Openness is one of the cornerstones of scientific approach. The old Newtonian laws that had been taken as correct for long, were revised, with no hesitation, in the light of new findings by Einstein et.al. There are many cases in the history of science where we have openly discarded old theories and accepted new ones that survived the test of scientific validity.
But in the case of several mysterious practices, this openness is a taboo. The propagators of such practices claim them to be eternally true and unquestionable. Though none of them stand the test of science, can we at least glean whatever is worth from these theories and practices by relaxing some of the stringent yardsticks of science? How do we do that?
I have suggested one way in my book “Important missing dimensions in our current understanding of the Mind”. In that book I have considered a range of ancient philosophies that deal with Mind and reality, to see what we can learn from them. The criteria I have laid down for this purpose are the following.
We need to check whether
- The theory is self consistent: i.e. it has no internal conflicts. If the theory or practice is proposed in a book, then no part of the book should contradict any other part of the same book. Sometimes, there may be several books dealing with similar ideas and related to each other. In that case also they have to be consistent across.If someone talks about a theory claiming it to be based on some book or sage, and if the said book or the words of the sage don’t support that view or contradict that view, then also there is an internal conflict.
- The theory is unambiguous: i.e. it has clearly defined concepts. Most of the times, mysterious theories are defined in terms of ambiguous terms. They could also be vague statements immersed in several obviously true statements that have no relation to the statement being made. Such suggestive implications often pass off as logically arrived conclusions.
- The theory is conflict free: i.e. it does not seriously conflict with well known scientific results. There are many scientific facts that have remained unchallenged for long. If some mysterious theory challenges such facts, then it better have very strong evidence. Or else it is likely to be false or fraudulent.
- The theory is useful: i.e. it provides additional insights beyond what science can, as of today, and may provide answers to some of the unanswered questions as well. Usefulness does not make the theory right. But it could be accepted as ‘to be verified’ theory/practice as long as it is not harmful. Many of our faiths and beliefs fall in this category. They are not proven valid, but may be useful and not known to be harmful.