The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness

The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness

The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness

The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness


This book takes a bold new look at ways of exploring the nature, origins, and potentials of consciousness within the context of science and religion. Alan Wallace draws careful distinctions between four elements of the scientific tradition: science itself, scientific realism, scientific materialism, and scientism. Arguing that the metaphysical doctrine of scientific materialism has taken on the role of ersatz-religion for its adherents, he traces its development from its Greek and Judeo-Christian origins, focusing on the interrelation between the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. He looks at scientists' long term resistance to the firsthand study of consciousness and details the ways in which subjectivity has been deemed taboo within the scientific community. In conclusion, Wallace draws on William James's idea for a "science of religion" that would study the nature of religious and, in particular, contemplative experience. In exploring the nature of consciousness, this groundbreaking study will help to bridge the chasm between religious belief and scientific knowledge. It is essential reading for philosophers and historians of science, scholars of religion, and anyone interested in the relationship between science and religion.


When we consider what religion is for mankind, and what science is, it is no exaggeration to say that the future course of history depends upon the decision of this generation as to the relations between them.

Alfred North Whitehead

Among all the points of contact between science and religion, there is none more crucial and none more clouded in mystery and confusion than the views concerning the nature of consciousness. While many philosophers acknowledge that little or nothing is known about consciousness, many people today make strong, diverse claims concerning the human soul and consciousness based upon religious and scientific authority. Religious believers interpret consciousness in accordance with their respective creeds, the authority of which is not accepted by many scientists; and scientists base their views of consciousness on the metaphysical principles underlying scientific inquiry, the validity of which is questioned by many religious believers.

Despite centuries of modern philosophical and scientific research into the nature of the mind, at present there is no technology that can detect the presence or absence of any kind of consciousness, for scientists do not even know what exactly is to be measured. Strictly speaking, at present there is no scientific evidence even for the existence of consciousness! All the direct evidence we have consists of nonscientific, first-person accounts of being conscious. The root of the problem is more than a temporary inadequacy . . .

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