Ted Christopher lives in Rochester, New York. His post-high school, formal education has been mostly technical and included bachelor degrees in Computer and Information Science and also Mathematics (University of Massachusetts at Amherst). Later in conjunction with research work in biomedical ultrasound he obtained a Masters and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering (University of Rochester).
His outside intellectual interests and concerns expanded over the years from sustainability issues to include science’s material-only understanding of life (materialism). This move was initiated in part by some personal observations. For several years now he has investigated problems with materialism together with possible explanations offered by the premodern transcendental understanding of life. As a result of these efforts he has produced some writings including the book “A Hole in Science” and an outline of some of his findings follows.
His most basic conclusion is that the bedrock position of science - that all of life is simply an expression of molecular dynamics - is absurd. This absurdity can be seen by considering some examples of unusual - and accepted or noncontroversial - behaviors. In both reading and writing (and then reading reviewer comments) about such unusual behaviors, his conclusion has been furthered. It appears that no one has the beginnings of a credible scientific explanation for such behaviors. The juxtaposition between this situation and absolute confidence of scientists in materialism - and moreover the broadly-expressed echoes found within the intellectual community - is striking.
But moving on, though, Christopher feels that if such behaviors are in fact exceptionally rare (as could be argued about some reported taboo phenomena), then it would be reasonable to file them in the Too-Rare-To-Care-About drawer and thus for the most part forget about them. The relevant big-picture situation appears to be science’s search for the DNA responsible for our individual inheritances, as is broadly staked out by the fields of behavioral genetics and personal genomics. He feels that if successful, those fields should go a long way to accounting for - in molecular terms - who we are and what happens to us (and thus minimizing any “hole in science”).
In fact those expectations are striking out in a very large way. It is here Christopher has centered his attention and writings (and thus the title of the book). He feels that the unfolding inability to confirm the particular individual expectations associated with DNA is a huge deal, both in a practical and in a general mystery sense.
He feels that the book’s suggested alternative explanation - based on the premodern transcendental (or reincarnation-based) understanding - offers both some obvious answers as well as some broad coherence. But Christopher feels that any explanation here is secondary to questioning the hole in science and investigating the associated mysteries.
“Christopher persuasively suggests that a materialistic view falls short”
– Kirkus Reviews
A theoretical critique of scientism, the hyperbolically confident view that scientific materialism is capable of explaining the universe in its totality.
Christopher announces an ambitious agenda: to challenge the “scientific vision of life,” the reductive attempt to capture all existing phenomena—human and otherwise—in the categories of scientific materialism. The author principally devotes his attention to the relentless attempt to explain human behavior from the perspective of DNA, the alleged “language of life.” However, Christopher contends, with impressive clarity and rigor, that such an attempt has long been exposed as a failure—explanatory recourse to DNA simply doesn’t account for the whole spectrum of behavioral differences or variations in innate intelligence. Despite the mounting difficulties with the explanatory power of DNA, however, the scientific community has doubled down on its commitment to it—a type of “faith-based” rather than evidentiary allegiance. The author interprets this commitment as an expression of irrational scientism, which combines a “total confidence in the materialistic model of human life” with a self-congratulatory “hype and arrogance.” Christopher devotes so much attention to the field of genetics precisely because he sees it as the crucible of this scientism: “I suggest that biologists/geneticists are effectively in the front lines of the defense of materialism. That foundational scientific belief that life is completely describable in terms of physics dictates that DNA fulfill the heredity role. Never mind some of the extraordinary behavioral challenges, DNA has to cover all of materialism’s bets.”
Christopher also assesses the ways scientific dogma clouds discussions of environmental sustainability, race, intelligence, and even meditation—in the latter case he furnishes a fascinating discussion of the limitations of the analysis of Sam Harris, a philosopher and neuroscientist who is a well-known critic of religion. Further, he does a credible job of not only exposing the vulnerabilities and limitations of DNA as a theoretical panacea, but also the ways the scientific community routinely dismisses them, betraying their avowed commitment to intellectual openness. “Contradicting the certitude of science there are bunch [sic] of behavioral phenomena which are very difficult to explain from a materialist perspective. The inability of science to acknowledge this situation contradicts the regularly proclaimed openness and curiosity of scientists. In fact science has its own rigid materialist purview and strongly defends it.” The author, whose perspective is unmistakably locatable on the right of the political aisle, claims he does not supply a “nuanced effort,” and this is sometimes true. In his discussion of black communities, he offers common racist tropes: “A relatively weak commitment towards education and a tendency towards violence are still substantial problems in parts of the African American community.” Overall, the author’s argument is clear and free of technical convolution, a remarkable feat given the forbidding nature of much of the subject matter. His chief goal is to demonstrate the “sacred” nature of the scientific community’s fidelity to DNA as a settled theory and, as a consequence, encourage it to “start looking elsewhere for explanations.” At the very least, he accomplishes this goal.
A thorough, right-wing perspective on the philosophical vices of modern science.
Pub Date: March 25, 2020
Page count: 178pp
Publisher: Wise Media Group
Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020
An unconventional reconsideration of the materialism that dominates modern science.
Debut author Christopher points out that the scientific community, despite its professed commitment to intellectual openness, has a fundamental prejudice: the idea that all human life can be explained on singularly materialistic grounds. He believes that such an explanation fails to account for some basic questions regarding the heritability of innate characteristics; for example, how precisely does DNA transmit cultural predilections? Analogously, how is it that some prodigies seem to be born with extraordinary, unlearned knowledge of a highly technical nature? Christopher persuasively suggests that a materialistic view falls short; the scientific establishment has refused to revise its views, he says, due in part to an irrational disdain for religion. He proposes an alternate theory that posits the existence of transcendental souls that have experienced multiple, reincarnated lives. He then focuses on ways in which the existence of such souls would explain previously irresolvable mysteries, including, he says, innate homosexuality. He then reexamines the relationship between science and religion; although science has been willfully blind to the explanatory power of religion, he says, religion has largely stopped interpreting itself through science: “In addition to their general and all-too-human tendencies toward rigidity,” he says, “I think the big problem facing religions in the modern world is simply their unwillingness to try to make objective sense of their beliefs.” This sentence is a good example of what’s right and wrong with Christopher’s effort: despite the book’s admirable philosophical thoughtfulness, its prose is often needlessly turgid. The author is at his best when exposing the scientific community’s stubborn reluctance to change course and the weaknesses of its regnant ideology. He cleverly employs transcendentalism as a response to these riddles, but his leap to reincarnation will strike most readers as going too far; one can criticize science’s blinkered prejudice and still extol the epistemological value of Occam’s razor. That said, it’s impossible not to be impressed with Christopher’s creativity or his command of scientific debates.
An unusual combination of rigor and implausibility.
Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2015
Page count: 174pp
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2016
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