Article

Questioning Science - The Believer's Dodge

One of the primary tools in the arsenal of the relativist is to question scientific integrity. Since the physical universe is stubbornly resistant to subjective modification, relativists and irrational believers of all stripes continue to construct philosophical objections to what most of us consider to be self-evident.

Belief can only exist within a narrow realm of limited inquiry. If you start examining ‘faith-based’ claims, you will quickly reach the point where the claim cannot be supported. Faith proponents will then use a variety of rhetorical devices to weasel out of the contradiction or lack of evidence: argument from authority (the Bible or other scripture), argument from result (morality arguments), argument from ignorance (how did the universe get here, then?), argument from lack of purpose, etc., etc. None of these arguments have any bearing on the facts at hand or the claims made based on faith–which remain stubbornly out of line with observable reality.

The next step in the ‘believer’s dodge’ is to question the nature of reality, possibly citing popular fantasies such as the Matrix films, or "What the Bleep…?" In any case, all these dodges involve reduction in significance of what the believer themselves can see, hear, feel, touch, and taste. The believer tries desperately to disbelieve their own senses. They often fall prey to the fallacy of "quantum uncertainty", which has been shown to completely cancel out when applied to large numbers of particles.

The common thread is to place heightened importance on internal mental imagery or subjective experiences. To declare that through these experiences or mental states, one can "create their own reality." These internal experiences may seem perfectly real and concrete, but in practice differ little or naught from a hallucination. They cannot be seen or verified by others, and therefore cannot be distinguished from fantasy. [Note: Of course anyone can create their own reality through goal-setting and taking of concrete steps–that’s not what this article is concerned with–obviously.]

The final "believer’s dodge" is the attempt to cast philosophical aspersions on empiricism itself. Commenter David Tame has fired off a salvo in this regard, claiming erroneously that science itself requires some sort of ‘faith’:

It’s a huge subject and you appear to not know of it. Science is a ‘construction’ based upon career-dependence, going with the flow, filtering out awkward data and not looking at it. It’s simply a construction. Science in the West is in fact a form of faith. Faith in science. It’s a very ill-founded faith since the philosophy of science shows how flawed its supposed ‘reasoning’ is.

My response to him in the comments was as follows:  "[You have confused] human error in the conducting of the scientific enterprise with flaws in the method. Plenty of people play politics with science. And I’ll grant you that it is not possible for people to be entirely objective. But the goal of any honest scientist is to try. Don’t confuse the machinations of industry and government with pure science. They are two completely different realms."

Tame also cites two books. One of these is extremely opinionated and problematic: Entitled “Science, The Very Idea” by Steve Woolgar, the book is a polemic against the very process through which we have gained our knowledge about the world. Woolgar is a social constructivist, the type who might argue that if enough people agree or perceive it, 2+2 just might equal 5. (Constructivists would of course deny they are saying this, because it makes them appear to be fools. But when they question empiricism, this is what they–in effect–are saying.)

Woolgar portrays the claims of science and the boundary between science and non-science as ‘rhetorical accomplishments.’" This is a terrible example of argument from authority, or popularity.

From a paper by P. Slezak

US philosopher Larry Laudan (1990, p.x) characterized the "rampant relativism" as "the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time". Australian David Stove (1991) wrote of these doctrines as so absurd, that they elude the force of all argument (1991, p. 31), "a stupid and discreditable business" whose authors are "beneath philosophical notice and unlikely to benefit from it". Stove described such ideas as an illustration of the "fatal affliction" and "corruption of thought" in which people say things which are bizarre and which even they must know to be false.

Many relativists also cite Godel, whose work on the incompleteness theorem cast doubt on aspects of mathematics.

All these arguments are easily trumped by one simple fact: that you are reading this sentence! I can type this sentence on a computer that is connected to billions of other computers via a web so complex that no human can fully comprehend its existence. Every component in that web, every wire, every router, literally every electron–is governed by the principles of science. Without every discovery that has been made, without the scientific method, in an unbroken chain back to Newton, Copernicus and beyond, you would not be reading this sentence!

