Monday, 6 October 2008


Bob: “And as for the metaphysical purpose, I am not sure what you mean by that (maybe you can explain in another post). But the way I see it, 'spirituality' and religion are not exactly declining. In fact, because fewer and fewer people understand modern technology and science, I feel that more and more people are escaping into these things.”

...and yet, all the world, East and West, is in need of renewal: politically, socially, economically, in the case of the East; spiritually, above all spiritually, in that of the West. Future progress in theoretical physics, as a distinct branch of philosophy, might well adumbrate the sheer extent of its investigative spirit. The business of the physicist, after all, is to divine the Creator’s intention and to interpret that intention, not merely as a means of giving coherent expression to his physical experience, but as a stimulus to his own
scientific imagination. He is a maker and reader of riddles.

The point has often been made that many people reject scientific values
‘because they regard materialism as a sterile and bleak philosophy’. Not
everyone may agree with me, then, that the physicist’s labour has an accessible
metaphysical meaning. But it is curious to note nevertheless that the sudden
introduction of a Faustian aspect into the science of physics has impressed
itself upon modern man with a far stronger purpose than the type of spiritual
life that finds expression in forms of religion essentially concerned with
ritual and the careless intonation of prayers.

It has been claimed accurately enough, that we can no more invent a new
religion than we can build a tree. And in a sense, of course, it is fortunate
that religious proselytisers are unfamiliar figures in the word of the physical
sciences. Scientists, it has been said, are distinct from ordinary people by
what they do not believe in. Instead there is a deliberate matter-of-factness,
the disciplined, concise ingenuity which constitutes what is called ‘the
scientific mind’. But with a hint or two of genius and basing his beliefs not
upon faith, but reason and physical fact, the modern physicist nevertheless
carries a strong and potent suggestion of what our future spiritual and
intellectual development is going to be like:

He believes in physical uncertainty, but not in immortality. In a
universal science that includes all and promises hope for the solution of all,
but not in God’s own communication. In the thermodynamic arrow of time and the
Immutability of the Law - in the words of the Gospel: E = mc2 - but also in a
new supersensibility and its elementary duality of wave and particle theory as
two different aspects of the same complementarity. He is pious, touched perhaps
even with a deeper motive, but extremely rational and intellectually
circumspect. He is thoroughly introspective and almost prophetic in spirit, but
he leaves nothing to chance.

In him the real and the ideal exist side by side!



Bob said...

No comments yet? Probably not moderated yet.

[The business of the physicist, after all, is to divine the Creator’s intention] I'll take that metaphorically ;-)

The main goal of the scientist is the same as that of the philosopher: keep on wondring about the world. The philosopher seeks the answers in his mind, the scientist uses experiments to test his answers.

While I assure you that I do not understand quantum fysics, I read something interesting on Georg McCabes blog: there is growing support for the interpretation of quantum fysics known as 'bohmian mechanics', which is deterministic as well as causal. This ofcourse would take away a great deal of the mystery and perhaps the poetry in the subject, but it sounds a whole lot more sensible then the 'collapse of the wave-function'.

By the way, there was a new religion founded only a couple of years ago in worship of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and His Noodly Appendage.

Selena Dreamy said...

The Bohmian interpretation - a piece of ephemera that has stood empty since it was built - is fine except that it comes with a confusion of locality and causality in that it can’t commit to either without God, the Devil or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

This law is not obeyed by the universe in general, it is a choice thrust on to the observer by the selective action of the mind, and expresses properties of the concept rather than of the Universe...

Jonathan said...

Science seeks and establishes knowledge regarding what can be perceived by the five senses a) by everyone, anywhere b) in a sense that can be tested and verified.

This is its nature. If science is to encompass what is now called metaphysical it will be because the metaphysical (presuming it exists) will stop being hidden and become publically, communicably and verifiably revealed..and therefore physical.

I see no reason why this may not happen, but suspect this will require a transfiguration of that consciousness that lies behind and determines the potentiality of the senses.

Until that time, if it is to come, either a) science is the only portal to knowledge (if we are to deem that all knowledge is limited to the verifiably empirical) or b) science is only one path to, and kind of, knowledge.

