Edited by John H Buchanan and Christopher M. Aanstoos

RETHINKING ENVIRONMENT

Review by Gunnel Minett

Modern science promotes itself as being based on facts rather than assumptions. This view, however, tends to avoid the fact that what we call modern science is very much based on the assumptions of René Descartes, for example, that body and mind are separate. Descartes lived nearly 400 years ago when religion still had a firm grip on society. For him ‘the quest for certainty’ was more important than ‘the quest for wisdom’. Consequently mathematics played a central role in his thinking and was continually biased towards the quantifiable. He famously came to see the body as ‘just matter’, completely detached from the soul.

A positive ‘side effect’ of Descartes thinking was that it enabled a material, mechanistic and deterministic version of science to develop free from the influence of the church, with its religious restraints. On the negative side this meant that modern science also became biased towards quantifiable data. This in turn has lead to a persistent dismissal of the need for a wholistic approach to science. In particular when it comes to consciousness and the role of human beings in the natural world. 

This is the major theme this book. In the foreword Stanley Kripper talks about the Western commitment to a materialistic, mechanistic metaphysics. Even if, as the book discusses, there is a growing body of research by leading parapsychologists and philosophers, conducted in a ‘rigorously scientific way’, which can challenge such modern scientific outlook, the classical scientific view persists. This, the authors conclude is not just bad for the credibility of modern science, it also has wider implications for the future of the planet we live on. 

The conclusion of the book proposes an “ecological civilisation,” one that reflects the impending climate changes of the twenty-first century. This means linking the exceptional human experiences, which this new research has revealed, to a better understanding of the interconnectedness between human consciousness and that of the whole of creation. With their various approaches, the authors show that what was once Alfred North Whitehead’s creative and enchanted vision of the cosmos, that to many seemed parapsychological in the context of a mechanistic universe may be what is needed to save us from our own destruction via Descartes’s out-dated and narrow-minded legacy.

Process Century Press, 2020, 232 pp, Paperback, ISBN 978-1940447438