The tools of the modern world themselves form an irrefutable and entirely objective proof of the scientific method. And they work no matter what a person believes on a given day, where they live, or how they may be feeling. And they are so good that we all rush out to buy them, no matter what our beliefs–even if we oppose technology itself!

It is the height of irony when those very tools are used to promote ignorance. I am stymied. Perhaps we humans are so buoyed by our own easy mastery over the physical world, that we take our discoveries and tools too much for granted.


Comments (7 comments)

Mark Challenger / May 20th, 2006, 4:18 pm / #1

Hi Sean-

I am somewhat baffled by the use of the term “relativist� in application to “believers�. Is this what you meant to say? Most people think of the religious faithful as “absolutists� because they believe in the infallibility of their faith vis-à-vis other people’s faiths and non-believers. That point aside why are you setting up a false dichotomy between belief and science? Certainly we can believe both in God and science, as I am living proof of that fact.

Without Copernicus, we might still believe the sun revolved around the earth, and yet today we know that that is absurd. However, to assert that scientific truths negate the existence of or belief in a deity because a deity cannot be empirically proven misses the point of scientific investigation.

Many scientists begin with a hypothesis (a belief) and then set out using the scientific method to demonstrate the truth or falsity of their belief (hypothesis). From astronomical measurements, Copernicus in 1503 concurred in a theory that was being discussed by astronomers of his day that the earth revolved around the sun. Approximately 27 years later, he published his major work The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. Twenty-seven years of investigation to put forth a well-founded argument for what today we consider painfully obvious.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal there was an article about the proton. Here is the article in its entirety:

“Talk about accounting problems. In a quest that has its roots 2,400 years ago in Democritus’ search for the smallest bit of matter, physicists thought they were doing pretty well when, in the 1960s, they discovered that the protons in atomic nuclei are each made of three even-smaller subatomic particles, which were given the whimsical name quarks.

But it quickly became clear that the numbers “don’t add up,” says physicist Douglas Beck of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The total mass of the three quarks, for instance, is a mere 1.5% of the proton’s. Try as they might to balance the books, no amount of creative accounting has turned up the sources of the missing mass, casting doubt on science’s understanding of how the basic building blocks of the physical world are assembled into matter.

That is frustrating in its own right. But it also suggests that physicists may be missing out on potential new technologies. Other advances in understanding the esoterica of subatomic particles led to transistors, CT scanning, MRI machines and other marvels. Cracking the proton’s remaining enigmas might bring undreamed-of wonders.

Protons are made of two “up” quarks and one “down” quark (the identification doesn’t mean much), all of which zip around the proton at the speed of light. “People expected most of a proton’s properties to come from the three quarks,” says theorist Werner Vogelsang of Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island.

But no. The three not only fail to bring enough mass to the party, but they also fall short in spin. Protons spin like Earth on its axis. But adding up the spins of the three resident quarks, you get no more than 20% to 30% of the proton’s spin, physicists discovered at CERN, the European physics lab in Switzerland, in 1989. It was a “spin crisis.”

Protons also have a property called a magnetic moment, which is like the magnetism you’d have if you carried around a little bar magnet, and is the basis for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). But the total of the three quarks’ magnetic moments is only one-third the proton’s.

“Everyone believed they knew everything there was to know about the theory [governing subatomic particles, such as quarks],” says physicist Abhay Deshpande of Stony Brook University, New York, and Brookhaven National Lab. When experiments showed that things didn’t add up, “it created excitement for experimentalists and shock for theorists.”

Luckily, when it comes to subatomic particles, saying one thing is “made of” smaller things is not like saying a Reuben sandwich is made of corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. Instead, if a Reuben were a proton, slices of salami and dollops of coleslaw would pop onto and off the sandwich in the blink of an eye. (Bite it while you can.)

According to standard theory, within the proton roils a sea of “virtual” quarks. Virtual means they pop into and out of existence as the spirit moves them. (Or to be more scientific, they pop into and out of existence in accordance with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which lets things move from virtual to real as long as they don’t stay real too long.) Also within a proton are particles called gluons, which keep the quarks close to each other.

