What is Science?
Science is commonly defined as “any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation. In general, a science involves a “pursuit of knowledge covering general truths or the operations of fundamental laws.” Empirical science,
“seeks to explore, to describe, to explain, and to predict the occurrences in the world we live in. [Scientific] statements, therefore, must be checked against the facts of our experience, and they are acceptable only if they are properly supported by empirical evidence. Such evidence is obtained in many different ways: by experimentation, by systematic observations, by interviews, surveys, by psychological or clinical testing, by careful examination of documents, inscriptions, coins, archeological relics, and so forth.”
Another feature of science is that seeks to furnish natural explanations for physical phenomena, as opposed to supernatural or immeasurable, untestable, or unverifiable explanations. This feature helps explain why scientists generally prefer Darwin over Genesis for accounting for the variety of life-forms present on the Earth: Darwin offered an explanation verifiable by observation; Genesis simply says God did it, without explaining how. As we will, we will not need to discard any of these features of science if we change to a mind-created or dream model of the cosmos.
Why the Independent World Assumption is False
There are several critical problems with materialism’s assumption of a mind-independent world. But while modern scientists show no hesitation in questioning theories and ideas framed within the materialist model (such as string theory, multi-universes, or the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics), they never once question the underlying assumption of their own materialistic model. This is the critical error of modern science.
The materialistic model is implausible for three fundamental reasons:
First, the history of philosophy teaches us a threshold fact about the mind that most people either ignore or have never thought about. This fact is that the mind is only capable of knowing about itself. Even under the tenets of modern science images of the (assumed) external world ultimately form in the mind; since we can only know the mind, we must assume that an independent world exists outside of the mind that is the cause of the mental ideas and images that form in the mind.
Some view this question as a matter of sanity: how can someone actually question whether a world outside the brain exists? But this framing of the question mis-states the issue: We may not be able to tell the difference if the mind, instead of passively receiving images of an external world as in Locke’s famous blank tablet, actively projects the external world like a grand, 3-D movie projector.
This particular question — can the mind know anything other than itself — was the subject of one of the great philosophical debates of all time, starting with the British empiricist John Locke and ending with the metaphysics of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich W.J. Schelling, and others. Even though the analytical inquiry ended with virtually all of these thinkers concluding that the mind can only know itself, the project ended with either solipsism (the world is all in my head) or some form of mysticism. Idealism was unable to solve the problem of the multiple dreamers: if the world is a dream, then do we each live in our own dream world?