Beyond Scientism: Towards an Open-Minded Science: The Psychology of Skeptics and the Decline of Materialism

Course Information

Steven Taylor 
Leeds Beckett University
, Leeds, England 
Invited Speaker Parapsychological Association 

Surveys show that the majority of the general public believe in the existence of psi phenomena such as telepathy and precognition. A majority of people believe that they have personally experienced such phenomena. The evidence for psi is compelling, and has been consistent and significant over decades of research. This presentation explores the reasons why many academics continue to dismiss – and even refuse to examine – the existence for psi. Materialism (or physicalism) is a belief system, similar to a religion in that it is based on a number of basic assumptions (or tenets), many of which are lacking in evidence. I explore the psychological reasons why belief systems have such a powerful hold – they bring a sense of control, certainty and identity. As a result, materialists (like fundamentalist Christians or Muslims) defend their belief system against any contrary evidence. They also aggressively attack people who put forward contrary beliefs, and feel a powerful missionary zeal to spread their beliefs to others. However, the belief system of materialism is completely inadequate as a model of reality. It cannot account for a phenomenon such as altruism. which can only be explained in non-physicalist terms. I briefly outline my own metaphysical model of ‘panspiritism,’ which has a great deal more explanatory power and cohesion than physicalism. I also offer some optimistic signs that there is a movement beyond materialism, as exemplified by the ‘third way in evolution’ movement. 

Course Instructor

Steven Taylor
Steven Taylor Author

Steve Taylor is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, and the author of several best-selling books on psychology and spirituality. He is a past chair of the Transpersonal Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. His new book is Extraordinary Awakenings: When Trauma Leads to Transformation, and his other books include The Clear Light, Out of the Darkness, Back to Sanity, The Calm Center, and The Leap and Spiritual Science. His books have been published in 20 languages, while his articles and essays have been published in over 100 academic journals, magazines, and newspapers. He regularly appears in the media in the UK and has been recently featured on Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, BBC Breakfast, Radio FiveLive and TalkRadio. He writes blog articles for Scientific American and for Psychology Today. Eckhart Tolle has described his work as “an important contribution to the shift in consciousness which is happening on our planet at present.” Steve lives in Manchester, England, with his wife and three young children.

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