Virtual quarks were supposed to balance the books, through cameo appearances that make up the shortfall in the proton’s mass, spin and magnetism. But experiments keep showing otherwise. Last year, at the Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Va., Prof. Beck and 107 colleagues (not atypical for an accelerator experiment) detected strange quarks flitting in and out of existence within the proton — the first time that had been done convincingly.

Strange quarks, the next-heaviest kind after up and down, were expected to account for 10% of the proton’s magnetic moment. But they contribute no more than 5%, researchers found.
In April, physicist Paul Souder of Syracuse University and colleagues reported that their Jefferson Lab experiment found that strange quarks might contribute nothing at all to the proton’s magnetic moment. “There is some sort of conspiracy [among the proton’s constituents] to make the magnetic moment and mass as big as they are, and we have no clear idea what that conspiracy is,” says Prof. Beck.

Things are not going much better in experiments to account for the proton’s spin. At Brookhaven, five years of experiments at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider have tried to determine how much gluons contribute. So far, the answer seems to be no more than 40%, and perhaps zero. “If the answer turns out to be at the low end of this range,” says Prof. Deshpande, “we’re going to have spin crisis No. 2.”

Fundamental theory is no help. “There are no first principles to explain how much gluons or virtual quarks should contribute to the proton’s properties,” says Dr. Vogelsang. “Ultimately, there has to be a final theory that does.”

Until then, however, Prof. Souder wonders: “Can we say we understand the proton if we can’t answer these basic questions?” Or more fundamentally, that we understand the physical world — and have milked it for all its wonders?”

So the physical world is still a mystery at the subatomic level, and certainly it is a mystery at the cosmic level. Theories abound but we don’t know with any certainty the origin of black holes. We didn’t really even know much about Mars until we sent the Mars’ Rovers there. What about Jupiter and Saturn and Uranus and those are just planets in our small little solar system of the edges of galaxy, which is itself one among many.

My point is that there are plenty of scientific mysteries as well as non-scientific mysteries, so I would hestitate to put scientific inquiry on a pedestal as you seem to do. It hasn’t yet answered many questions on the universe, and I classify the deity as one of those things that is still a scientific mystery but may not be a scientific mystery forever.

You say: “Without every discovery that has been made, without the scientific method, in an unbroken chain back to Newton, Copernicus and beyond, you would not be reading this sentence!�

And what of the fact that Newton and Copernicus were both deeply devout believers? Did their belief in the existence of a Deity compromise their scientific inquiry? Issac Newton once wrote:

“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.�

One author writes:

“What is not as well understood about Newton was his deep devotion to religion–especially the more mystical variety of it. Newton considered himself a deeply devout Christian–though not of the normal sort. He was, in short, a unitarian [one who believes … that the position of God is not shared by two other “persons,” namely Jesus and the Holy Spirit; … that Jesus is rather an adoptive “Son” of God–as we all have the potential to be–through having lived a Godly life].â€?

And another author writes:

“His work in the field of mathematics, optics, and physics laid the foundations for modern science. He made a huge impact on theoretical and practical astronomy.�

So as one of the first scientists of the modern era and perhaps one of its greatest, Newton was a deeply devoted believer. Are you now going to classify Newton as a “relativist� who dodges the ultimate results of his empiricism? Perhaps some intellectual humility is in order from the likes of you and me who, by comparison, have done so little to advance modern science.

You conclude with: “It is the height of irony when those very tools are used to promote ignorance. I am stymied. Perhaps we humans are so buoyed by our own easy mastery over the physical world, that we take our discoveries and tools too much for granted.�

Perhaps more ironic is that you use empiricism as a conclusion, when it is, by definition, a process.

BlackSun / May 22nd, 2006, 8:06 am / #2

Mark,

First of all, I’d like to deal with the question of the attacks on science, which seem to come from two distinct directions. The first is attacks from theology, which usually cite Scripture and authority to counter evidence.

The best example of this would be the current controversy over intelligent design, where organizations such as the Discovery Institute attempt to couch their biblical creationist philosophies in scientific terms. But history is replete with such examples, including the trial of Galileo, and the statement of John Calvin, regarding Copernicus, “who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?”

