Scientific support for acknowledging that consciousness cannot be explained within the materialist paradigm accepted by most scientists is presented in the Galileo Commission’s recent report, Beyond a Materialist Vision: Toward an Expanded Science, which has been endorsed by over 90 scientific advisors from 30 universities. The Galileo Commission is a project of the Scientific and Medical Network, a worldwide professional community and membership organization “for open-minded, rigorous and evidence-based enquiry into themes bridging science, spirituality and consciousness.”
(https://scientificandmedical.net) The full scientific argument of Beyond a Materialist Vision: Toward an Expanded Science, a Summary, and a Layman’s Guide are available at (https://galileocommission.org).
The Summary of the Galileo Commission’s report begins with this critique of materialism by British philosopher Mary Midgley (1919-2018) in her book What is Philosophy For?
This whole reductive program – this mindless materialism, this belief in something called ‘matter’ as the answer to all questions – is not really science at all. It is, and always has been, just an image, a myth, a vision, an enormous act of faith. As Karl Popper said, it is ‘promissory materialism’, an offer of future explanations based on boundless confidence in physical methods of inquiry. It is a quite general belief in ‘matter’, which is conceived in a new way as able to answer all possible questions. And that belief has flowed much more from the past glories of science than from any suitability for the job in hand. In reality, not all questions are physical questions or can be usefully fitted to physical answers.
The core observations and affirmations of the Galileo Commission’s report are as follows:
1. No human intellectual activity, including science, can escape the fact that it has to make assumptions that cannot be proven using its own methodology (i.e., absolute presuppositions).
2. The prevalent underlying assumptions, or world model, of the majority of modern scientists are narrowly naturalist in metaphysics, materialist in ontology and reductionist-empiricist in methodology.
3. This results in the belief that consciousness is nothing but a consequence of complex arrangement of matter, or an emergent phenomenon of brain activity.
4. This belief is neither proven, nor warranted.
5. In fact, there are well documented empirical phenomena that contradict this belief, including . . .
a. Veridical reports of near-death experiences (NDEs) with complex intuitions, perceptions, cognitions and emotions during well-documented absence of brain activity.
b. Veridical reports of non-local perception that were confirmed independently during such near-death-states of absent brain activity.
c. The large database of parapsychology and anomalous cognition research shows in a series of meta-analyses that such non-local perceptions are indeed possible.
d. The large database of children who remember previous lives, some of whom have corresponding deformities.
6) An increasing number of open-minded scientists are already researching these frontier areas using existing scientific methods and are reaching empirically grounded conclusions that challenge the mainstream majority view.
7) They, therefore, argue that we need a model of consciousness that is non-reductive and allows consciousness its own ontological status.
8) A minimum-consensus model is a dual aspect or complementarity model, in which matter and mind, consciousness and its physical substrate, are two aspects of reality that are irreducible and simultaneously occurring perspectives of an underlying reality to which we otherwise have no direct access.
9) If that is granted, we can immediately see that consciousness can have its own direct access to reality, not only through sense perception, as in classical empiricism, but also through inner perception or radical introspection.
10) Insights from NDEs and other transformative experiences suggest that we are all embedded within a larger field of consciousness, with profound implications for ethics in an interconnected world.
A second scientific critique of materialism, "Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science,” may be downloaded at (https://opensciences.org/about/manifesto-for-a-post-materialist-science). As of the end of 2021, more than 400 “scientists, professors, doctors, and thought leaders” have affirmed this Manifesto, which includes these summary assertions:
1. Scientific methods based upon materialistic philosophy have been highly successful in not only increasing our understanding of nature but also in bringing greater control and freedom through advances in technology.
2. However, the nearly absolute dominance of materialism in the academic world has seriously constricted the sciences and hampered the development of the scientific study of mind and spirituality. Faith in this ideology, as an exclusive explanatory framework for reality, has compelled scientists to neglect the subjective dimension of human experience. This has led to a severely distorted and impoverished understanding of ourselves and our place in nature.
3. Conscious mental activity can be experienced in clinical death during a cardiac arrest (this is what has been called a "near-death experience” (NDE). Some near-death experiencers (NDErs) have reported veridical out-of-body perceptions (i.e., perceptions that can be proven to coincide with reality) that occurred during cardiac arrest. NDErs also report profound spiritual experiences during NDEs triggered by cardiac arrest. It is noteworthy that the electrical activity of the brain ceases within a few seconds following a cardiac arrest.
4. Controlled laboratory experiments have documented that skilled research mediums (people who claim that they can communicate with the minds of people who have physically died) can sometimes obtain highly accurate information about deceased individuals. This further supports the conclusion that mind can exist separate from the brain.
5. Some materialistically inclined scientists and philosophers refuse to acknowledge these phenomena because they are not consistent with their exclusive conception of the world. Rejection of post-materialist investigation of nature or refusal to publish strong science findings supporting a post-materialist framework are antithetical to the true spirit of scientific inquiry, which is that empirical data must always be adequately dealt with. Data which do not fit favored theories and beliefs cannot be dismissed a priori. Such dismissal is the realm of ideology, not science.
These two careful critiques of materialist reductionism, which many scientists identify as “scientism,” call scientists, philosophers, educators, and journalists to recognize that consciousness is at least as fundamental as matter for our understanding of reality and the world in which we live.