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commented on Aug. 28, 2014
It seems to be a popular notion around here that scientific investigation is only one way of knowing among other equally valid ways of knowing. In particular, science seems to be regarded as equal or even inferior to intuition as a way of knowing about reality. This attitude is even reflected in the name of IONS: the term "noetic" derives from a Greek word which means "intuition".
Certainly intuition can be a valuable tool in the quest for knowledge. However treating it as equal or superior to science as a way of understanding reality is a dicey proposition. I recently came across this blog article, which does an excellent job of highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of intuition as a way of knowing:
Some of the key points from this article (which I highly recommend that you read in full):
*Intuition is a great way of knowing when it comes to subjective matters of opinion (e.g. love, art, humour, friendship).
*However, intuition doesn't work so well when it comes to understanding what is objectively true and how things work. This is because the human brain is hard-wired to perceive in certain distorted ways, and as such intuition has an unfortunate tendency to tell us what we want to hear and what we expect to see based on our preconceptions.
*Intuition is a great way to make connections between disparate concepts and information, thus leading to new insights and creative possibilities.
*However, although intuition may be good at initially *proposing* interesting new ideas and insights with respect to the nature of reality, it is necessary to employ the scientific method to test those ideas to see if they have any actual merit. The scientific method is suitable for this testing the intuition's ideas because it is specifically designed to counter the aforementioned biases and distortions in human perception and thought.
*While intuition may have inspired some scientists to make great discoveries, it was only the *beginning* part of such discoveries. The rest of those discoveries involved extensive and rigorous scientific testing and refinement. In other words, intuition provides the lead, but it is up to science to act as detective by following and investigating the lead.
The key message that I take from this article is that intuition is valuable and important, but it is not a substitute for science. Rather, intuition and science are complementary in such a way that science has the final word. We should however spare no effort to use both intuition AND science to investigate how we can enhance and better utilize intuition in the context of scientific investigation.