The second mode of attack on science would be from relativists, constructivists, and nihilists who claim that there is no such thing as absolute knowledge or truth.

You bring up an interesting point, asking how a relativist could be a believer. I have an answer: the “new age.” Many new agers, especially those who subscribe to what I would term Eastern mysticism, have a sense that the nature of the universe is illusion, subject to modification by the way people think, feel, and believe. They also have a sense that everything in the universe is connected by some mysterious force, and they look for holes in existing scientific theory to bolster these claims. For a while, the concept of quantum uncertainty was all the rage, as proof of the “unreality” of matter. But interestingly enough, that claim was shortly thereafter proven to be false. While quantum uncertainty is significant when trying to study a single particle, like most other random effects of matter, it disappears when analyzing large numbers of particles, preserving physical determinism.

Commenter David Tame seems to be a combination of relativist and believer. He is clearly highly religious, and yet subscribes to a social constructivist approach toward science. In correspondence with Mr. Tame, I pointed out that science could not be socially constructed, because there are properties and physical constants, which, no matter how many people try to say otherwise, remain constant. These would be things such as pi, Avogadro’s number, etc.

I want to address your point about the religion of Newton and Copernicus. The church was so dominant in public life in those days, that it exceeded today’s governments in influence. Scholars, scientists, composers, and politicians, all had to subscribe to the prevailing belief system. To fail to do so was to commit career suicide. Belief was kind of like a driver’s license or Social Security card in those days. People were being put on trial for heresy on a regular basis. Therefore, profession of belief, sincere or not, was a survival skill.

Now it’s clear that both Newton and
Copernicus had elaborate religious philosophies that rivaled their scientific ones. One article describes Newton as having written over 4 million words on religion. A large portion of his writings were heretical, however. He opposed the Trinity and much other of church doctrine of the day.

Either way, it’s clear that in those days even scientists saw the natural world as having a divine creator. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t study their universe empirically. Newton’s primary legacy is mathematics, which would have been a fantastic field of study under a strong religious regime. Indeed, it’s hard to see how mathematics could be construed as having any conflict with religion whatsoever.

The same could not be said about Copernicus’ realization that the Earth was not the center of the universe. This presented an intolerable challenge to existing power structures, and resulted in the infamous trial of Galileo by the Inquisition. Whether or not Copernicus was a religious man has no bearing on the veracity of his discovery, nor on the subsequent result of his persecution.

I must turn now to your critique of the incompleteness of science, and your statement that I have misused the concept of empiricism. First let me assert that I still sort of cringe at the label atheist. Because the term atheism, kind of takes for granted the idea of theism. And if you’re going to declare atheism to be correct, you would have to describe the type of god that you were (not) believing in. Since there are thousands of different belief systems around the world, the term atheism declares that you have examined all of them and found them all to be false.

Since it would not be possible to compile–let alone study–all of the different beliefs that exist, it seems much more practical for an empiricist to shift the burden of proof, and say, “I believe nothing unless proven.”

Mark, that is my position, nothing more nothing less. I ask for proof of any concept, and I try to believe as little as possible without evidence. We all have our biases, that’s part of being human. Subjectivity is what makes us individuals. No one sees the same phenomenon or object in the same way. That’s why we have the scientific method, where different observers can compare notes, and attempt to eliminate the subjective component from their observations. Only by so doing, can we attempt to see the universe as it really is.

The interesting article you cited from the Wall Street Journal only serves to prove my point. The strength of science, is that it not only tolerates but welcomes challenges to existing theory. The process the article describes is the very process by which we arrive at a better understanding of physical phenomena. We keep looking at things until we find a place where they don’t add up. Then we go back to square one and develop a new theory that fits the new observations. New theories and new observations do not often invalidate old ones, but it does happen.

The classic example of this is how Newton’s laws of motion were superseded by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Newton’s laws were not declared invalid, rather, they were shown to be approximations which broke down at relativistic speeds.

