposed exactly how this occurs. "
"The whole of science over the last four hundred years," he observes, "has never devised any sophisticated means for directly observing states of consciousness, the mind, mental processes. Especially over the last century, the overwhelming majority of scientific inquiry into the nature of the mind has been indirect, focusing on what scientists are good at looking at, the physical, the objective the quantifiable."
"Certainly scientists, cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists will interrogate others about their subjective experiences," he concedes." But, as one cognitive psychologist recently commented, we do not take other people's reports of their subjective experiences as facts, we simply take them as reports, as data. The same cognitive psychologist claimed that all of our subjective experiences consists of 'hallucinations.'"
"Th(is) appeal to the authority of a certain community is exactly the mindset of medieval scholasticism," Wallace points out. "It is exactly the mindset that the pioneers of the scientific revolution revolted against."
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As a polymath scientific advocate who endeavors to bridge the gap between Western scientific paradigms and the trove of psychological insights arising from Eastern wisdom traditions, Wallace tries to build a bridge between two of the most prolific knowledge systems that humanity has developed. He points out that Eastern traditions have always been focused first and foremost on the mind and consciousness, while Western Science has concentrated almost exclusively on the physical - matter, energy, time and space.
"All that we know of the universe," Wallace notes, "is what the universe reveals to us in response to our questions and our systems of measurement."
Part Two of Wallace's interview, in which Wallace expands upon the fascinating intersection of cutting edge physics, metaphysics and Buddhist thought, continues below.