The philosopher seeks answers through his mind, but not necessarily only in his mind. He enquires into epistemological possibilities. He is not, at his best, merely a fantasist (though some might be), but relates to reality at the level of axiom formation.

Meanwhile what knowledge can the scientist have of what cannot be experimented upon or tested? Is knowledge that the scientist cannot access necessarily for that reason not knowledge?

Does a truth have to be known for it to exist?

Jonathan said...

By the way, the flying spaghetti monster (even if he exists- that might be fun!) is a contingent creature. Since God has never been understood by theologians as a contingent creature, any religion devoted to such a creature would be of a radically different (ie idolatrous) kind.

All of a sudden both the heat and humidity of China disappeared. Very odd.


Selena Dreamy said...

I see no reason why this may not happen, but suspect this will require a transfiguration of that consciousness that lies behind and determines... excellent concise of a process to which I hope to return shortly at some length, Jonathan.

Does a truth have to be known for it to exist?

Clearly, like the Virgin Mary, the Truth can never be “known” - indeed, is unknowable - though it may well give birth to knowledge. In a kind of immaculate conception, presumably. Whereas knowledge, indeed, is a deformation of both, reality and the truth...

...and truth to tell, what has always struck me are the analogies of science and philosophy that are to be found in “revealed” religion and its conceptual processes.

Selena Dreamy said...

Incidentally, an unidentified object, looking like a "flying pig", was seen at Llangollen, in Wales, on September 2. 1905.

Might that have been the Flying Spaghetti Monster...?

Crushed said...

Do you not think the time will come when faith is no longer needed because we really WILL know all the answers?

I actually think we're ALMOST there.

Selena Dreamy said...

A difficult question that, Crushed. Who is to say?!

Though it rather reminds me of Bertrand Russell's somewhat premature pronouncement, in the closing stages of the 18th century, that the history of human knowledge was more or less in the process of completion. Personally, I tend to think that - as Churchill said on a different occasion - we are just at the end of the beginning....

Bob said...

Neither the bohmian mechanics nor the 'collapse' theory are an exact description of what happens to particles going through the slots. They are models of something which I presume we cannot understand or if we can, we are still a long way from it.
And I still claim that the difference in the behaviour of a particle when we observe it or not does not have its reason in the fact that we observe it, but because of the way we observe it (by bombarding it with x-rays).
At least that's what I read in Silvia Arroyo Camejo's book.

Selena Dreamy said...

Yours, indeed, is the fundamental postulate of classical mechanics, whereas in quantum mechanics, uncertainty is a fundamental, inescapable property of the world. Full stop.

But then Bob, if that presents you with a problem, why not resort to special relativity and its macrocosmic models. It not only shows that a given number of observers might assign a different number of measurements to events and forces at the same point in space and time, but also that they will all be equally valid.

I have no preference for either. To me it is the principle that matters. Nor am I a physicist. My province is philosophy, and I have never known George Berkeley’s dictum to fail, that “to be is to be perceived!” But I do want to say in all honesty that I acknowledge and appreciate very much that we will have to accept a considerable amount of intellectual uncertainty in return for this rather esoteric, indefinite, epistemological postulate which I believe we are going to be dependent on for all our future philosophical and scientific thinking.

Jonathan said...

But faith isn't only about Knowledge, in the sense that it might be considered a substitute for it; such that it could then be dispensed with after we had discovered 'total knowledge'.

Even if all 'knowedge' were achieved (what is this knowledge we expect to find anyway?), we would still be more than mere creatures of knowledge. We would still be needing to relate to others and to the cosmos. And for this, within this dynamic, faith (or as it were trust) is found and is key, without which the quality of relation is always diminished.

Here faith concerns the emotions of course, our existential condition, not the domain of objective intellectual knowledge, which it is supposed by some that faith is merely the inferior, and superstitious, substitute for.

Selena Dreamy said...

"what is this knowledge we expect to find anyway?"

...nothing less than a return to the Universal Unconscious - the status quo ante of the Big Bang.