Mark, you may be a believer, and also respect science. If the two ever come into conflict, however, you will be forced to make a choice. Either you can choose to accept scientific explanations and let go a little bit of the now unnecessary faith, or you can choose to ignore the science, and stick with your faith. The third choice is accommodation, or what I would refer to as cognitive dissonance, or compartmentalization. This would involve declaring that faith was a separate issue, and not subject to empiricism. Another alternative is to declare that, for example, God works through evolution. But this causes other philosophical problems. For example, if we run an evolutionary algorithm on a computer, which results in the development of a simulated life-form with traits that match biological ones, are we to imagine that god himself came down and influenced the computer simulation?

In any event, it would be very difficult to reconcile this debate, because anyone can always claim that they just “know” god exists, and that they “believe” evidence for their position will be discovered in the future.

I think these claims ring hollow, and personally, I don’t understand the rush to judgement. Why can’t people just wait until such discoveries are made?

David Tame / May 26th, 2006, 1:36 am / #3

Dear Sean, and Mark,

Though this is in no way ‘evidence’ for parapsychology of the hard kind, another who had deep faith – a subject Mark writes about above – was ironically the ‘father’ of the modern scientific method itself, Sir Francis Bacon. He saw no dichotomy between creating the empirical method (as he was aghast at the superstitious nature of his university teachers, and quit in less than a year) and faith in various ‘unseen’ realms. He and his brother believed they were perfectly capable of communicating by telepathy over hundreds of miles … probably a useful ability for quick messaging in those days!

But I say that as an anecdote: no need to deconstruct it.

To be frank I feel that you’re using a filtering process yourself regarding what is real or what has been proven. To be honest, we probably all do and it’s human nature. In correspondence I did mention the ganzfeld technique for testng for psi. That’s a hugely interesting subject as most of the big brains both for and against psi came into a very rare dialogue over the ganzfeld. It was polite, highly-detailed, and turned out to be most useful. ‘For’ psi was the late Charles Honorton and others; against were Hyman and others. But rather than have a slanging match or refuse to look at each other’s real data, they had mutual respect.

On the face of it, meta-analysis of many ganzfeld experiments turned up around 55% of hits rather than the 50% it should have been by chance. Statistically, given that many thousands of trials were run, the chances of this happening by chance were billions to one. (Mind you, one can’t statistically explain the subjective experience of encountering a ‘hit’ as I and others have: from a million objects in the world that could have been my target, I saw, ‘felt’, and had a surety of my target which was amazing.)

Hyman and the critics performed a useful function in the journals. (Most is not online, I think.) Since they couldn’t believe psi was really happening, they sought out any minute possible flaws in the experimental design. These were minor but at first reasonable enough. However, Honorton and others took into account every single critique Hyman could come up with, perfected the design, and still caried on getting above-chance hits. By the end of this I’d say Hyman had little left to add, and the ganzfeld (at the time) made it onto the covers of major mainstream psychology journals and magazines.

On a different tack, Mark’s writing of quarks reminds me that quarks were seen, described in huge detail, and counted for every element (how many quarks per element, and what kind) by Theosophists such as Leadbeater and Besant, summed up in their book “Occult Chemistry”. They simply didn’t call them quarks of course, but Ultimate Physical Atoms or UPAs. They used a yogic technique mentioned as one of the major siddhis by Patanjali to ‘see’ microscopically to any magnification level.

The point is that they had the precise number of UPAs for every single element and isotope science now says has of quarks. Statistically this is sheer mpossible by chance. So far every development in quark theory was foreseen and described in vast detail by Besant, Leadbeater, and others in the early 20th century.

… with one difference. The fact they’d got it so right wasn’t seen until the 1970s as they actually had twice the number of quarks each element is now thought to have. So the astounding correlation wasn’t seen until 1976 when Dr. Stephen Phillips, in his “Extrasensory Perception of Quarks” and later books spotted what was going on: that Theosophical observers had the numbers wrong by precisely a factor of two. What the clairvoyants hadn’t realised in describing each element was that somehow, in ‘stopping’ a quark in order to observe it, as observers they were somehow having the effect of splitting it into two. So to be more precise, they observed EVERY element correctly for quarks, but multiplied by two. Further, observing quarks or UPAs themselves, in detail it was seen that they consisted of ‘strings of nothingness’ which come from ‘somewhere else’ – not this universe or plane of existence – run in a certain direction, and once again disappear ‘elsewhere’. The UPAs were also seen to be attached by these strings. In short, they appear to have been observing superstrings, and had a lot to say about them. Their work is vastly accompanied by diagrams.

