Yesterday was an interesting day on this forum. I downloaded Sam’s article, and the “Extraterrestrials Cause Global Warming” article, too. In a strange way, both are making the same point: Closed minds make bad science.
I’ve been arguing for years much the same kind of thing Sam is trying to explain. It seems to me that “science” is by no means the only methodology we have for learning important facts about the world. There are those who have elevated “science” to the level of a faith, literally a substitute for religion. One of the “articles of faith” became that scientific method is our only valid way to explore reality. At the same time, the definition of scientific method, not in the laboratory, where people have always explored freely, but in the minds of those who “believe in” science, has become more and more narrow, to the point where nobody would be able to do science if they try to limit themselves to those “rules.” This excludes much that is valid about actual human experience, insisting that many kinds of experience are fantasy and don’t really happen. This is throwing out the baby with the bath water. This accomplishes exactly what religion accomplishes: one is expected to go through life in a state of denial wearing blinders so one won’t pay attention to what hasn’t been narrowly defined as acceptably “real.’
There’s also a huge semantic problem, and it’s one that Sam is stumbling over at the moment. Words like “spiritual” and “mysticism” have meant very different things in different cultures. Words like these mean whatever we’re defining them to mean at the moment and have never referred to some one phenomenon but a collection of loosely related phenomena that feel like they fit together. Meditation has had many different goals and methodologies over the centuries, and is not some one thing everyone agrees on. This doesn’t make it any more or less valid, but it does create problems for Sam when he tries to explain its deeper effects. Like anything else one wishes to study scientifically, however much one may dislike reductive methods, this will have to be broken down into tiny steps and sorted out. Of course Sam is correct in his claim that meditation can have results that are transformative and that this has been understood to be religious experience. Of course he is correct in his effort to separate this from its religious interpretations.