The Optimal Data for a Science of Consciousness: A Reply to Charles Tart [SSE]
J. Kenneth Arnette Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN
An ever-increasing amount of empirical data from multiple lines of investigation is converging to demonstrate that the philosophy of materialism is inadequate and wrong. Parapsychologist Charles Tart (in The End of Materialism, 2009) has identified ten such lines, or phenomena, that form this convergence. He has divided these lines into a “Big Five” (including telepathy, clairvoyance, and other psi phenomena) and a “Little Five” (including the near-death experience, afterdeath communications, and other subjective phenomena). He favors the Big Five because they are amenable to laboratory research that conforms to standard science and thus are “objective.” He considers the Little Five to be “the many maybes” because of their subjectivity. I hold that Tart has wrongly reversed the importance of these two types of phenomenon. I argue that: (1) the ultimate proof that materialism is wrong is the survival of human consciousness after physical death; (2) consciousness is inherently subjective, so the optimal data regarding consciousness are experiential—or subjective—data, and especially data from anomalous experiences; (3) subjective data may be made more objective through intersubjective agreement; (4) the most relevant subjective data are death-related; (5) application of simple symbolic logic demonstrates that only this last kind of data can clearly demonstrate the falsity of materialism; (6) the existence of veridical (independently verifiable) information gained by experiencers of the Little Five serves to verify the reality of their experiences; and therefore (7) death-related anomalous subjective experiences that demonstrate intersubjective agreement and veridical information are the best source of data that disprove materialism. Tart’s approach retains the classical scientific methods of investigation, and thus supports the status-quo methodology and its concomitant limitations and problems. I hold instead that the “Big Three”—the near-death experience, after-death communications, and reincarnation—are the most important phenomena, and that most of these experiences occur outside a laboratory environment. I am therefore calling for a revolution in science—led by the investigation of consciousness and its survival—that will release science from its self-imposed relegation to the laboratory and instead will fully embrace human experience as valid data in the war against materialism.