So to sum up, I’ve just given a couple of examples; one could go on and on. In a post-Kuhn world, I don’t believe you can believe that ‘science’ as we now have it is final, complete, or hasn’t many mysteries to reveal which take one into the regions of faith or parapsychology, which mysteries will be revelaed through the process of paradigm shifts. In other words, I feel that you’re accepting science as it is now, but not being open to vast shifts after shifts which may well take us, in the end, quite away from reductionist-materialism.

All the Best,

David Tame

David Tame / May 26th, 2006, 3:33 am / #4

P.S. On the subject of Theosophists viewing quarks by clairvoyance from as early as 1895 and summing up their painstaking research in a book of the 1930s, “Occult Chemistry”, all before quarks were even being thought about in science. (By the way, I’d recommend Stephen Phillips’ books more than the Theosophical ones as he has the explantions of how the numbers add up: Theosophists never knew quark theory would come along in mainstream science.)

I wrote for example, “They used a yogic technique mentioned as one of the major siddhis by Patanjali to ‘see’ microscopically to any magnification level.”

I can already predict the kind of response this may get: This is nonesense; or Such a thing is impossible; or Who can do this today? (I’ve heard of a few who can.) That’s not the point. The method may appear totally outlandish to a reductionist-materialist, but mere disbelief doesn’t override the fact that they got every single element correct numerically, given the doubling process. It’s a matter of stats: it couldn’t have happened by chance, or if they were making it up or deluded. In fact they spent decades on this work and were as scientific as they could be, given the method. It’s the stats – that their observations equate precisely with quark theory and even superstring theory – that the disbeliever must address. It can all come down to the maths.

To quote Phillips: ““The excuses for disbelieving the claims of psychics are irrelevant in the context of their highly evidential descriptions of subatomic particles published in 1908, two years before Rutherford’s experiments confirmed the nuclear model of the atom, five years before Bohr presented his theory of the hydrogen atom, 24 years before Chadwick discovered the neutron and Heisenberg proposed that it is a constituent of the atomic nuclei, 56 years before Gell-Mann and Zweig theorised about quarks. Their observations are still being confirmed by discoveries of science many years later.â€?
[From Extrasensory Perception of Quarks by Dr Stephen M. Phillips]

Some eminent physicists support Phillips and the reality of Occult Chemistry observations, and he’s been invited a number of times to lecture at Cambridge University on it. Find his website at http://smphillips.8m.com/

So I should have made it clearer in my post above: it’s not a question of belief or disbelief, let alone a question of reacting from presuppositions about ‘what can be’. The real point is: explain the observations; explain the exact correlations between clairvoyant observations beginning from 1895 and the much later quark theory. They match precisely, ergo the observations appear to be actual clairvoyance, ergo much else that Theosophists saw may also be just as authentic.

On quarks or UPAs (also called anu), the Theosophists even observed the different types. They saw what Phillips calls ‘chiral colour quarks’. In other words, there are two different possible directions of spin around the axis, three ‘colours’ or categories, and so forth. IMHO these are undoubtedly quarks.

BlackSun / May 27th, 2006, 12:01 pm / #5

David, one of the problems with discussions of this nature is the lack of common standards for reliable evidence. I’ve also heard of trials, whereby humans attempted to modify random processes through thought energy. Unlike the Ganzfeld experiments, it seems that the variation was about six orders of magnitude lower. Meaning that they were able to affect the outcome, 50.00001% of the time. I’m not sure what would explain such different results.

