The borderlands between science, pseudoscience, and the supernatural are often fuzzy. My 20+ years of meditation practice and many metaphysical experiences have taught me to be open to the possibility there is more to life than meets the naked eye. Indeed, that’s why I became a monk in the first place, why I eventually left the monastery, and why I continue today to explore the borderlands between science and the supernatural.
In this post I try to draw important distinctions between the borderland of New Age or religious “Science” versus Natural Science. Modern religions, from liberal Christianity, to Islam, to New Age often co-opts modern science to promote their metaphysical worldview.
What is the borderland or boundary line between science and pseudoscience?
5 key traits of Pseudoscience and Natural Science
The “Science” of New Age Religion (aka Pseudoscience):
1. Co-opts scientific-sounding ideas, like quantum physics, to promote its metaphysical worldview.
2. Opposes current scientific consensus– says science is too materialistic and rational.
3. Rebrands itself: as “leading edge” science, as heretically brilliant, and as enlightened.
4. Suggests mainstream science will someday catch-up, and be able to know the “Mind of God”.
5. Seeks loyalty to it’s own ideas. Regards internal consistency, philosophical elegance, and religious profundity more than using scientific method or just saying “don’t know”.
Natural Science, strictly following scientific method:
1. Studies the natural, observable universe– instead of claiming to know what is beyond human comprehension.
2. Opposes supernatural ideas as either irrational, improbable, or as inevitably yielding to natural explanations.
3. Uses observation, hypotheses, predictions, and experiments to reproduce results and obtain independent consensus.
4. Studies the natural universe and can detect invisible “objects”, atoms, and forces, like radio waves beyond ordinary human comprehension– has yet to find supernatural “objects” or causes.
5. Checks itself, is not loyal to itself. A theory can be reliable for years, but when shown to be wrong later, or a better idea comes along, the old theory may die hard but is eventually discarded.
Hopefully we see a clearer borderline or demarcation line between New Age religious science, aka “Pseudoscience”, and Natural Science.
Atoms to Astral Bodies
Natural Science has been able to obtain knowledge about our physical, observable universe, including detection of atoms, electrons, radio waves, and myriads of “invisible” objects in our known universe. This knowledge, while not perfect, has made virtually every modern technological gadget and medicine possible today. It’s important to notice (see my diagram above) that many scientific discoveries, like atoms, gravity, and DNA, are invisible and undetectable by ordinary human comprehension. Yet, we accept them as real and practical in our everyday lives.
Whereas New Age “Science”, aka religious pseudoscience, has not adequately explained why natural science has yet to find transcendent “objects”, like souls, past lives, or astral bodies, and it’s curious that Religious believers seem to be the only ones who can detect them. (I find it curious that natural science detects atoms and electrons–the building blocks of our universe, matter, and energy– but can’t find any trace of astral bodies, souls, past lives or any other supernatural objects or forces). Yet, we should be suspicious of supernatural and “pseudoscience” claims. Even if we “say” we are believers, a part of us always doubts–that’s healthy, that’s human.
Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light is winning. – Rust, True Detective
Questions for readers: What could prevent the natural sciences from detecting or discovering “objects” in a metaphysical universe? Modern science and technology can “see” atoms, DNA, gravity, microbes, infectious diseases, etc. Why not souls, chakras, or astral bodies?
New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought, Hanegraaff, Wouter J., Brill: Netherlands, 1996. Print.
Scientific method, RationalWiki