The Galileo Commission is a project of the Scientific and Medical Network, one of whose principal aims is to challenge the adequacy of the philosophy of scientific materialism (scientism) as an exclusive basis for knowledge and values.
In a letter to Kepler, Galileo wrote: ‘Here at Padua is the principal professor of philosophy, whom I have repeatedly and urgently requested to look at the moon and the planets through my glass, which he pertinaciously refuses to do’. The philosopher’s refusal to look through Galileo’s telescope has striking parallels today. For example, many scientists and academics are reluctant to take seriously the research evidence for consciousness beyond the brain because they have an unshakeable belief that consciousness is generated in and by the brain. The Galileo Commission Report is an invitation to scientists and academics to ‘look through the telescope’ at such research evidence that is currently ignored or dismissed because it is philosophically incompatible with scientism.
The Galileo Commission is represented by a distinguished group of over 90 scientific advisers affiliated to more than 30 universities worldwide. Many of these advisers were active contributors during our consultation process leading up the publication of the Galileo Commission Report, written by Professor Harald Walach.
The purpose of the Galileo Commission Report is to open up public discourse and to find ways to expand the presuppositions of science so that science (a) is not constrained by an outdated view of the nature of reality and consciousness; and (b) is better able to accommodate and explore significant human experiences and questions that it is currently unable to accommodate for philosophical reasons. We anticipate that expanding science will involve some new basic assumptions (an expanded ontology); additional ways of knowing and new rules of evidence (an expanded epistemology); as well as new methodologies flowing from these.
Cultural Significance – why the report is important
Today’s world is dominated by science and its underlying assumptions. Yet these are seldom articulated even though they generate not only a methodology but also a particular worldview, an ideology generally known as ‘scientism’. The Commission fully supports scientific methodology that is underpinned by a set of evolving rules, socially negotiated among scientists, but it is highly critical of scientism – a set of presuppositions or philosophical commitments that can only be maintained by refusing to ‘look through the telescope’.
Philosophical materialism proposes an evolutionary narrative where life is a chance occurrence with no intrinsic purpose. This gives rise to the view that humans are just complex biochemical machines and that consciousness and free will are illusions, a position strongly disputed as self-contradictory by the late Mary Midgley to whom we have dedicated the Galileo Commission Report.
This philosophical materialism is historically associated with materialism as consumerism, where the purpose of life becomes accumulation of material goods and values are correspondingly material. Some commentators even argue that moral nihilism is the logical conclusion of the view that the world is simply reducible to its physical aspects – then, as Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov asserted, ‘everything is permitted.’
Here the very definition of the human being is also at stake as developments in artificial intelligence appear to blur the distinction between humans and things. In his book The Restitution of Man, Michael Aeschliman notes that “the ultimate effect of scientism is to dissolve the absolute qualitative distinction between persons and things – the very heart of the metaphysical tradition, of sapientia – reducing persons to things… giving them a value no higher than that of a camel or a stone or any other part of nature. This reduction of the human category to the natural runs parallel with a whole series of reductions from quality to quantity, from value to fact, from rational to empirical. If the doctrine of man as a rational moral being …is weakened or destroyed, the grounds for expecting or encouraging moral conduct are similarly weakened.”
The research evidence cited in this Report points to the existence of a deeper informing structure and level of reality accessible to humans through experience and in which we are intrinsically connected in a holographic web of consciousness. On this basis, it seems that we are here to care for each other rather than pursue our own selfish material interests.