The point is, with science, if this were easily able to be duplicated, it would have been done all over the world. Right now, much research is being done into control of electronic systems by thought. This will allow quadriplegics to control artificial limbs using their brain, and thereby live normal lives. Right now, this is being done through direct neural interface using electrodes, and some work is being done to establish the mental connection through a sort of cap to be worn by the user.

All this would be unnecessary if scientists could utilize statistically meaningful thought connections. It would be a tremendous boon to humanity. But clearly, the connection is extremely tenuous, and not sufficient to safely control technology.

Therefore I would consider the evidence from the ganzfeld experiment to be questionable.

Regarding quarks, and your assertion that they had been “discovered” by Theosophists: I don’t see this as any more relevant then any number of speculative and unproven assertions made throughout history.

We live in a unique period today, where we have a robust scientific establishment, that can check any and all assertions. Therefore, it seems that a source of knowledge has value, when it proves to be correct by the scientific method. Compare this to, other times in history when there was no scientific establishment. In those days, people made all sorts of claims, resulting in chaos. It was called the dark ages.

The only way that assertions of Theosophists regarding quarks can be checked today is with giant particle accelerators, costing billions of dollars, staffed by trained physicists. Lacking this reality check, the statements of Theosophy, right or wrong, would have no more relevance than the ravings of an astrologer or lunatic.

I would also have to say that the concept of quarks as the fundamental building blocks of matter may still be open to modification. We don’t know what lies beyond even this threshold.

We’re entering an era of unprecedented understanding of consciousness. It is likely within 20 years, that the human brain will have been completely reverse engineered, and that artificial human brains will have been constructed. At such time as that occurs, we will then have begun to understood the concept of human consciousness. If human consciousness does include a psychic component, then theoretically, artificially constructed consciousness should do the same. We will then finally understand that consciousness is simply a property of matter. We will also understand that it arises spontaneously from certain arrangements of particles, and that this is not unique to living beings.

It is my theory that all matter is capable of consciousness. In that sense, maybe we agree more than disagree, since you seem to believe and have experienced a state of oneness with the universe. It’s just that I don’t see a material/spiritual dichotomy, and you do.

David Tame / May 29th, 2006, 11:01 am / #6

Dear Sean,

Briefly, then, since our philosophies appear to so differ, I do believe that there’s a very fundamental aspect of consciousness in all matter and throughout the universe, as per mystical accounts. But it’s not localised. It’s not like you or me.

It’s a pretty old debate by now: does consciousness work through the brain as a sending / receiving station to work the body, or is consciousness simply a product of the brain. If the latter, yes, literal consciousness could be reverse-engineered. IMO it never will be.

The ‘self’ can’t be found anywhere within the brain, as has been pointed out eloquntly by many psychologists such as Sir John Eccles. Every part of the brain appears to be just a more sophisticated part of the body, with a limited chemical or electro-chemical function. Who gives the ‘orders’ or where this self is located is unknown.

I can see that if I were taking your PoV I’d argue that the self isn’t localised: consciousness is a gestalt product of neurons working together in the brain entire. But there’s evidence against that, and I take my remit from other sources which, put together, don’t make the universe appear to me to be a ‘machine’ of which consciousness is a product.

Dare I say it? :-) – whereas in post-Theosophical days, the great majority of communications from Masters have come through ‘Messengers’ etc (but not all), during the late 1800s such Mahatmas appeared from nowhere in physical form as attested in accounts by scores of people in that time; or, they didn’t appear but were physical in the first place: all the names we know so well. And were able to perform ‘wonders’. Even the Mahatma Letters, housed here in London and which I have seen, under microscopic anaylysis are seen not to have been written by pen or pencil, but the ‘writing’ in hundreds of short or long messages somehow impregnated onto the paper by means still unknown and possibly impossible of reproduction today, as even a modern printer, used on paper, could easily be said to have been so.

I cite that off the top of my head. I really mean that in gestalt fashion I have a thousand such things in mind, including personal experience, which to me (and others) lead to a Consciousness-based universe, not a matter/energy-originated one.

Mind you, I once thought exactly along your own lines, and know how the thinking goes. I used to infuriate the Steiner people I met in my youth!

Yours,

David Tame

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